Andy Atzert took his new role as dean of the Adelphi University College of Professional and Continuing Studies on July 8. Here, he shares his thoughts on the growing numbers of nontraditional students, online programs, collaborating with other deans and the importance of the liberal arts tradition.
Andy Atzert took his new role as dean of the Adelphi University College of Professional and Continuing Studies on July 8. He was previously senior associate dean for external affairs and associate dean of administrative affairs at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, following positions at The New School in New York City, the University of Pennsylvania and the W.P. Carey School of sinesiness at Arizona State University. His appointment was recently featured in Long Island Business News.
Here, he shares his thoughts on the growing numbers of nontraditional students, online programs, collaborating with other deans and the importance of the liberal arts tradition.
What are your initial thoughts in taking on the role of dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Studies?
I’m delighted to meet with the staff to see how we can build on the foundations here. My initial thought is we need to build additional master’s degree programs and we need to build nondegree programs that meet the needs of employers. Online is going to be very important, and we’re going to need to do our research to learn how we can build on the start that’s already been made.
The school is poised to serve what is the fastest-growing and largest market for higher education, which is nontraditional students, oftentimes working professionals who need not only the right programs but services attached to those programs because they’re very busy.
I’m looking forward to working with the other deans to develop all of these programs. Adelphi is historically the kind of university where you can do that kind of work across the schools. That’s one of the things that brought me here.
What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time as senior associate dean of external affairs at Columbia University?
At Columbia, we started an alumni association and hired a staff that could take care of providing the means through which they could become more involved. One of my goals at Adelphi is to be involved in what we can do to encourage alumni to be more involved. We also started some programs that provide access to people who normally wouldn’t have access to a Columbia education: high school girls, people at historically black colleges.
What are your first priorities at Adelphi? What do you hope to accomplish?
Learning. Having a very clear idea of what it is we’re already doing and what everyone does, within CPCS but also across the University. Once I have that baseline knowledge, I can start to think about what capabilities we have that can meet demands in the marketplace.
What unique skills or assets do you bring to the job?
It’s more of an orientation than a skill set. I believe very much in the importance of making higher education available to nontraditional students. Part of the way students measure quality is: Does the degree program help them advance careers? I have a lot of experience in working with employers and building degree programs based on the needs that they have. The employer is the second most important customer that we have in a program like this.
What are the school’s greatest assets?
The liberal arts tradition is actually very important. What employers say they want when you ask them about skills is, “I want people who can work in teams; I want people who can communicate.” The liberal arts tradition here, if we join that with what I think of as the connective tissue we have here, that’s a selling point. That’s what will make us different. I don’t want to start a coding academy.
The second thing is proximity to New York City, because it is the biggest employment sector. The fact that we have the Manhattan Center is a huge asset and I look forward to building on that.
What inspired you to pursue a career in academia?
I was a first-generation college student. It’s a miracle that I was even able to go. In the little town in New Jersey where I come from, people still don’t go to college. I went into academics to create opportunities for people who don’t already have them. Adelphi is a place where we have the resources to make those opportunities available. That’s what motivates me.
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