Academic Vision

Nazareth’s new vice president for academic affairs Andrea Talentino is committed to creating an extraordinary student experience.

by Joanie Eppinga

Jessica Meyers in Peru

Jessica Meyers '18, a public health major, studied abroad in the indigenous communities of the Sacred Valley of rural Peru. “To be able to travel so far and live in such an organic way with the community was incredibly enriching.”

“I chose to come here for two reasons,” notes Andrea Talentino, Ph.D., Nazareth’s new vice president of academic affairs. The first, she says, was that Nazareth’s on-campus commitments, for example to the Center for Life’s Work, global leadership, and civic engagement, “fit with what I think is important for students.”

The second, Talentino continues, was “the community’s investment in constantly building excellence.” Part of building excellence is “engaging students in meaningful exploration,” she notes. “Many institutions employ practices known to engage students; the difference is that at Nazareth, those practices are integrated, mutually reinforcing, and complementary to shape a student’s future and sense of self.”

This desire to offer meaningfully overlapping components fits with Talentino’s own vision for students, which began to take shape as she pursued a B.A. in political science at Yale and then an M.A. and Ph.D. in the same subject at UCLA. Her focus was honed during her work at several universities, including Drew, Tulane, Norwich, and Princeton, and she’s ready to apply it at Nazareth.

Although Talentino has been at the college only since March, Nazareth President Daan Braveman reports that “Andrea’s leadership style is impressive.” That style is collaborative. Talentino elicits ideas and responses from faculty; then, together, they flesh out the vision. “Everything we do has to be developed in conjunction with the Nazareth community as a whole,” Talentino says. Her approach involves building an integrated faculty leadership that supports an integrated student experience.

“Rather than giving students a bunch of ad hoc, discrete experiences,” Talentino says, “we’re unifying the components.” That way, she notes, “each connection will enrich the next.” She cites study abroad, internships, classes, and student research as examples of the building blocks that lead to that next connection and provide an integrated educational experience. Her goal, she says, is to “tie together the curricular and the co-curricular in a way that’s engaging.” She explains, “Linking those experiences is a way to help students define what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it, while giving them the necessary skills.”

Another link emphasized in Talentino’s plan is the one between students and faculty. A good way to keep professors available to students, Talentino suggests, is to avoid exhausting the teachers. “I’m invested in looking at reorganizing the faculty teaching load, which is heavy,” she says, “so that faculty will have more time to invest in scholarship or their own creative work.” She notes that as the school slightly reduces teaching loads, the bond between teachers and students can be fostered in other ways, by increasing activities faculty already engage in, such as mentoring, student research, service-learning, and internships.

Other staff members will also participate in the new vision. “One of our goals is to work closely with the communications and marketing side, and with admissions, to ensure that we can attract students and provide them with a high-quality experience that makes them want to stay,” Talentino says. The plan includes strengthening links with alumni, adding further opportunities for experiential learning, and connecting students with alumni mentors and internships. “The more we can do to engage students, the more they will want to be here,” Talentino observes. For that reason, her plan also includes developing funding to make sure rewarding activities are available to all students.

“My goal is to make Nazareth nationally recognized and desired for the extraordinary quality of the experience it gives students,” Talentino says. Identified by Talentino and shaped by thoughtful contributions from faculty, staff, and students, that goal is on its way to becoming a reality.

Joanie Eppinga is a writer and editor in Spokane, Washington.