Meet Dean James Simon

The new dean of NYIT's College of Arts and Sciences brings experience to the classroom

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Dr. James Simon, NYIT Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

It’s 8:30 a.m. and Dean James Simon is already replying emails in his office on the top floor of the Balding House, while the morning winter sun bounces from the white shades, past the bookshelves, and towards his desk. He is getting ready to begin his day meeting with students, faculty, and administrators.

As the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Doctor James Lawrence Simon is the newest addition to the NYIT leadership team. It’s the latest stop for a man whose resume includes prize-winning journalist, Massachusetts assistant secretary of the environment, PhD in public administration, faculty and student newspaper advisor, and professor.

Alluding to his eclectic past in journalism, government, and academia, Dean Simon joked, “Some of my colleagues say I can’t hold a job, but in reality I like new challenges.” He’s taking on many new challenges in his latest job: new minors, the new Dean Scholars Program, a new website, and career preparation that starts in the first year of college are some of the coming changes to the school. Dean Simon brings to NYIT a slew of proven and tried skills in communications, administration, psychology, and personal experience with success. He stresses the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to a college degree in students’ careers success. He believes students will have 4 different careers in a lifetime due to the changing circumstances of work and the Internet.

A New Jersey native, he obtained his Bachelors’ degree triple-majoring in urban journalism, political science, and education from Rutgers University in 1974. During his studies, he founded the school’s newspaper The Livingston Medium, and was its first managing editor. This set the tone for his career path.

His first job out of college was writing for the Associated Press, where he covered politics, the environment, media and more for 10 years. He was elected President of the Massachusetts Statehouse Press Association where he advocated for freedom of information at the Massachusetts Supreme Court. After a decade of writing for AP, Dean Simon was named Assistant Secretary of the Environment for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1987. There he lobbied for legislation ranging from water conservation to waste management, dealt with the press, and worked with environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Autobahn Society.

After three years in government, Dean Simon returned to school to obtain his master’s from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. A self-described “political junkie,” he often interacted with legendary CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, who gave him the idea for his doctoral dissertation. Dean Simon researched if the type of media voters obtained their information from affected their vote. (He found that, at the time, only newspapers had a strong influence on voters). Dean Simon obtained a PhD in public administration from Arizona State University in 1993.

In 1994, he became director of the journalism program in the English department at University of the Pacific and also advisor to the school’s newspaper, The Pacifican. He moved to Fairfield, Connecticut in 1997 to work at Fairfield University where he climbed up the ladder founding the school’s journalism program, acting as faculty advisor to The Fairfield Mirror, becoming associate dean in 2012, and in 2014 interim dean to the college of arts and sciences.

“We take the best of our past experiences and see if they fit where you’re going next,” said the Dean about his plans for the College of Arts and Sciences. “This type of change fits into NYIT’s DNA.”

NYIT’s College of Arts and Sciences serves 1,866 students worldwide and 1,740 in its two New York campuses in Manhattan and Old Westbury, which is where Dean Simon shares his time. He oversees 26 undergraduate and 6 graduate programs in the school from Advertising to Urban Administration. At Fairfield University, Dean Simon used his expertise in communication and administration to connect the different departments of the school of arts and sciences to provide a more integrated learning experience for students; something he wants to replicate here at NYIT.

He connected the technical schools with the liberal arts schools by providing computer engineering classes to journalism majors and marketing classes from the school of business for public relations majors. He oversaw the implementation of 5-year combined BA/MA programs at Fairfield, something the communications department has already started implementing here at NYIT. “I’m excited that NYIT has a long history of pushing for career preparation,” said Dean Simon about his new home. “I believe students will be excited to learn career preparation starts in the first semester.”

Dr. Daniel Quigley, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences welcomes the new changes. “He has a number of new initiatives that we are putting into place,” said Dr. Quigley, who has been assistant dean for the college of arts and sciences for over a decade. “I am also impressed by his desire that, while bringing new ideas forward, he will not forget traditionally successful programs.”

Dean Simon gained his title just this past October and is already taking the pulse of the school to see how he can improve student learning and life. He regularly sits in classes and welcomes students to reach out to him for comments and ideas on where the school can improve. “Well I felt very comfortable when he talked to us, and if I have problems I will not hesitate to ask him,” said Muhan Guo, an international Chinese student and Communication Arts major. Guo was recently visited by Dr. Simon in her journalism class at the Old Westbury campus.

In our communications department, Associate Professor John Hanc is already very familiar with James Simon, the journalist. They met 10 years ago at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), where professor Hanc partook in panels Dean Simon organized. “Jim always impressed me in our work together at AEJ as being someone who got results, and who managed to do it without having to yell or act autocratically,” Professor Hanc noted. He believes Dean Simon will bring a fresh perspective to the school given his interdisciplinary approach, bringing collaboration between departments, as opposed to isolation of disciplines.

The new minors are being discussed in all departments within the College of Arts and Sciences and tentatively will be applicable within the coming academic year. The Dean recommended to students interested in new minors to seek their academic advisors to discuss. Some of the other initiatives the new Dean plans to introduce include the new Dean Scholars program, a new honors section of the school that will award scholarships to 25 freshmen who excel in the core writing class, FCWR 101. In addition to a scholarship, students will have access to professors and alumni for mentorship, and collectively attend events in New York City that stress career preparation and success. This is in line with Dean Simon’s belief that career preparation, hands-on experience, and internships should begin in a student’s freshman, not junior year.

“You give (students) tools where they can add value to a company,” said Dean Simon about his vision. “You introduce material in class and they practice it in a school club or program. More in class, then they get an internship and they practice what they learned in school. This is marketable to employers. You take the abstract and apply it.”

NYIT President Dr. Edward Guiliano believes Dean Simon’s experience in and out of academia stands out. “He demonstrated clear hands-on experience applying his craft as a journalist and as a teacher, and hands-on experience as a successful administrator in various settings in the academia,” said President Guiliano.

Professor Donald Fizzinoglia, chair of the Communication Arts department is looking forward to the expertise Dean Simon brings. “He was a professional before he was an academic,” said professor Fizzinoglia, who thinks that the Dean’s background is one reason he has embraced the newly-redesigned Communication Arts majors. “Our new degrees have an approach with the experiential model, which is a hands-on approach for the students and will get the students in position to get a job.”

Married to his wife Karen since 1977, and his son Christopher soon to come to NYIT to continue his studies, Dean Simon the family man gives the next generation of students advice: “You have to take chances before you settle down.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Meet Dean James Simon”

  1. wayne piersanti on February 29th, 2016 4:15 PM

    the author is an excellent writer. well written, freshly paced bit of journalism. as for Dr. Simon, it is refreshing to see people with actual life experience teaching in college. i have been a business person for over 40 years, and for several years i taught at a local community college. it’s a lot of fun to share your accumulated knowledge with students, and it keeps you young. good luck, sir.

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