Deans' List
This is the first in a series profiling the University academic deans


Douglas Lloyd


Enriching Communities

Bruce Lagay believes that variety is more than just the spice of life—it’s a way of life. From North America to southern Australia, Lagay has traveled around the globe and back during more than three decades in higher education. It’s no surprise that as dean of the College of Human Services and Health Professions (HSHP), his favorite part of the job is, indeed, its variety. “From hour to hour I’m involved in vastly different tasks, from discussing research with faculty to raising money for the college to planning new academic offerings,” Lagay says. “It’s exciting and rewarding to be at the center of all this creativity and energy flowing from our faculty, staff, students, and the communities we work with.”

After earning a Ph.D. degree in social policy and administration from Brandeis University, Lagay began his professional academic career teaching at Rutgers University, where he also served as associate dean of the Graduate School of Social Work. Before coming to Syracuse, he spent 11 years at the University of Melbourne, Australia, initially as a Fulbright Scholar and later as head of the School of Social Work.

Since arriving at SU in 1998 to serve as associate dean of the School of Social Work, Lagay has experienced myriad changes, including the creation of HSHP in 2001 from programs previously housed in the College for Human Development, the College of Nursing, and the School of Social Work. After serving as director of the School of Social Work from 2001 to 2002, Lagay was named dean of HSHP. According to Lagay, open communication is essential in the college, especially in light of its rapid pace of change. “When a new organization is created by joining a number of units that have their own rich histories, it takes time for folks to come together,” Lagay says. “It’s important to listen and to facilitate a climate that will allow differences to be respected and a common vision to emerge.”

Lagay credits faculty and staff with generating creative synergies among departments that are resulting in a series of significant achievements. Last spring, a research team of faculty from the child and family studies, marriage and family therapy, and social work programs received an $852,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to study the formation and strengthening of healthy marriages, relationships, and families (see related story). Another team of faculty and students from the nutrition, nursing, and marriage and family therapy programs, as well as from the School of Education’s exercise science department, received $250,000 from the New York State attorney general’s office to implement a family-based child obesity intervention program. Plans for a new degree program in health and wellness management are under way, and a new degree program in sport management will be implemented in fall 2005. “We are bringing our professions and disciplines together to move toward an interdisciplinary practice of healthy community development in the broadest sense,” Lagay says. “Whether it’s sound nutrition, hospitality, sport and leisure, or clinical and community interventions in health and wellness with children, families, or the aged, it’s all part of the aim to assist in the enrichment of communities.”

Lagay believes HSHP is poised to enter a new stage of development in which it can flourish. “We have been able to create a solid foundation for the college, one that we can now build upon,” he says. At the same time, the arrival of new Chancellor Nancy Cantor has further energized the college. “Her vision for the University includes what we see as a central role for HSHP,” Lagay says, noting her emphasis on community collaboration in addressing critical societal issues. “Both the University and HSHP are moving in exciting new directions, and we are eager to work with Chancellor Cantor and our colleagues across campus as we go forward.”

Douglas Lloyd

Creative Vision

If someone were to stage a musical about Carole Brzozowski’s career, they might call it The Accidental Dean. And no one would be better equipped to play the lead role than Brzozowski, a Syracuse native and 1981 Setnor School of Music graduate who has worked at Syracuse University since she was a 16-year-old “runner” during registration. Brzozowski is the first to acknowledge that she came to the deanship in an unorthodox manner, fueled more by curiosity and heart than by ambition, and guided more by synchronicity and instinct than by intention. She rose through the ranks at SU, while cultivating an impressive musical career as a vocalist. “There are different ways to prepare for leadership,” says Brzozowski, who was named acting dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) in 2000 following the illness and retirement of then-Dean Donald Lantzy. “For me, it was more organic than academic.” Brzozowski brought a team approach to the position that proved effective, and two years later, following a national search, she was permanently appointed to lead the college. “It’s so touching when you think about it,” she says. “How many major universities can say the dean of their second largest college was a secretary at the institution 25 years ago? That was my meaningful work for SU then, and now I’m the dean. It astonishes me every day.”

