Voices of the Provost Solutions Fellows

From collaborating with colleagues to engaging with external partners through the Drexel Solutions Institute, members of the inaugural cohort of the Provost Solutions Fellows have described the experience as “unique” and “broadening,” and of being “positively stretched” by it.

The Solutions Fellows were appointed in the fall of 2020 through a joint initiative of the Provost’s Office and the Drexel Solutions Institute, which serves as a gateway for external partners to access the research and teaching expertise of the University.

The faculty experts chosen for the initial cohort came from a range of disciplines, and all brought an understanding of the value that external partners — whether businesses, nonprofits or foundations — bring to their research and scholarship, as well as to the active learning experiences of students.

As participants in the program, the Fellows noted a variety of benefits, including the opportunity to learn — often for the first time — about the work and research of their colleagues. In some cases, it led them to begin or explore collaborations, harnessing the power of their respective backgrounds to address industry issues or further an area of research.

“I realized my expertise could be relevant in ways that I hadn’t previously realized,” said Rajashi Ghosh, PhD, associate professor of human resource development. “The interaction with industry and working with colleagues across the University showed me how you can successfully work as an interdisciplinary group to attend to clients’ needs. We learned from each other and were able to lean on each other.”

Solutions Fellows serve for two-year terms, and since the initial cohort was named, additional faculty have been appointed. Several Solutions Fellows shared their thoughts on the experience.

Nicolas J. Alvarez, PhD

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, College of Engineering

What are some of the top benefits of working with industry partners?

The big benefit is for the students. They get to see directly into industry life and what that type of research looks like. More importantly, academics sometimes fall into the trap of inventing problems that have no contact with the real world. What you gain from directly working with industry is an appreciation for real engineering problems. My department has also benefited tremendously. We have several long-term grants from companies that have funded graduate students and post doc students to conduct industrially relevant research.

Why would you encourage other faculty to work with external partners?

When you work with industry partners, you have access to real world problems that can have an immediate impact on society, and that is invaluable.

Lauren D’Innocenzo, PhD 

Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Management, LeBow College of Business  

If there’s one word to describe your experience as a Solutions Fellow, what would it be?  


How would you describe working with DSI and what would you tell colleagues about the value of working with DSI?  

Working with DSI has been very intellectually stimulating. I believe one of our greatest strengths as a University is our connection to industry. DSI is the conduit that allows partnerships between research and industry to flourish. Through DSI, I’ve been connected to new industry partners and challenged with identifying new solutions through research. Problems are not one dimensional and the interdisciplinary perspective allows us to collectively see problems from multiple angles. Addressing these challenges with interdisciplinary colleagues has been both a growth opportunity personally as well as adding tremendous value to our partners.  

Rose Ann Di Maria-Ghalili, PhD 

Professor of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Professions

How likely are you to recommend a colleague become a Solutions Fellow and why? 

I am very likely to recommend it for mid-career or senior faculty colleagues. Serving as a Solutions Fellow can provide faculty with an opportunity to apply their vast knowledge and expertise to co-create solutions with community partners. 

How would you describe working with DSI and what would you tell colleagues about the value of working with industry partners?

As a researcher, the onerous part of working with partners outside of Drexel is executing contracts, subawards, payments etc. Working with DSI is easy. DSI handles all the negotiations and coordinates calendars so that the Solutions Fellows can instead focus their energies on the implementation. There are many benefits to working with industry partners. You are building relationships that could open the door for other opportunities in the future. You are also learning about real-world challenges and opportunities that can lead to innovative educational offerings for students and future research.   

Aroutis N. Foster, PhD

Associate Professor of Learning Technologies/Creativity & Innovation
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies School of Education

How would you describe your experience as a Solutions Fellow?  

Opportunity and exploratory. I am highly entrepreneurial, and DSI has provided a way to support my entrepreneurial skills at the University level. Faculty typically don’t get an opportunity to do something like that. As for exploratory, I didn’t know what this experience would be like so I decided to take an exploratory approach to it and, by doing that, it was a very rewarding experience.  

How would you describe working with DSI and what would you tell colleagues about the value of working with the Solutions Institute?  

DSI provides you with an opportunity to grow and expand your knowledge base, learn about colleagues and their work, and get more information about the direction of the University. It also provides you with an opportunity to work outside of your college. The top benefit of working with industry partners is you get to expand your horizons and expand the work that you do. By working with external partners, you are involved in a process of struggling with a real-world problem, solving that problem and delivering that in a real-world setting. That’s not something you get to do in a traditional university setting.  

Robert Field, JD, MPH, PhD

Professor of Law and of Health Management and Policy  
Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Dornsife School of Public Health  

What did you enjoy the most about being a Solutions Fellow and why?  

It provided a chance to think creatively about ways to have an impact in a new sphere of activity, outside the usual confines of academia. An unexpected benefit was working with others in administration and other schools within Drexel.  

How likely are you to recommend becoming a Solutions Fellow to a colleague and working with DSI?  

I would highly recommend it. It offers the chance to apply your expertise and skills in new and exciting ways. DSI offers the chance for broader visibility within and outside of Drexel, which can add a new dimension to your career.  

Ann Gerondelis, AIA, IDSA 

Professor of Design, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design  

What did you enjoy the most about being a Solutions Fellow and why?  

I liked being connected to larger university conversations. As head of a very large department, it was a pleasure to get out of my bubble and hear about and engage in discussions about our collective future. 

Why would you encourage other faculty to work with external partners?  

In my department, we are working to increase our industry engagement for a variety of reasons. We want to support students in their skill-building and problem-solving capabilities. Working with industry partners helps us to authentically build students’ interdisciplinary skills in working together, so that they are able to solve increasingly complex problems facing society – ones that cannot be addressed by single disciplines alone. We want to support faculty in generating relevant learning for project assignments.

Rajashi Ghosh, PhD 

Associate Professor of Human Resource Development  
Department Chair, Policy, Organization, and Leadership, School of Education  

How would you describe your experience as a Solutions Fellow?

Positively stretched. I was challenged to do things out of my comfort zone. 

Would you encourage other faculty to work with external partners?

I always encourage faculty to seek out relationships with external partners because they could lead to future opportunities for research and experiential learning opportunities for students. I find that working with external partners is always a good investment: It plants seeds that you can reap the benefits of in many other ways, whether gathering data for research or securing projects to do in class.   

Ioannis Savidis, PhD  

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering  

What did you enjoy the most about being a Solutions Fellow?

I really enjoyed meeting the other Fellows, learning about their areas of expertise, and networking with them. One other Fellow is in physics and we decided to explore a collaboration with our combined expertise. I would not have met him but for being a Fellow.  

What do you believe are the top benefits of working with industry partners?  

I always try to have partnerships with industry. You are able to get a glimpse of the problems they are most interested in. Those industry relationships also help in placing students for internships and jobs, inform research and provide a better understanding of the most pressing questions from an industry perspective.   

Interested in working with DSI? Contact the Drexel Solutions Institute by emailing DSI@drexel.edu.