Fairleigh Dickinson University's Annual Academic Convocation

In his keynote address, President Adams recalls 10 years at the helm and issues a challenge. 

President J. Michael Adams, marking his 10th year leading Fairleigh Dickinson University, gave the keynote address at the 2009 Academic Convocation on September 23 at the Metropolitan Campus. In his speech, “Reflection and Renewal: Two Decades of FDU,” Adams looked back at his decade as president and forward to the next 10 years.  

He recalled his first convocation speech 10 years ago, when he suggested, “Why don’t we return to our founders’ vision and build a more global university?” This time, Adams cited the progress made toward fulfilling that new mission — to prepare world citizens through a global education — and challenged the University community to “spend the coming year to talk and to hope, to analyze and strategize, to aspire and to dream” about the next 10 years at FDU.

Convocation traditionally marks the opening of the new academic year, introduces new faculty and presents awards to faculty and staff. For the first time, the ceremony, which was held in Wilson Auditorium in Dickinson Hall, was broadcast live on the Web.

Distinguished Faculty Awards were presented for excellence in teaching, service, and research and scholarship, while four staff members were honored as Pillars of FDU. This year, presidential citations were awarded to three faculty members for outstanding leadership on two different initiatives. Presidential Medals were given to three state legislators for their support of higher education and other issues.

Distinguished Faculty Awards

This year’s honorees were Daniel F. Twomey, professor of management, Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching; Peter J. Woolley, professor of political science, Distinguished Faculty Award for Service; and John Schiemann, associate professor of political science, Distinguished Faculty Award for Research and Scholarship. All teach at the College at Florham.

Daniel F.  Twomey, who joined FDU in 1988, led the development of the University’s post-graduate MBA certificate in human resource management and the redesign of its Executive MBA program. He also earned an educational grant to globalize FDU’s undergraduate curriculum. Among the courses he developed and teaches are International Business Seminar, Achieving Breakthrough Results, and Field Study of Business, Culture, and Global Sustainability, which includes a trip to Costa Rica. (The Field Study course was inspired by Twomey’s 1961 odyssey to South America, when a planned three-day ocean crossing from Panama to Colombia included being stranded for two weeks in the Darien jungle.) Twomey co-founded and directed for 16 years FDU’s Center for Human Resource Management Studies. A national leader in partnering with business, CHRMS developed groundbreaking efforts such as the Executive Scholars Program, and its faculty members gained a major National Science Foundation grant to study stress and aggression in the workplace. Later, Twomey co-founded the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise and now serves as its director of international partnerships.

Peter J. Woolley, a specialist in comparative politics, is a frequent commentator in broadcast and print media and is executive director of PublicMind, the University’s independent survey research organization. The award citation notes that PublicMind, which Woolley helped found in 2000, has significantly raised FDU’s profile and that of its faculty. PublicMind launches scores of research projects and generates dozens of press releases annually on a range of political, social and cultural topics that are cited by hundreds of newspapers, broadcast media and Web sites nationally and even overseas. Its monthly Web page views (at http://publicmind.fdu.edu/) have topped 40,000. During two decades at FDU, Woolley has served on or led dozens of committees, chaired a multidisciplinary department of social sciences and history, and mentored hundreds of students. His assignments have run the gamut from adviser to the judo club and reviver of a dormant political science honor society, to University planning and budgets, rank and tenure, and numerous search committees. He also represented his colleagues on the Academic Senate.

John Schiemann is the director of the new Florham Laboratory for Experimental Social Science. The lab was formed a year ago after Schiemann and colleague Roger Koppl, professor of economics, finance and international business, rallied support from administrators and faculty. In its first year, more than 100 undergraduates have taken part in experiments, either as subjects or experimenters, and faculty members in several disciplines have used its facilities for cutting-edge research. Schiemann’s  research interests range from democratization and regime change to ethnic mobilization and violence and the influence of biology on political behavior. Recent projects have included a study of ethnic mobilization by Croatian Serbs, a collaborative neuro-imaging experiment on fear and decision-making, and the use of game theory to explore whether interrogational torture is effective. Schiemann’s 2005 book “Politics and Pact-Making” (Palgrave McMillan) compared the Hungarian democratic transition with the cases of Poland, South Africa and China to explore how bargaining strategies affect outcomes.

