I AM UAA: John Stalvey

October 3, 2012

I AM UAA: John StalveyDean, College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Fun Fact: Is expecting his first grandchild in December 2012

Simply stated: John Stalvey is delighted to be at UAA.

“I get this mental image of the movie Field of Dreams,” he says, “when James Earl Jones’ character walks out into center field and sticks his hand into [the cornfield] and pulls it back, and that chuckle that he lets out and then finally goes in. I feel a bit like that because I don’t know exactly what to expect but I’m really excited about it. As my grandmas would say, I’m ‘tickled pink’ to be here.”

A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, John is most excited about all the new people, new opportunities, new challenges and new ways of knowing that every day at UAA brings.

“Literally, there is a resonance I feel with this place—with the people and the beauty of Alaska,” he says. Even on the few trips he’s taken out of state since he’s moved up here (mostly to visit his wife back in Ohio, who will be following him up here this spring)—when he comes back to Anchorage, flies over the glaciers in the Chugach, he knows he’s home.

“I’ve only felt that one other time in my life and that was with Kent State.”

Kent State University is where John was previous to taking the reins at UAA’s College of Arts and Sciences this summer. He had served as an associate dean in the same college at Kent State since 2003 and also held leadership positions as the department administrator for computer science as well as assistant chair and coordinator of graduate studies for Kent’s Department of Biological Sciences.

“I would swear that I never aimed to get into admin leadership,” the bespectacled and bow-tied new dean says. But thinking back, he recalls how his physician father also taught at Harvard Medical School as a term professor as well as worked at Wellesley College in their health services department. “I got to know some of the deans and administrators there. There was a president of Wellesley at the time who befriended me; took me under her wing and wrote a recommendation for me to Williams College. So that may have imprinted a little bit—admiring those folks as role models.”

Not surprisingly, his father was also a strong influence in why John chose physiology and biophysics as his field of study. He was introduced to his dad’s microscopes and medical school textbooks as a young boy, and his natural curiosity and love of learning took it from there.

“I remember sitting in a college class—probably sophomore or junior year; probably in biology or immunology—and it dawned on me that I wanted to do what my professors were doing. Academics. Research. They were teaching and they were at a university. I remember exactly the room in which those courses were taught; that’s how crystalized that memory is.”

So after graduating with a B.A. in biology in 1977 (Williams College didn’t award B.S.s), he went straight to the University of Southern California for his doctorate in physiology and biophysics, picking up a master’s degree in physiology along the way. Upon completion of his Ph.D. in 1981 he moved to the University of Michigan for post-doc work in reproductive biology and human genetics and then on to Kent State in 1987 as an assistant professor.

While working up the ranks at Kent State, John conducted research in endocrinology and genetics, securing more than $4M in funding over his 25-year career.

Needless to say, John is bringing a lot with him to his new role at UAA. But he’s quick to acknowledge those who have come before him.

“Kim [Peterson] did a marvelous job as interim dean,” John says. “He and the associate deans have done a nice job preparing this college, and I know a large part of that is also due all the way back to James Liszka. I hate to be cliché, but I really am standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Looking forward, John’s goals as dean cover the spectrum: from diversity and inclusion to student success and retention to research and creative activity. Since the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is the largest college on campus, John is always vigilant in remembering that “every student at UAA is one of our students.” Above all, in order to achieve their goals, John and his team of associate deans and faculty at CAS want to make sure that they are being responsible stewards of their resources.

“And those resources aren’t just dollars, but also space and time and our goodwill capital with the community,” he says. “That’s going to be essential, no matter what we do—making responsible choices.”

Simply stated: UAA is delighted to have John Stalvey on board.

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