When Denis Paré came aboard as Interim Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark in July 2018, he was expecting to be in the role for six months. His tenure lasted two years.
Paré took on the job of acting dean at SASN at the request of then Dean Jan Lewis, who was taking an extended sick leave. When she unexpectedly died in late August, he suddenly found himself filling a very different role than he’d anticipated. He quickly rose to the challenge, expanding innovative programs such as Lives in Translation, helping the Humanities Action Lab find a permanent home, continuing the work former Dean Lewis had started in transforming the Physics Department, fully committing to hiring more diverse faculty across disciplines, cementing a stronger partnership with the Graduate School-Newark, and tackling the various day-to-day challenges of running the largest school at Rutgers University-Newark, all without missing a single deadline.
“Every day he looked at how we did things, how we can do them, and how we can do them better,” said Elizabeth Rowe, Associate Dean for Instructional Programs, Services, and Outreach.
Faculty and administrators alike praised Paré for his strong leadership skills and honest, straightforward direction. Michele Pavanello, chair of the Physics Department, said “Denis is awesome! What can I say, he is just a good, good person and a competent leader. I learned a lot by seeing him in action. His straightforward ways of approaching even delicate situations is sobering and tremendously effective.”
He was a steadying force in the midst of tumult and uncertainty
During his time as dean, Paré increased both non-tenure and tenure-track hires, expanding the number of classes offered to students. He oversaw the expansion of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, including a bachelor's degree program in Computer Science, previously only offered in partnership with neighboring NJIT. He focused sharply on the school’s attention to undergraduate education, encouraging new and innovative collaborations across departments, reinvigorating programs such as Urban Education and the Honors College, and growing others. “I really appreciated working with Denis. He was a steadying force in the midst of tumult and uncertainty", said Kim Holton, chair of the Spanish and Portuguese Studies department. “More specifically, I really appreciated the combination of his pragmatism and strategic chance taking. He helped the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies grow the Lives in Translation Project into new and exciting areas. He also gave the green light to further develop our Latino Studies program. In short, it was a pleasure working with Denis during both challenging as well as calmer times.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and faculty and staff found themselves scrambling to move operations to a remote environment, Paré continued to be at the forefront, supporting all the initiatives needed to successfully close out the semester as well as ensure staff had the ability to do their work well. He also recognized the unprecedented strain the pandemic placed on students, and established the SASN Student Emergency Fund to provide relief for students facing financial hardships. He created a flexible plan for the upcoming fall semester, preparing for various contingencies and scenarios that may happen in the coming year and what that means for both classroom instruction and research.
“Denis has demonstrated great leadership during his time as Dean in SASN. He exemplifies commitment, dedication, hard work, and follow through,” said Rowe. “He engages all of the stakeholders in the decision-making process. He has emphasized the importance of communication between departments, Dean’s Office, and across units within Rutgers. Denis has been extremely supportive as a supervisor and colleague.”
"It has been a privilege to serve in this capacity,” said Paré, who will be returning to his former role as director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, as well as refocusing on his own research on the neurobiology of fear and anxiety.