As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Matthew Santirocco has accomplished more in a year and a half than any student, faculty member or administrator could hope to achieve while at the University. And because of this, many people at the University are still recovering from Santirocco's announcement that he will leave the University after the semester to become dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at New York University. "[Santirocco] had provided for the first time in years, a reason for all of us to be optimistic about undergraduate education," English Professor Peter Conn said this week. Interim President Claire Fagin summed up the University's sentiment Sunday night by sighing twice when asked about his decision to leave. "There is no one who does not rave about [Santirocco]," Fagin said. "He has been a tremendous strength in the school and in improving services for students." Fagin, as well as many administrators, faculty members and students all said they were upset by his decision to leave, but all wished him well in his new position. Why is Santirocco regarded so highly across all levels of the University? Upon becoming dean of the College in January 1993, Santirocco immediately established his dedication to improving education by initiating a flurry of academic and institutional reforms, all intended to establish the College as the center of the University. One of the many tasks that Santirocco undertook was the complete revamping of the College advising system which will go into effect next fall. Changes to the program include the creation of a four-tier advising system for freshmen, which allows them more direct contact with advisors in the College Office and the addition of faculty members to the program. The new advising program also formally allows sophomores to return to their freshmen advisors for help. Under Santirocco's leadership, the College also began reviewing the General Requirement, created in 1987 to give students a broad-based education, last fall. Santirocco has said that he wants a more coherent requirement program that does not consist of throwing together a group of randomly offered courses. In an effort to enhance the idea of the College as the center of the University, Santirocco is presently overseeing the College Office move to Houston Hall. Before the move was announced last month, he made it clear that the College's present office is inadequate in providing proper student services. To improve the level of education in the School of Arts and Sciences, Santirocco realized that the base of education lay in the quality of the professors teaching. Santirocco initiated the Teaching Center last semester to provide help to those professors who believed they needed it. The Center provides a videotaping service, which allows professors to witness themselves, and offers a mentoring program that allows professors who want advice to be paired with faculty members who have either won the University's Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching or the SAS Ira Abrams Memorial Award. "Obviously, if a professor is having a problem, videotaping and having a mentor can be very helpful," Santirocco said last November. "But, it's for all teachers, because even great teachers can improve." Speaking on Santirocco's committment to education, Chairperson of the Committee on Undergraduate Education David Brownlee said this week, "I think Matthew Santirocco is the most effective dean we have ever had since I've been here -- 1980." Brownlee has worked alongside Santirocco on many projects because of their involvement in CUE. He said he believes Santirocco is so successful because he not only has a vision of what undergraduate education is supposed to be, but also has the political savvy to make changes. To do this, Santirocco has established a close bond with students and faculty. "[Santirocco] has always been close to students," Student Committee on Undergraduate Education Chairperson and Engineering junior Matthew Kratter said over the weekend. When appointed dean, Santirocco decided to stay on as a senior faculty resident in the Quadrangle and he has consistently formed many lasting relationships with students. Last semester, Santirocco even set up an electronic mail account so students can reach him with questions or comments. "Santirocco was one of a kind and we will not succeed in replacing him," Conn said. "In my view, Matthew was the only member of the administration who spoke with eloquence and passion and good humor and conviction in describing a vision of education for Penn."Comments powered by Disqus
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