Brzozowski credits her previous positions at the University—including seven years as assistant dean of undergraduate programs and student services at VPA and 10 years as director of student services at the Whitman School of Management—with training her to juggle priorities, a necessary skill in her role as dean. “My job is to create balance—not just fiscally, but also with my emotional support and my attention,” she says. “I have to know the places we need to strengthen and those we need to celebrate.” Her musical background, which ranges from regional theater and opera performances to more than two decades of singing sacred music as a soprano soloist at area churches, also provided her with essential organizational and diplomatic skills. “Think about music,” she says. “It is the ultimate in collaborative creative endeavors. You can’t have an orchestra without everyone ‘bowing’ in the same direction. Even in the case of a diva who struts onstage, sings her aria, and walks out, there is an entire structure behind her performance that works cooperatively to make it successful.”

The Deans’ Cabinet, which brings together all of the University’s deans, has been an important resource. “It really taught me how to be a dean,” Brzozowski says. “The cabinet is a built-in mentoring program that is only available to us because we like and respect each other.” She sees VPA as a microcosm of the University, because it comprises five independent schools or departments that function as one college. “That’s why someone like me can be a dean of a college like this,” she says. “My focus is on setting priorities for the whole.” She refers to VPA as “the lucky college,” largely because of the intimate, creative environment it nurtures. “By its very nature, this college is the heart and soul of the University,” she says. “Here, it is all about relationships. You can’t teach someone to paint or sing without knowing who they are, and without them knowing you.”

Her highest priorities for VPA are to enhance graduate education and strengthen the college’s identity as a creative community, both on campus and in Syracuse. Plans are in the works for establishing a performing arts center on campus, and Brzozowski hopes the college will one day have performance and gallery spaces downtown. “We’re at a point of real opportunity,” she says. “A lot of people know about the Setnor School of Music, the Department of Drama, or the School of Art and Design, but we haven’t yet made our mark as a college—as a creative community that links arms around all those creative activities. We’re bursting with talent here, and I think our next step is to have a more consistent community presence. I don’t know exactly how we’ll do that, except we’ll take the next best thing, the next best project, and do it as well as we can.”


Douglas Lloyd

the Future

Cathryn Newton’s childhood was filled with the exhilaration of discovery—seeing plays, learning languages, mastering a piece of music—and perhaps, most especially, gathering invertebrate animals during underwater ecology experiments near her coastal home in Beaufort, North Carolina. Later, as a 16-year-old Duke sophomore, she participated in the research team that discovered the long-sought wreckage of the Civil War ship Monitor. “I had the amazing opportunity to experience undergraduate research—from the messy and boring aspects to the thrill of being on a team that discovers something really important,” she says.

Now, after 22 years as a paleobiologist, she still experiences that exhilaration when encountering the remnants of ancient life. Using fossils, she studies major periods of extinction to learn about modern and future environmental conditions. Similarly, as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2000, Newton has connected the school’s historic strengths and talented alumni with her vision for its future. “One of my greatest joys and challenges is to imagine a college for students yet to come,” Newton says. “Like Merlin, we must move between ‘then’ and ‘now’ and then imagine what the college can be.” Newton bases her vision on her liberal arts education at Duke, where she switched majors from French to geology after an introductory course ignited her interest in the history of life on Earth.

Among the world’s foremost researchers on mass extinctions, Newton earned a master’s degree in geology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in Earth sciences from the University of California at Santa Cruz. In the early 1990s, she identified a mass extinction through unusual rock formations in Italy’s Apennines that occurred during the Triassic-Jurassic period, most likely from a meteorite impact. “One can look at these extreme events in the fossil record and measure them against the extinctions we see today,” she says. 

Newton shares her infectious enthusiasm for discovery with students, teaching courses in Darwinism and the history of evolutionary theory. “If one has the soul of a faculty member, one must teach,” she says. “Teaching keeps a dean real.”

