Finalist Maria Gallo speaks on higher education and sustainability

Photo by Emily Melvin

Presidential finalist Maria Gallo’s town hall, held over WebEx on Feb. 17, concluded the 2021 Presidential Virtual Visits. Hosted by Chief of Staff and Board Liaison Brittany Williams-Goldstein, along with Rikki Abzug moderating faculty questions and Alejandro Ramos moderating constituency questions, the event featured a 30-minute presentation and a 30-minute Question and Answer session.

Maria Gallo has served as the president of Delaware Valley University since 2016. During her entire academic and professional career, Gallo has evaluated herself and her “why,” or purpose, sharing that it is “to seek or create new knowledge and share it with others to make lives better.”

Gallo’s love for higher education shines through her presentation, further supporting her “why.” She firmly believes that higher education, especially in the liberal arts, is worth the investment of students of all ages and backgrounds. However, she understands the challenges of pursuing higher education, focusing mainly on three top issues. 

“The cost of delivery is increasing for a variety of different reasons, student loan debt is increasing, and racial, ethnic and economic diversity is increasing, so we need to be able to meet the needs of those,” she said, hinting that the college needs to be actively pushing Ramapo in a direction that will benefit all students.

Gallo does not dismiss the challenges that occur before, during and after participation in higher education, but she supports the necessity of obtaining a college degree and making it to commencement, as a liberal arts degree can be more rewarding than a traditional, technical degree.

“What employers want are liberal arts skills. They want leadership and teamwork and communication and critical thinking and creativity. They want all those things,” Gallo said. “Our job at the college is to make sure that we train our students to better connect these skills with the jobs that they’re seeking.”

Naseem Choudhury, Ramapo’s current Faculty Assembly Executive president, asked Gallo on behalf of all the faculty to “provide an example and discuss your specific involvement and contribution in promoting and supporting shared governance and how do you define shared governance.” 

“I think shared governance is really that we come together as a team, as a family, to talk about it. We’re all on the same team,” Gallo said in response. “We need to run a boat in the same direction if we really want transformation to happen.”

The biggest topic addressed in the Q&A among students was sustainability reform on campus. Members of the SGA Sustainability Committee asked a multipart question, with its bulk questioning how Gallo plans to “ensure that sustainability issues don’t get pushed back.” Gallo answered the question with a touch of personal background, as her academic background is in agronomy, crop science and genetics, in addition to her advocacy for successful sustainability at Delaware Valley University. 

“I think it’s important to have the right voices there to form the policies, and then they have to be held accountable for those policies that we put together,” she said, adding that sustainability “has to be embedded in everything” at the college, from its curriculum to college operations. 

She shared that at Delaware Valley University, they do not have an office of sustainability. However, she does not believe that an entire office is necessary, as it is more important for us to focus on applying and practicing mindful sustainability throughout every area of Ramapo. She is excited about the sustainable growth at her current institution, and she seems eager to embed similar actions at Ramapo.

Sustainability was highlighted again as Gallo approached the end of her visit with a question for the 146 members in the virtual audience: “If you, whoever you are, could do one thing to make Ramapo better, what would that be?” Various responses regarded sustainability. 

Gallo expressed gratitude at the conclusion of her town hall.

“I wish I was there on campus with you, and I hope I have the opportunity to do that in the future,” she said.