NEW LEADERSHIP University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gillian Small Science Advocate Gillian Small Is FDU’s New Chief Academic Officer In August, Gillian Small began serving as the University provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, a position that needed to be filled when her predecessor, Christopher Capuano, was named the president of FDU. An internationally recognized scholar, Small comes to FDU from the City University of New York (CUNY), where she most recently was vice chancellor for research. There, she led the university’s Decade of Science, a $2-billion initiative for programs and new facilities that has raised CUNY’s profile for science research and education. She also founded the school’s Advanced Science Research Center. She helped secure a $3.7-million grant from the National Science Foundation and was the lead researcher for the creation of the New York City Regional Innovation Node, a collaboration among CUNY, Columbia University and New York University to offer training and support to faculty and student innovators. FDU Magazine sat down with Gillian Small to get her thoughts on Fairleigh Dickinson University and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. FDU MAGAZINE: How do you view the role of a university provost? GILLIAN SMALL: The university provost is the chief academic officer and thus has the overall responsibility of ensuring academic excellence and the integrity of the teaching, research and scholarly activities across the university. The university provost takes a leading role in the academic planning and in the setting of academic values, policies and practices. In this position, I must also ensure that our students are receiving a first-class education that will launch them competitively into a 21st-century job market and, importantly, I must also support the faculty in their teaching and scholarly activities. FDU MAGAZINE: What attracted you to FDU? GS: During my career, I have worked at both public and private academic institutions and have enjoyed the unique aspects of each. Most recently, I spent 15 years at CUNY, the largest urban public university in the country, comprising 24 different colleges and schools. FDU is a much smaller institution and is private rather than public — but the fact that it, too, is a complex multi-campus university was appealing to me. Further, FDU is in an exciting period of transformation. There is a bold strategic plan taking us through to 2020, and a new president, Chris Capuano, who is ambitious, energetic and proactive. Thus, it is an exciting time to join the University and help realize the goals of the upcoming years. FDU is in a period of renewal and growth, and I have always enjoyed working together with faculty to build new programs and initiatives. FDU MAGAZINE: What strengths do you bring to FDU, and how do your unique experiences position you well for this role? GS: Having sat on CUNY’s chancellor’s cabinet for the past eight years, I have been involved in discussions around all aspects of the academic enterprise, including enrollment issues, graduation rates and remediation, as well as renewal and growth of new programs and building new facilities — even new schools and colleges. I also built the internal research infrastructure and expanded opportunities for both faculty and students to engage in research. In addition, I led efforts to attract funding, both federal and private, to support these activities. Thus, I believe I am extremely qualified to help lead many of the initiatives in the FDU strategic plan, especially, for example, that of promoting the recruitment and retention of research-oriented faculty, building a stronger research-rich environment at the University and recruiting and supporting more students who desire or can benefit from a research experience. Also, having spent much of my career at medical schools or in medical colleges, I believe I can help to enhance the University’s expansion of programs in the health sciences and health professions. I also embrace the liberal arts and can help support FDU’s efforts to establish a School of the Arts. In fact, I find it exciting to build opportunities that combine the arts and the sciences whenever possible. FOCUS ON STUDENTS Gillian Small says she is looking forward to contributing to FDU’s continued growth and further distinction. Her advice to students: don’t be afraid to seek out mentors. FDU MAGAZINE: What are the main challenges facing the University, and what do you most worry about? GS: Clearly for FDU, a tuition-driven university, our enrollment is paramount. Never has there been such a time of competition among institutions for a decreasing number of students.Therefore, we have to have a number of unique and excellent programs, at least in a few distinctive areas, so that we are among the best in those areas. This will help us to continue building our reputation and will attract talented students to the University. We also need to make sure that we use all of our resources efficiently and to the best effect. FDU is a wonderful institution, and we have to make sure that potential students understand all that it has to offer and that it is not a well-kept secret. MASTER OF CEREMONIES As the chief academic officer, Small, left, presided over the annual Academic Convocation in September. FDU MAGAZINE: Who have been the most significant influences on you? Who has inspired you? GS: First, there are a few historical figures who are my heroes, and then there have been people who have been mentors or role models at certain points in my career and who have had an important influence on me. In terms of historical figures, Marie Curie has always been someone I greatly admire. She was a pioneer in chemistry and physics, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to have won two Nobel Prizes and the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two different areas (in physics in 1903 and in chemistry in 1911). She broke many barriers in what were then male-dominated fields, and I still believe there is more progress that needs to be made. So, I have made it a priority to actively support women in science myself. As to personal influences, first I was fortunate to have a wonderful biology teacher in high school who made the subject fascinating for me at a time when I was unsure of what area I wanted to pursue. Who knows what I would have focused on if it were not for her! Later, when I was a postdoctoral student at Rockefeller University in New York City, I received critical mentorship and guidance from Dr. Christian de Duve, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist. He was an important and extremely busy scientist and leader but always took the time to meet and discuss my current research and future career, and I am enormously indebted to him. My advice to our FDU students in this regard is to seek out mentors whenever you can and never worry that they will not have the time or desire to speak with you or help you — you might be surprised to find that they are both flattered and happy to do what they can to advise you. FDU MAGAZINE: What qualities do you admire in colleges and universities? Which of those do you see in FDU, and which of those do you want to build at FDU? GS: First and foremost, institutions of higher education must provide students with a first-class education. Graduates need to be experts in their given subjects. However, in the 21st century, graduating with a good GPA is not always sufficient. The most successful graduates are also critical thinkers; they are creative, innovative, entrepreneurial and worldly. The best colleges and universities ensure that their students gain these life skills. Thus, at FDU we need to provide all of our students experiential learning opportunities such as internships, study abroad and research opportunities. We already do much of this, but there is always room to improve, so I will be working together with the deans and faculty to expand these opportunities. Profile: About Gillian Small RESIDENCE Born in Great Britain, Small resides today in New York City. EDUCATION Small holds bachelor of science and PhD degrees in biological sciences from Wolverhampton Polytechnic (now University) in the United Kingdom. She also has done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University in England and Rockefeller University in New York City. IN HER FREE TIME “I try to take advantage of all the city has to offer, including theater, music, the bike paths and Central Park.” FAVORITE ACTIVITY “I used to be a marathon runner and still try to run three to four times each week. It is an important time for me to shut out the rest of the world, and it is when I formulate some of my best ideas!” AWARDS A cell and molecular biologist, Small’s many honors include the Feminist Press 2013 award for advancing women in science. In 2015, she was elected to the board of the national Association for Women in Science.
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