Vitto takes reins as dean of new College of Humanities & Social SciencesJuly 19, 2012
In 1988, Cindy Vitto stepped onto Rowan University's campus and knew she had come home. There was a vibe, a friendliness, a palpable collegiality that she hadn't felt at other universities.
Cindy Vitto is the dean of the newly formed College of Humanities & Social Sciences.
"From first stepping foot on this campus, I thought, "This is it. This is where I belong,'" says Vitto, who officially joined Rowan's English Department in 1989. "I felt at home immediately.
"I loved the people I talked to," she continues. "There was an inclusiveness, a warmth. I really can't explain it. But for whatever reason, Rowan was the right fit for me."
It still is. Today, Vitto has a new role to add to her ever-growing leadership resume at Rowan. On July 1, the Wenonah resident officially became dean of the newly formed College of Humanities & Social Sciences (CHSS).
As part of a restructuring of academic programs by Rowan's Board of Trustees, the former College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) was separated into two colleges: Humanities & Social Sciences and Science & Mathematics. Parviz Ansari, who had been dean of LAS, now oversees Science & Mathematics and the new School of Biomedical Sciences.
Vitto, meanwhile, has taken the helm of a college that boasts eight academic departments, seven interdisciplinary programs plus a Liberal Arts and Sciences Institute, 60 tenured and tenure track faculty, and close to 2,500 students. In terms of the number of departments, the college is the largest at Rowan.
The deanship is a natural progression for Vitto, whose curriculum vitae includes stints as chair of the English Department, associate dean for academic affairs in LAS, president of the University Senate, and six months as special assistant to the president, her most recent position.
"In the president's office, you get a sense of the university as a whole. I've never seen things from that broad of a view," says Vitto, who worked on strategic planning and special initiatives for President Ali Houshmand. Among other projects, Vitto worked on the general education reform task force and teamed up to launch "It's all about ME (Meaningful Employment)," a professional work program for students.
As the University continues to grow and change, CHSS, in particular, "needs stability," Vitto says.
ACTion plan for CHSS
"We've always been combined with math and science-and sometimes overshadowed by them. This separation of the colleges gives us a chance to really shine on our own. This is our moment.
"Our majors promote creative and critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and communication. With those skills, our graduates will be able to go through seven or more career changes."
Vitto has developed an action plan, titled ACT (Advocate/Communicate/Transform), for CHSS.
"I want all of us to advocate for the humanities and social sciences," she says. "We need to let people know we really make a difference.
"Communication is a challenge in any organization," she continues. "We have to communicate among ourselves. And we have to transform ourselves and some of the ways we do things."
The college will work to expand internship opportunities for students and to use work-study students in project-based initiatives, according to Vitto.
"We need to make real-world connections for our students and provide them with real-world skills," she says.
Vitto's dean's team includes Associate Dean Larry Butler and Assistant Dean Kristen diNovi. Butler most recently served as chair of the political science and economics department. diNovi formerly served as assistant dean in LAS.
"I've worked closely before with both Larry and Kristen. I know that the three of us will make a great team. We balance and complement one another in many ways," says Vitto, adding that the college also has two experienced administrative assistants in Francine Knight and Dottie Mastranduono.
A self-described lover of meetings—"You can get so much more done if you have the right people in a room," she says—Vitto is getting settled quickly into her dean's suite in Bunce Hall, her favorite building on Rowan's campus.
For years, Vitto's office in the English Department was located in Bunce. In 1995, she married her husband, George Romeo, on the building's steps. Vitto and Romeo, a Rowan accounting professor, met in the building when their offices were across the hall from each other.
"To me, Bunce Hall exemplifies the humanities," says Vitto. "It's the classic, iconic building at Rowan. It's the heart of the institution. It won't take me long at all to feel at home here."
Vitto was the ideal choice to lead CHSS, according to James Newell, Rowan's interim provost.
"Dr. Vitto has a blend of the understanding of the history and traditions of liberal arts here at Rowan and a vision of how to take that into the 21st century," says Newell.
An expert in medieval literature and American English grammar, Vitto is the author of a host of publications, including Grammar by Diagram (Broadview Press), now in its second edition.
In 2009, Vitto chaired an event celebrating English Professor Nathan Carb's 50th year of teaching at Rowan. The event, which paid homage to Carb's legacy as a professor and English Department chair, raised $22,000 for scholarships for Rowan students. Carb, who hired Vitto, passed away on June 30, the day before Vitto officially took the deanship of CHSS.
Vitto, who became a full professor at Rowan in 2001, earned her doctorate in English from Rice University in 1985. Her dissertation, "The Virtuous Pagan in Middle English Literature," won the University's John W. Gardner Award for Best Dissertation in Humanities and Social Sciences.
In 1977, Vitto earned her master's degree in English from Duke University. She is a 1976 summa cum laude graduate of Susquehanna University, where she earned her bachelor's degrees in English/French.
Formerly an executive board member of Literacy Volunteers of Gloucester County, Vitto also was active in the Pearl-Poet Society for many years, serving as its president from 1995-97.