BY SHRIYA TANDON
In a recent Graduate Student News email, Louis Rossi, dean of the Graduate College and vice provost for Graduate and Professional Education, mentioned about a recent family reunion where his brother teased him about how things were in his “micro-state,” Delaware. In his response, he went on to talk about how Delaware is special and how the Graduate College is thriving at the university.
As an international graduate student, his email left me wondering about how Delaware is perceived by people in general and how students see the university. Rossi belongs to an upper echelon in the university network, and his experiences seem to be cauldrons of unheard anecdotes and an important source of information about our university.
In an interview I conducted with Rossi recently, he talked about how Delaware is seen as a micro-state and how the University of Delaware is seen as a mid-size university.
“Sometimes that’s a little frustrating to me because we are well above our way and there is this notion that no one even knows where Delaware is. But no one knows how special we are,” Rossi said.
He shared an interesting anecdote from his personal life. He shared that his height is only 5’6” and that he was picked on a lot when he was still growing up, but that does not bother him anymore. In fact, he said, there was something good about it.
“It toughens you up a little bit and makes you persistent,” Rossi said.
These are his exact thoughts about Delaware. In reply to his brother, he jokingly pointed out how Washington D.C. has yet to produce an American president. But keeping all jokes aside, he touched on how Delaware is much more special than just that. He went on to talk about how fair comparisons are important and how absurd it is to compare a large state with a small state. He ardently mentioned his love for the local restaurants here and how Delaware has its own small-state charm and that there is so much more yet to be discovered.
“I never envisioned myself … but I saw a great opportunity,” Rossi said. “The first time…I loved the energy.”
Rossi is originally from California and he moved to Massachusetts for his first academic job as a mathematician.
“Professionally if you are in academics, you generally go where you have excellency in your area, even in a tough market,” Rossi said.
Rossi realized that there was no opportunity for him there, so he decided to come to Delaware. He not only made a career for himself but also raised a family here, of which he is extremely proud of.
The most spectacular thing about the university for him is how the university hierarchy is not top-down in its approach. He was delighted to experience the energy on campus and how it fueled the faculty to come up with great ideas without worrying about the resource availability and allocation.
Although the university had a graduate college in the 1980s, it is a freshly rebooted enterprise here at the university.
“It’s really about shifting focus. It’s sticking with a few key ideas,” Rossi said.
He emphasized how the university values community and yet, graduate education was not always at the front and center here. But now the team at the Graduate College is growing, with staff members involved in student engagement more actively.
When asked about any plans in the pipeline for the future of the Graduate College, he excitedly touched upon a few ideas. Although the College has a five-year strategic plan in place, it has a few plans that are about to come to fruition very soon. He mentioned that it is its first year running the Applied Career Exploration Program, which aims for professional development.
The plan involves active participation from the graduate students in different departments at the university to help them grow professionally on campus and simultaneously contribute to the betterment of the campus overall.
Another plan is to address the housing problem for the graduate students. The graduate college is trying to build a better networking system for students to share information about local housing. Besides this, the graduate college also piloted an alumni mentoring program and they continue to build on that success.
Lastly, he unveiled their long-term goal for the Graduate College. They came up with the idea of a graduate core which would be a collection of 600-level courses that any graduate student may take. The College wants to instill practical skills in the students who can take up such courses and build on both their credits and skills. He hopes this idea may set the university apart.
Rossi passionately mentioned how the university and the Graduate College emphasize “exploring the unknown”.
“It’s all about pushing the frontiers of our knowledge and learning, discovering and developing something that no one has done before,” Rossi said.