Pillars of FDU

The Pillars of FDU Award, given to veteran staff members who make extraordinary contributions to the University, went to Eleanor Friedl, reference librarian, and Ralph Knapp, director of computing services, College at Florham; and Jessica L. McMillan, University director, International Student Services, and Melanie Scarpa, director, telephone and voice services, Metropolitan Campus.

Eleanor Friedl is the curator of special collections and exhibitions, and selector of print resources in the humanities and social sciences. Often described as a “walking repository of knowledge about Fairleigh Dickinson University,” Friedl keeps the Florham archives and, with the Friends of Florham, helps preserve the history of the Twombly Estate, part of which was purchased by FDU to become the College at Florham. Friedl has curated more than 25 exhibitions since 1995. In developing and curating the Kahn Collection in the History of Photography and Film, for example, she brought its holdings to the attention of institutions and researchers nationwide. Friedl is sought after by students and faculty for research assistance, and she is active at extracurricular functions on campus, from seminars to student events.

Ralph Knapp has been in the forefront of the University’s evolving computing capabilities and support network. Knapp, who earned his B.S. degree in computer science from FDU, began working as a student assistant in the Academic Computer Center and was then offered a full-time position after graduating in 1990. He was a key player in the transition to the Novell platform for file and print services across the University. Knapp currently manages the teams that develop and deliver FDU’s desktop and laptop computing environment. Knapp is a member of FDU’s Professional Administrative Senate’s executive committee. He has served on the College at Florham’s Campus Council, and was selected by the Student Government Association as the Outstanding Staff Member of the Year in 2006.

Jessica L. McMillan provides counseling on immigration issues, educational support and guidance, and orientation activities that connect students to campus life. About 8 percent of Fairleigh Dickinson’s 12,000 students are international students, hailing from more than 80 countries. At FDU, McMillan helped implement a sensitivity training workshop for campus members to provide a better understanding of students’ cultures and has been active with the Campus Council, Student Success Team, Student Health Task Force, International Student Association, Vancouver Planning Committee and the Emergency Planning Committee.

Melanie Scarpa leads the team that provides phone service, establishes voice mail and coordinates repairs, adds, moves and changes for faculty, staff and students on both campuses. She has made major contributions to FDU’s emergency notification system, student phone services and teleconferencing capabilities. Scarpa is a member of the Professional Administrative Senate and a supporter of student organizations and many University-wide campaigns. She has been at FDU for 19 years as an employee, adult learner and parent of an FDU graduate.

Presidential Citations

These awards recognize faculty, staff or administrators who have led innovative programs or processes and helped provide students with new opportunities to achieve a global education. This year, citations went to Fernando Alonso, director of Puerta al Futuro, and Fernando Oliver, chairman of the program’s advisory board; and Michael Avaltroni, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Chemistry.

Fernando Alonso and Fernando Oliver were lauded for building a groundbreaking program: Puerta al Futuro (Gateway to the Future), the University’s program for Spanish speakers with limited English skills. Puerta combines high-quality language training with academic and professional instruction. Started in 2003 with 55 adult students working toward an associate degree, enrollment has expanded to 300, and now Puerta students are earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well. Its offshoot for traditional-age students, the Latino Promise program, has more than 100 enrolled freshmen this fall. “Remarkable agents of change, the Fernandos have aligned program goals exactly with the desires of an underserved population lacking access to higher education,” Adams said.

Michael Avaltroni led a recent successful effort to start a school of pharmacy at FDU, which will enroll its first class in two years. “With enthusiasm and tenacity, you leapt into each critical step, from designing the curriculum with unique concentrations, to building relationships within the pharmacy community and to ensuring all elements are properly prepared for accreditation,” President Adams said. The state has granted approval to the new pharmacy school and fundraising efforts are underway. “Engineered by your guiding hands — the hands of a loyal alumnus — the foundation is in place for an inspiring model for universities nationwide,” Adams said.

Presidential Medals

Presidential Medals were awarded to the three elected state officials representing New Jersey’s 37th District, which includes the Metropolitan Campus. Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle were honored for their support of sustainable development and higher education, including their leadership in increasing the state budget for college students with learning disabilities.

For Immediate Release

Fairleigh Dickinson University

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