New Faculty Celebrated, New Challenges Accepted

September 25, 2020

The annual Faculty Convocation is a time-honored tradition at St. John’s University that opens the academic year, welcomes new faculty members, and celebrates newly promoted faculty. This year, that tradition continued unabated, but transitioned online, with a Virtual Faculty Recognition Ceremony held on September 23.

During his welcoming remarks, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s, acknowledged that new faculty were joining the University at one of the most challenging times in its history. “Despite these challenges, I know that our new faculty look forward to sharing their intellectual gifts with the St. John’s community, particularly our students.”

“As we enter this academic year celebrating 150 years of being faithful to the mission, we are reminded of our past and of our current challenges,” observed Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, during his welcoming remarks. Not only is higher education changing at an accelerated pace, Dr. Møller noted, but we also find ourselves in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, and our society is grappling with issues related to race and social justice.

He added, “We look to the future, and the great investment this institution is making in continuing to support and strengthen its academic, intellectual capital. Change is not easy, but if we do the same thing over and over again, we will get the same outcome.”

“We have been given the privilege to rethink, adjust, and refocus. Together we will take this opportunity to ensure that our students have the ability to positively impact society with their education as well as themselves.”

The recipient of this year’s Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) Faculty Award, presented to a faculty member who contributes to the vitality of the University’s mission and vision through the innovative incorporation of Vincentian service into his or her courses, was George A. Maggiore, M.B.A., Adjunct Professor, Department of MarketingThe Peter J. Tobin College of Business.

Prof. Maggiore has taken on a multitude of AS-L projects working with nearly 50 community service sites. When the pandemic struck Prof. Maggiore found a way to carry on virtually with their community partners, and by the end of the semester, his students submitted their completed marketing plans to the organizations on schedule as planned. 

The Faculty Excellence in Student Engagement Award, established in 2019 to recognize faculty members who enhance the quality of the undergraduate experience by engaging with students in significant and meaningful ways outside of traditional teaching or research, was awarded to Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of HistorySt. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Director of the Graduate Admissions Assistance Program; and Director of External Scholarships and Fellowships.

Dr. Tuchscherer has helped St. John’s students achieve unprecedented success in securing prestigious scholarships and fellowships, including the University’s first ever MarshallGoldwater, and Truman Scholarships, as well as nearly forty Fulbright Scholarships, and a record-setting number of Watson Fellowships.

This year’s faculty speaker was Tina J. Kanmaz, ’93P, ’95Pharm.D., Clinical Professor, Department of Clinical Health Professions in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Dr. Kanmaz shared the story of her father, an immigrant from Turkey who came to this country seeking a better life.

“He dreamed of raising a family and providing us with opportunities to go to college and build our own futures. He dreamed of me getting my highest degree and becoming a full professor one day,” she related.

“I share this story because we are beginning this momentous celebration of staying faithful to the mission for 150 years, a mission that started when St. John’s first opened its doors in Brooklyn, NY, as a day college with the purpose of providing the youth and children of immigrants with a solid education—children just like me.”

Dr. Kanmaz noted that the start of each academic year usually begins with excitement and palpable energy as the campus comes alive with students, faculty, administrators, and staff. “This year is exceptionally different. Despite the challenges of remote learning, we must remember that we start each year with a clean slate, a blank canvas, and we get to write the story and illustrate the pictures. The 150th anniversary of St. John’s is aligning with a tipping point, a shift from what was to what will be, as we reimagine a new and creative way to continue living our mission.”