Stephen Rice Named New SSAIS Dean for Fall 2013

Stephen Rice, professor and convener of American studies, will be taking over as dean of the Salameno School of American and International Studies effective July 1. Hassan Nejad, who has served as an academic administrator for over 20 years, is stepping down from the position of dean to return to teaching full-time and pursue his research interests. Eric Daffron, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, will be acting as interim dean until Rice assumes the post.

Rice said that serving as dean is a good opportunity to have a hand in higher-level decisions and the direction the College is taking. When he heard of the opening, Rice applied.

"The committee reviewed the internal application. I believe I was the only applicant," Rice said. "I had an interview and gave a presentation, and then the committee made the decision."

Rice added that if there were no applicants suitable internally, the committee would have gone to an external search to fill the position.

Rice has been teaching at Ramapo for 17 years. He has taught American studies and history courses on topics such as the Civil War, American regional literature and the 19th century.

"This was my first job out of graduate school. I have a very good sense of the college and I have served on committees, which have given me a view into issues," Rice said. "I have the knowledge and temperament to serve in this position."

Rice will fill this role in July, so it will not interfere with the 300-level course he is teaching this semester, nor will it interfere with the grant he is working on from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On the outset, Rice said he will not be teaching any courses when he becomes dean, which will be an adjustment for him.

"Because I won't be in the classroom, I will miss that experience, but I expect I will have more interactions with students outside of the classroom and with student leaders to address issues," Rice said.

Tracy Harrsch, a junior, has fond memories of former dean Nejad. She said that he was particularly helpful when she transferred to the College this year.

"I met with [Nejad] when I came here just to talk about my options, and he was extremely helpful," Harrsch said. "He would always stress that his door was always open if I ever needed to talk about my career options or classes. He's very personable."

Though he won't be teaching any courses at first, Rice said he plans to teach during his second year as dean. Because his focus will be on administrative work, he will not be able to be as active in his scholarly pursuits as in the past. While research will no longer be one of his responsibilities, Rice said he is ready to take on new tasks.

"I will be responsible for planning for the [SSAIS] unit, making three- and five-year plans," Rice said. "Other responsibilities include recruitment, co-curricular activities, the curriculum, scheduling, the budgeting side, as well as faculty recruitment through the search committee."

In his new role, Rice will also coordinate student enrollment and recruitment, work with students to ensure that they have a good experience, be responsible for appeals and issues as well as organize and promote educational opportunities like international trips, co-ops and internships.

According to Rice, he and Nejad have discussed this a number of times and there is a plan in place for a seamless transition.

"We have planned a series of weekly meetings over the course of the spring semester," Rice said.

Rice said he doesn't foresee any drastic changes to the core of SSAIS, but for now renovations are planned for 2014.

"We are very excited about the new space, he said. "It will lend itself more to this feeling like a community with a common area for students."

Rice is most looking forward to dealing with the broader issues challenging higher education. Rice said he is excited to have a hand in the important decisions that he could not influence as a teacher.

He said he is ready to deal with the sometimes challenging changes, including the general decline in state support that has resulted in rising costs for students.

"I am looking forward to dealing with the curriculum and seeing to it that students are learning what we think they should be and exploring technology for education," Rice said. "I am excited to be in a position to think through these issues and have something to do with the decisions."