As dean, Newton has been breaking down barriers among the college’s diverse groups of scholars to encourage more collaboration. “The college is more than a collection of departments,” she says. “We need to drain the moats between the traditional disciplines so that no crocodiles live between them.” Newton is particularly optimistic about the new Life Sciences building, expected to be completed by 2008, which will bring together biology and chemistry instruction and research. Another priority is expanding international education: She has proposed new DIPA centers in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. “We’re also finding innovative ways of developing courses that have a travel abroad component,” she says.

Among Newton’s greatest gratifications as dean has been discovering the rich lineage of the college’s alumni and their commitment to liberal arts education. “We teach people to take intellectual risks and experience new areas of study,” she says. “In studying Japanese, quantum mechanics, or theories of government, not knowing what twists and turns will arise, our students grow in ways that constitute our finest contributions. That’s precisely what the liberal arts are about.”

Schmitt Shoots!!

Orchestrating Success

When David Rubin became dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 1990, he found a strong faculty and a well-respected school built upon endowments the Newhouse family had created. Yet Rubin felt he had his work cut out for him. “The school’s infrastructure made it vulnerable to being left behind,” he says. Among his first initiatives was to reform its administrative structure. He launched the career development center for students and created a Newhouse development operation to reach out directly to alumni. “As the computer era hit, we added the physical infrastructure to support a fairly sophisticated hardware and software environment,” he says.

Rubin likes results—and gets them. Under his leadership, undergraduate applications have soared more than 60 percent, topping 3,000 last year, while selectivity standards have risen. New innovative graduate programs attract students from around the world. Alumni involvement is intense, with more than 2,700 graduates volunteering as mentors and contacts for the Newhouse development network. Faculty enhancements include the Knight Chair in Political Reporting, supported by a $1.5 million endowment. Newhouse today is consistently ranked among the top schools in the field by communications professionals, academicians, and the popular press.

Though many have a hard time thinking of Rubin as anyone but “The Dean,” he was an influential journalism scholar long before arriving at SU. A native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, he majored in American history at Columbia University. While there, he developed an interest in journalism’s role in a free society that led him to Stanford University, where he earned graduate degrees in communications, and met his wife, Christina Press. During a 19-year career as a journalism professor at New York University, he taught communications law and media-and-society courses and founded NYU’s Center for War, Peace, and the News Media, which assists journalists in covering U.S.-Russian relations. In 1979, Rubin was appointed by Jimmy Carter to the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, and he has twice served as a Pulitzer Prize judge.

Rubin’s focus on journalism has not narrowed his concept of the school’s broader concerns. “Journalism—including print, broadcast, and photojournalism—now makes up less than half of what we do at Newhouse,” he says. “A majority of our students are interested in public relations, advertising, filmmaking, and graphic design. This is a school that embraces all of the dimensions of public communications.”

The multidisciplinary nature of contemporary communications will be much in evidence in the Newhouse complex’s third building, now in design. “It will contain a convergence lab that encourages student collaboration in web-based interactive media products,” he says. “We will have much more space for community-building activities.”

Of special appeal to Rubin is the new 400-seat auditorium, suitable for chamber music concerts. More than an unabashed fan of classical music, he has written on the subject for Harper’s, High Fidelity, and other magazines, and is a member of the Syracuse Opera board. “One of the things Tina and I have enjoyed about Syracuse is the chance to be players in the classical music scene,” says Rubin, whose wife serves on the Syracuse Symphony board. “We’re very interested and involved in the health of serious music and Syracuse stands up very well in that regard.”

After 14 years on the job and an enviable string of successes, the dean is not about to rest on any laurels. There’s a partnership in the works with a Canadian university for a distance learning program in communications management. He believes the new Goldring Arts Journalism Program (see “Covering Art") is likely to be the best of its kind. He is also exploring a semester abroad in India for film students who, he feels, could learn something from Bollywood, the country’s film capital. “There’s been great freedom for me and the faculty to take this school in new directions,” Rubin says.

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