Susan Eileen Dinan, PhD, the new dean of the Honors College, shares with us her thoughts, including on succeeding and building on the legacy of Richard Garner, PhD, the beloved founding dean of the Honors College, the appeal of a life in academia, and the importance of a sense of humor.
Before coming to Adelphi, Susan Eileen Dinan, PhD, the new dean of the Honors College, served as a professor of history and dean, then director, of the Pforzheimer Honors College at Pace University. At Pace, Dr. Dinan brought the honors colleges from disparate campuses into alignment and established a more autonomous business honors program. She also increased international opportunities for honors students and created an honors residential community.
Here, she shares with us her thoughts, including on succeeding and building on the legacy of Richard Garner, PhD, the beloved founding dean of the Honors College, the appeal of a life in academia, and the importance of a sense of humor.
What are your initial thoughts about taking on the role of dean of the Honors College?
I am very excited to be part of the Honors College at Adelphi University. Dean Garner has built a remarkably dynamic honors community of students, faculty, alumni and staff. The faculty and staff in the Honors College are extremely dedicated and great mentors for our students. I am fortunate to be part of it. I enjoyed attending last week’s orientation session for incoming honors students, and I look forward to meeting more students tomorrow.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your time as dean and director of the Pforzheimer Honors College at Pace University?
At Pace, I rebuilt the fledgling honors college at the Westchester campus into a dynamic college with a very active body of students. I worked to align the honors colleges on the New York City and Westchester campuses. I also collaborated with the Office of Student Success and Pace International to guide students through the process of earning Fulbright and other prestigious national scholarships.
What are your first priorities at Adelphi? What do you hope to accomplish?
First, I need to learn how things work at Adelphi and listen to honors students, faculty and staff to determine priorities. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow deans, the provost and the president to set the Honors College on a path to continued success. There are a good number of new people on campus and we will need to work closely with long-serving members of the Adelphi community to understand how we can help Adelphi reach its Momentum goals.
What unique skills or assets do you bring to the job?
I am very collaborative and take great pleasure in working with others. I have a great deal of energy and know that I am very fortunate to have a career in higher education and am excited to throw myself into the work. I am very focused on the student experience inside and beyond the classroom. I have a solid sense of humor, so even when things go wrong I tend to laugh and not cry.
What are the school’s greatest assets?
Adelphi University has a beautiful campus near one of the greatest cities in the world. Being able to offer students a tight-knit small community of scholars just a train ride away from internships, libraries, museums and theaters allows them to find the balance between campus and city that best suits them. The faculty is very strong and seems very dedicated to students. The student body—at least those students I have met in the Honors College—seems to be striving to make the most out of the college experience, and it is our job to help them reach their greatest potential.
What inspired you to pursue a career in academia?
I have always loved history and find studying about the past to be very exciting. My graduate school mentor was a remarkable scholar and teacher, and I saw how he was able to use his talents to allow us to better understand the past and its connections to today and to transform students’ experiences and engage them in challenging discussions allowing them to grow confident in their ability to reckon with complicated ideas. I was inspired to follow this path. I love teaching and working with undergraduates because they demand that I rethink my assumptions and see events and ideas from different perspectives. As Honors College dean, I can bring together my passion for administration, learning, teaching and collaborating.
Who was this mentor and what about him impressed you?
My mentor was Robert M. Kingdon, professor of Reformation history at the University of Wisconsin. He was a brilliant man who modeled a scholarly life that balanced prolific publications with a sincere dedication to his students. He was a remarkable teacher and kept lecture halls of students captivated.
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