|Sophia Maggelakis. Photograph courtesy of University News.
On March 26, Sophia Maggelakis was named dean of the College of Science. Former head of RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences, Maggelakis takes the position after having spent nearly a year in the position of interim dean.
Maggelakis began her career at RIT in 1990, joining the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as the program’s director. During her time in the department, Maggelakis worked to bolster its status, expanding the faculty and promoting research to prepare the program to deal with the increasing amount of math in RIT’s core curriculum. She also contributed to the reworking of various courses, which helped to decrease failure rates.
In 2006, Maggelakis’ contributions paid off, as she was announced head of the newly formed School of Mathematical Sciences, a school her efforts helped to create.
But for Maggelakis, her appointment as dean was somewhat of a happy accident. In March 2009, it was announced that then-dean of the College of Science Ian Gatley would be leaving the position to become the director of the Center for Student Innovation and Undergraduate Research Support. As a national search for his replacement was announced, RIT began an internal search for an interim dean. Although Maggelakis was among those nominated, she was initially hesitant to take the position. “I was encouraged by many faculty members to consider the position, so I did,” said Maggelakis.
Last May, she was selected to serve as interim dean while RIT began its national search for a replacement. “I wasn’t really planning to go for the permanent position, but as you know, sometimes things just fall into place,” said Maggelakis. She received a call from the search committee, informing her that she had been nominated. After significant deliberation, she decided to accept the nomination, adding herself to the pool of applicants.
The top five applicants — Maggelakis included — were subjected to a grueling schedule of two day-long interviews. Despite her home team advantage, the committee made definitive efforts to ensure that she and her peers were treated identically. “They escorted me from one office to another, even though I know the campus very well,” said Maggelakis.
In the weeks since she has officially received the position, Maggelakis has already begun to plan the direction she hopes to take the college. “It is essential that we maintain our strengths,” she asserted, “I think that hiring more faculty and bringing some strength in research groups has helped not only our undergraduate programs, but also our graduate programs, as well as our visibility.”
In addition to these strengths, Maggelakis hopes to further align the school’s research programs with the institute’s, to establish connections with successful alumni, and to continue improvement of the college’s Ph. D. programs. She stresses an “emphasis on excellence,” noting that the success of many other RIT undergraduate programs relies on a general education core that draws extensively from the College of Science.
Even so, she expects to see challenges along the way, particularly over next few years. “How do we make sure we keep up our momentum and at the same time help the institute go through the move to semesters?”
In light of her background primarily rooted in mathematics rather than traditional science, some viewed Maggelakis as a controversial choice. But Maggelakis isn’t daunted by these concerns, she commented, “if you’re a good leader, you know better to be objective and take care in all your disciplines, all your programs, because you want your college to come out on top.”
“One thing about RIT I always think fondly of is the collegiality that exists among faculty and staff,” said Maggelakis. “It’s not like other universities where it’s so competitive that you don’t know from one day to the next who does and doesn’t support you. So I think that creates the right atmosphere for people to work and be successful.”