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SJU Professor Elected to Prestigious Board of Trustees

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Alice Pope, Ph.D., is highly valued at two universities—St. John’s, where she is an associate professor of psychology; and Pennsylvania State University, where she is one of three new members of the board of trustees.

With this appointment, she becomes one of nine alumni-elected board members on the 32-person board. Her new role is effective July 1. “Penn State gave me my life,” she said. “I came from a small town, and here was this big place, full of excellence.” Pope, who earned her B.A. from Penn State in 1979, is a triple alumna, also receiving her master’s and Ph.D. from the university. All three of her degrees are in psychology.

Pope says her desire to be a member of Penn State’s board of trustees is rooted in her passion for service. “The board position at Penn State is, for me, about serving others,” she said, observing that service also is at the core of her work at St. John’s. “It’s hard not to love the Vincentian mission. To feel like you are educating people who couldn’t get an education otherwise is very meaningful to me and the faculty here.”  

She had a circuitous path to her psychology degrees at Penn State, with four undergraduate majors in two years. Eventually she was a standout academically not only because of her GPA—she graduated summa cum laude—but because she took the time to pay attention to detail even when it came to collating and stapling.

“When I was an undergraduate, I worked in a lab with a renowned professor. A lot of my fellow classmates thought they were too smart to sort and staple his research questionnaires, but I believed even the smallest contribution was important.” For her precision, the professor promoted her and eventually had Pope in charge of his research projects and his graduate students. “Whenever I give career advice, I tell that story because everything—especially science—is about the details.”

Raymond DiGiuseppe, Ph.D., professor and chair of psychology at SJU, says Pope consistently strives for excellence. “Dr. Pope is exceptionally talented at helping students transfer academic knowledge to practical applications,” said DiGiuseppe. “She is an excellent scholar and teacher.”

Pope said she ran her campaign for the board election as if seeking public office. She had a campaign manager who worked on the first senate campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a website that accepted online donations, and lawn signs in the Pennsylvania towns surrounding the university. “I’m a grass-roots candidate,” Pope said, adding that in addition to old-fashioned lawn signs, “Facebook was exceptional in helping me organize and win my election.”  

What Pope hopes to accomplish in her new role is transparency. “For one thing,” she said, “the board needs to modernize and be run more efficiently.” She believes change is possible. “Process itself always matters, and I hope to have an impact in improving how the board operates.”

Calling two universities home aligns with the value Pope places on education in our society. “Education is the foundation of our democracy. We require an educated citizenry,” Pope said. “It’s the great equalizer.”