Below is a message from Drexel President John Fry and Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost M. Brian Blake, PhD:
One of Drexel’s longest serving deans, Donna M. Murasko, PhD, of the College of Arts and Sciences, will transition from her role at the end of the academic year, concluding a tenure that saw the college expand its reach in undergraduate education, as well as civic engagement and study abroad opportunities.
During the past 15 years, Dean Murasko elevated the reputation of the College within the University, and beyond, demonstrating that a continuum — not separation — of humanities, social sciences, and physical and natural sciences is the ideal foundation for student success, regardless of major. Undergraduate enrollment rose by nearly 60 percent, as she worked to make the College into what the CoAS Strategic Plan referred to as the model of a modern liberal arts college. Her view was that the University should address the whole student by combining a breadth of academic exploration with hands-on, professional application and real-world, community immersion.
The emphasis on hands-on learning included the College supporting courses that placed students in what the dean called “eye-opening environments — prisons, homeless shelters, hospice centers,” where they could “confront difficult societal issues alongside the people affected.” Similarly, the College expanded international programs for undergraduates during the dean’s tenure, including programs in Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Argentina, and Chile.
Dean Murasko added tenure-track lines in the College, raising the number to 162 — a nearly 30 percent increase. The number of teaching faculty rose from 54 to 130. Through increases in philanthropic support, the College also established undergraduate humanities-fellow positions to emphasize research in the humanities and social sciences, and offered scholarships for travel associated with courses. She oversaw more than $80 million in renovations and new construction, playing a leadership role in the five-year planning, design and construction of the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building.
As a long-time advocate for diversity in STEM learning, Dean Murasko appointed women to 11 out of 22 tenure-track positions in the sciences. In 2014, she also received a five-year $1.2 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant — the first ever for Drexel — for innovative STEM education. Research funding also tripled to more than $10 million dollars under Dean Murasko, whose own research as a principal investigator received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health from 1978 through 2015.
Donna continued to teach and conduct research as dean. Dean Murasko received the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching and has been recognized for her achievements in advancing women in science and serving as a mentor and role model. As thesis advisor, she guided the work of 21 PhD candidates, with the last two students graduating in 2010 during her dean’s tenure. Donna plans to return to the faculty following a well-deserved sabbatical.
We want to extend our profound thanks to Donna for her outstanding leadership of the College of Arts and Sciences. A search for Donna’s successor will begin in the coming months, and an interim dean will soon be named for the 2018-19 academic year.
There will be ample time to honor Donna. For now, please join us in congratulating her on her extraordinary service to Drexel as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
M. Brian Blake
Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost