This past summer, three new deans began their tenure at St. John’s. They are Dr. Katia Passerini, Dr. Valeda Dent and Dr. Norean Sharpe, of the College of Professional Studies, University Libraries and the Tobin College of Business, respectively. Coming from diverse backgrounds, each brings with them a fresh perspective for the University.
Each dean sat down with the Torch recently to discuss their goals in their new positions.
Read on to learn more about them, and their hopes for the future of St. John’s.
Dean Passerini: If you’re a student in the College of Professional Studies, you most likely received an email from Dean Passerini introducing herself last week.
In an interview with the Torch, she said that the entirety of CPS, from its programs to its faculty, is what drew her to the job.
She shared some of her goals for the college during the interview.
One of the main things that Passerini wants to focus on as the new dean is furthering the use of technology within CPS.
She wants to incorporate technology labs for specific disciplines such as cybersecurity, computer science and homeland security.
She also wants to institute “lab to market” innovation labs for students to explore and use technology to develop ideas to bring to market. “Idea labs” are another innovation she wants to pursue, to integrate the various concentrations within CPS.
Another goal that she hopes to achieve is creating more graduate programs. During the interviewing process for her position, she said she noticed that many students wanted to stay an extra year at St. John’s.
“[Students] asked during the interview, and that goes back to my goals, but it was really them asking, to create more graduate options, because they would like to stay an extra year or for a master’s program within CPS. The problem was the restricted options that they had, weren’t enough.”
Currently, CPS only has four graduate programs. Passerini said she’s hoping to look at ways to shorten the path to graduate programs by creating accelerated programs for undergraduate students, called “three-plus programs.”
These programs shave a year off of undergraduate study, while allowing room to choose a graduate program. Along with creating more grad programs, Passerini noted that she wants to incorporate more graduate programs online.
“As a professional and an applied school, clearly we need to be positioned to prepare the students to work in a remote environment, because that’s how we work today,” she said. “A lot of organizations today are becoming boundaryless.”
Passerini said that continuing to incorporate students’ education interests into the Academic Service Learning program at SJU is another goal of hers.
“A lot of these ideas I think are important to continue by having the faculty come up with initiatives like this,” she said.
In November, she said new tenure-track professors will meet with the director of ASL to explore more opportunities.
“To be honest, that’s the reason why I really came here, because of the service orientation.”
So far, she said her time here has exceeded anything that she could have expected.
“What really is contagious, is the passion that everyone here has for the institution,” she said. “I could not expect a better place to work.”
Dean Sharpe: Dean Sharpe comes to SJU all the way from Washington D.C., where she previously worked at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. She said she really focuses on meeting the needs of the corporate world by recruiting and retaining the best faculty, in an effort to provide the best education for St. John’s students–recruit and retain are two of President Gempesaw’s strategic priorities, which were discussed during the State of the University address last month.
“One of my strengths is in forming new corporate and global partnerships. Thus one of my goals is to broaden the employment opportunities, as well as the overseas learning opportunities for our students – both at the undergraduate and graduate level.”
Like Passerini, some of her objectives stem from technology.
“Right now, we’re developing a new online MBA program, that I think is going to be fairly innovative,” she said.
Sharpe noted other new master’s programs within Tobin, such as the MBA in advisory and assurance.
A new MBA/JD combined degree program is also in the works, “As business and law have become more intertwined, and then you can think about corporate law, or patent law, or entertainment law, or environmental law where having a business degree and having a law degree might be incredibly powerful and useful,” she said.
As she discussed the graduate programs, added, “Bringing that home to thinking about St. John’s, looking at the undergraduate programs, and seeing what innovative programming can be infused into the undergraduate program, thinking about global opportunities; how can we educate our students to have more of a global perspective?”
Sharpe added that she would like to see the participation rate grow in Global Destination Courses.
“One of my main focus points for raising money is for global scholarships and global programming,” she said.
The new dean said that during the interviewing process, she was drawn to SJU by the mission, as well as by President Gempesaw’s involvement.
“He has the skills to realize his vision, to implement his strategic goals and improve the University” she said. “And that was important to me – the quality of the leadership was important to me.”
She said the students that she met during the interviewing process impressed her as well.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the faculty and students at Tobin and I maintain that Tobin is a hidden gem,” Sharpe said. “I believe that with our new business school building opening this spring with state-of-the-art facilities, and with our new scholars we have hired recently, the next five years will be a period of growth and expansion for Tobin.”
Dean Dent: Dean Dent is no stranger when it comes to living in New York, being that this is her hometown..
Before landing herself on campus, Dent served as Dean and Chief Operating Officer for the Libraries at Long Island University. She also held administrative positions at Rutgers University and Joint Information Systems Committee in London, England. It’s her passion for research and development that makes her the perfect candidate for this position.
“The main thing that attracted me to the position was the fact that St. John’s puts a lot of resources and they give a lot of attention into research.” Dent does research in rural Africa and spends most of her summers there.
“The work of the university really seemed to align with my interest there and the libraries also have a really great reputation, nationally.” After being here for a month and a week now, she really wants students and faculty to be familiar with the special collections the university has, such as the archives. “We often have scholars who come from great distances to read and learn more about those collections,” said Dent. “It makes this library more special than some of our peer institutions, who also have special collections, but not as special as this one.”
Dent wants to see students and staff spending less time on activities that can be routinized, that technology can help with.
She would like to have the library’s resources be more available and easier to see through mobile devices.
Another goal she has in mind is to have less staff who spend a fair amount check out students so they can do something more meaningful with their time.
“Book checkout can be done on ones mobile device,” Dent said. “I’m sure students will now appreciate this, they will be able to go to the stacks and check out an item right there.”
She also wants to make the dean’s offices more welcoming.
“One of the first things I did, which didn’t have to do with technology is that I opened up these doors out here.”
They have been known to be historically closed, but now that Dent is here, there is more space for both students and staff to interact.
“You know if students need to drop by, faculty or staff or basically anybody can basically signify that the space is open, we’re open.”
Dent’s real inspiration behind her career is her mother. Her mother is a public librarian and has been for 45 years, so she grew up surrounded by reading materials. “Reading is a very powerful concept,” she said.
Her research also has to do with what those do when they don’t have access to these resources. Because of this she is passionate about the development on a global scale.
If you ever stumble upon the library and need, don’t be shy from asking Dent for some help.
“I basically work for the students.”