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Leaving a legacy of leadership and service at Oxford

By Cathy Wooten | Emory Report | May 7, 2021

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Dylan Goldberg was the only student leader of a religious organization on the Oxford College campus last fall. He rose to the challenge, finding ways the Jewish Student Union could connect with everyone in the community.

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Three of the four semesters Dylan Goldberg spent at Oxford College were affected by the global pandemic and the many ways campus life has had to adapt to its demands. Putting aside everything but academics is a reasonable choice for students in such times, but it wasn’t the right solution for Goldberg.

As he graduates from Oxford and heads to the Atlanta campus next year to complete a degree with a double major in economics and philosophy, politics and law, Goldberg leaves a remarkable legacy of leadership and service. 

In high school he decided to check out Emory after a friend applied, flying to Atlanta from his home in Glenview, Illinois. He toured both the Atlanta and Oxford campuses, and after his acceptance chose to start his undergraduate career at Oxford, on Emory’s original campus 38 miles east of Atlanta. He loved Oxford, but there was one factor that gave him pause. “I realized,” he says, “there are no synagogues in the surrounding community, and the nearest is in Atlanta.”

Oxford did, however, have a Jewish Student Union (JSU), and he became involved with the organization during his first semester. He has served as one of its two co-presidents, along with sophomore Payton Malone, this year. The two have made JSU one of Oxford’s most vibrant student organizations. 

“Dylan was the only religious leader able to be on campus in the fall semester, which was both a gift and a challenge,” says Oxford College Chaplain Lyn Pace. “He got to it right away and JSU didn’t skip a beat with weekly Shabbat. He and Payton set it up so that both an in-person and remote group of students could be present, and they worked with Emory Hillel to ensure that kosher meals for Shabbat were delivered to Oxford each week for on-campus students. His leadership has been key in keeping everyone safe while ensuring a successful experience for JSU and other Oxford students.”

Oxford’s JSU, says Goldberg, is “a positive group that is welcoming for all students. In fact, about half of students attending our Shabbat services each week are non-Jewish.”

Last fall, for the second consecutive year, the JSU erected a Sukkah outside Seney Hall during the week-long Jewish observance of Sukkot. JSU members invited all students,  faculty and staff to join them inside for daily meals, discussions and prayers. It was a campus hit.

What leadership can look like

Oxford’s Student Government Association (SGA) also has benefited from Goldberg’s leadership in his role as JSU vice president. He and SGA president Eleanor Liu, along with the other SGA officers, had the daunting task of representing students both on campus and off. Goldberg commends Liu for her accomplishments, pointing out that SGA had to advocate for students on issues not seen before, due to the unprecedented circumstances of the past academic year.

Campus Life staff have only praise for his and Liu’s work. Rhiannon Hubert, director of student involvement and leadership, says, “Their work with SGA this year has been absolutely fantastic, and they have really highlighted what leadership in times of struggle can look like.”

Despite his commitment to these two organizations, Goldberg also finds time to serve a high school in Florida as a coach and judge for policy/debate, drawing from his own experience in competitive high school debate. Like so many other endeavors during this past year, he interacts with the students through online platforms.

Goldberg, who is a Woodruff Scholar, also has shone in the classroom, earning induction into Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. Molly McGehee, associate dean for faculty development and associate professor of English and American studies, is Goldberg’s adviser and taught him during his first semester. She observes, “He is a curious, introspective, open minded, mature student with an impressive work ethic, positive attitude and overall joie de vivre.”

For his part, Goldberg in turn gives credit to Oxford. “It is really true that Oxford offers students opportunities for leadership as first-year students and sophomores that they would not find elsewhere. I’ve grown so much in my two years here.”

McGehee adds, “I can’t wait to see what he does next.” 

Get ready, Atlanta campus. Dylan Goldberg will no doubt leave an impressive legacy there, too.