The NAU College of Arts and Letters (CAL) is searching for a new dean, and John Sisko introduced himself as the third candidate Tuesday. Sisko spent two days on campus, hosted various events and concluded his visit with a student forum Wednesday morning. He is currently dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and also has a doctorate in philosophy from Rutgers University in New Jersey.
During Wednesday's meeting, Sisko said the most appealing factor of his prospective position is the community NAU has created in Flagstaff. Furthermore, Sisko said he hopes to develop new relationships with various local communities that may have been separate from the university in the past.
For instance, Sisko mentioned the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. As a resident of the area, Sisko said he noticed the theater was empty all year and instead of ignoring the problem, he contacted a local theater company that now performs there regularly. Fast forwarding, the theater now attracts around 24,000 patrons each year and it also gives students the hands-on experience they need to be successful. Sisko credited this accomplishment to collaboration and teamwork, which often lead to mutually beneficial results.
As a candidate for the dean of CAL, Sisko said students always come first. He elaborated that it is important to promote students' accomplishments and support the faculty's research.
"My passion is student success and achievement," Sisko said.
Tyler True, a Ph.D. student in CAL's Applied Linguistics program, asked about Sisko's plans to connect Flagstaff's diverse background with NAU. Sisko said he wants to orchestrate a mix of students and faculty that can meet with him at any time, which could foster traits such as openness and inclusivity. Sisko said that this welcoming atmosphere will improve campus diversity by creating a safe and supportive environment.
Shortly after, Sisko elaborated that one of his main goals is to promote diversity in a relaxed and laid back setting.
"Programs should be a direct reflection of the diverse community around them because it fuels open discussions in the classroom," Sisko said.
Another aspect of inclusivity is welcoming incoming freshmen, particularly first-generation college students. According to NAU's First-Generation Program, approximately 46% of students identify as first-gen, which demonstrates a considerable amount.
While discussing incoming students, Sisko referenced the First-Generation Program he initiated at Queens University. With the help of other faculty members, this program is designed to help first-gen students transition into college.
"We created welcoming events, mentoring networks and we even have matching T-shirts that we wear," Sisko said.
Similarly, Sisko discussed how a comparable program at NAU could engage and benefit students in CAL. One example he gave was helping first-gen students navigate the program by pairing them with mentors.
Sisko explained how he aims to pay close attention to everything on campus, including those whose voices are often unheard. Additionally, he supports student excellence inside and outside the classroom.
Sisko ultimately said his main goal is to see his students and fellow faculty members succeed, both academically and professionally. In the past, his proven initiatives have brought revenue, students and scholars to Charlotte, and now he is looking to repeat this success at NAU.
The final candidate for the dean of CAL will be on campus Thursday and Friday, wrapping up the series of four finalists who have visited since the start of the semester.