Wearing many hats
Haljit Basuljevic—Reporter & Victoria Bresnahan—News Editor & Tamonda Griffiths—News Writer & August Pelliccio—Photo Editor & Alexandra Scicchitano—Online Editor
President Joe Bertolino has described himself as a social justice educator over the course of his 25-year career in higher education, and one particular part of his career as an administrator has stood the test of time.
“I have been teaching a leadership class since the fall of 2006,” Bertolino said.
The course he teaches has developed over the 13-year period, but has had the same underlying theme throughout.
“Leadership is all about relationships,” Bertolino said. “Those you foster, those you develop and form, those you expand or grow, those you end, those you avoid.”
He said his purpose as an administrator is to tend to relationships across the university and around the community.
“Sometimes they go well,” Bertolino said, “sometimes they don’t.”
Using that experience, Bertolino said he teaches students never to underestimate the power of relationships, both positively and negatively.
According to Bertolino the course has not always been within a department and at previous institutions was a general elective.
“When I came here I updated the syllabus,” Bertolino said, “and then sent it to all of the deans and said, ‘I am interested in continuing to teach this course, is there a place for it within your schools?’”
James MacGregor, chair of the Department of Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management responded quickly, according to Bertolino, taking on the class as REC 120.
Bertolino’s administrative assistant Roland Regos, has a connection to the class going back several years.
“I team-teach the class with Roland, which is fortunate because he was in my class at Queens College,” he said.
Regos and he do not draw attention to Bertolino’s role as an administrator, he said. “It is not unusual for me to walk in, and for some students to have absolutely no idea who I am,” Bertolino said. Maintaining a relationship with his students is important, Bertolino said, so the class spends a large amount of time “getting to know each other.”
A group of students will also lead the class in a discussion of the film, Bertolino said, and facilitate an exercise exploring the leadership components of that film.
“I would say that I treat my students as mentees, and as adults,” Bertolino said. “My job is to do my very best to be a role model and a mentor to students.”
Since Bertolino’s beginning at the university, he has wanted to continue teaching, according to Linda Cunningham, Membership Services Coordinator of American Association of University Professors at Southern.
Being an alumni Stephen Tomczak, President of Southern’s American Association of University Professors, said it is exciting seeing an administration that is more involved with the student body.
“He has obviously a very strong commitment to our students here at Southern,” said Tomczak.
Many of them teach outside of their working hours as an adjunct or part-time faculty member, which, according to Tomczak, is acceptable under the AAUP contract.
Many are qualified to teach through the various degrees they have obtained, he said. The closer administration can be with students, the more aware they are of student’s concerns, he said.
“This is a teaching institution, so we have a lot of folks here who are staff, many of whom who are like me, are alums of this institution, who have a strong commitment to the next generation of Southern students,” said Tomczak.
Cunningham said all administrators that are deans or higher, also known as management confidential positions, do not get paid outside of working hours.
Many of the administrators that have P.h.D.s and are management confidential status, Cunningham said, want to maintain their teaching skills and credentials.
“They do it because of the love of teaching and having that connection with the actual students on campus,” she said.
For almost a decade Goldie Adele, director of the Disability Resources Center, has been infusing the university’s school system with a proactive engagement to ensure students with disabilities thrive.
“It is within the scope of my practice and everything, so it’s nice to kind of connect what we do in the office to the classrooms,” said Adele, who is currently teaching REC 317: Disabilities and Society, an online course.
Within Blackboard, he said students are required to respond with at least two posts to two different classmates.
The discussion board, he said, is flooded with responses by students. He said the class is meant to be a fun experience and a hub of exchanging ideas and interesting thoughts.
“They’re very passionate. Some of them share personal experiences,” said Adele.
Planning for any future classes ahead, Adele said that as long as the course pertains to his field and does not interfere with his main line of work, teaching again would not be out of the question.
Sal Rizza, director of New Student and Sophomore Programs, said he feels the courses he teaches chose him.
“It was not so much as I picked them,” said Rizza, who currently teaches a Intellectual and Creative Inquiry course “more that they aligned with my experience and my expertise as well as my skills.”
Rizza said the courses he has taught corresponded with what he was involved in on campus as well as his education.
Working in the field of education at a university, Rizza said he considers himself to be an educator in both of his jobs.
“Being in the classroom,” Rizza said, “provides a different type of interaction with students that you don’t have when you are in an office. It’s different.”
Rizza said he has always had tremendous respect and awe for teachers because of his wife, who is a high school English teacher, and his work in education.
“The one thing that grew is my understanding of how difficult it could be to be in that classroom sometimes,” said Rizza. “I think sometimes in this world we look at what somebody else is doing and we think we could do that thing, but until you’re in those shoes and you’re behind – you know, you’re the one in front of the room and then you’re like, ‘this is little more challenging than I thought.’”
Photo Credit: August Pelliccio