Courtesy of Neil Lewis Jr.

Prof. Eve De Rosa is set to serve as dean of faculty starting July 1.

May 6, 2021

Prof. Eve De Rosa to Be First Woman and First African American Named Dean of Faculty

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Prof. Eve De Rosa, human development, will serve as the next dean of faculty and will be the first woman and  first person of color elected to the position. 

Over the course of her term, De Rosa said she hopes to improve communication across colleges and increase participation in shared governance while bringing a fresh voice to the senate.

The faculty senate elected De Rosa to dean on May 3, winning with 441-390 votes over Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, industrial and labor relations. De Rosa will officially assume her position July 1, taking the reins from Prof. Charles Van Loan, computer science.

The dean of faculty, a role with three-year terms, informs the faculty on campus issues, addresses constituent concerns and represents faculty interests to the Board of Trustees, University administration, employees, students and alumni.

Since 1872, 25 deans have preceded De Rosa. She will be the first professor from the College of Human Ecology to fill the position, as well as the first person of color and first woman. 

De Rosa will take her place among a homogenous line of previous dean of faculty.

Born in New York and raised in Bermuda, De Rosa said women’s empowerment has been central throughout her educational background, from her high school days at an all-girls institution to her time as an undergraduate at Vassar College, founded as a historically women’s college. 

De Rosa has served as a professor at the human ecology college for eight years, where she has worked in a number of leadership positions.

“The College of Human Ecology had the first tenured woman at Cornell. They had the first tenured African American woman at Cornell, and now they have the first African American woman dean of faculty,” De Rosa said. “There’s something that really makes me feel honored that I’d be representing the college in that way.”

Unlike many of her predecessors, De Rosa has not previously held a position on the Faculty Senate — but she said joining the senate now will allow her to offer a different perspective.

However, De Rosa has held many positions with the human ecology college as the director of undergraduate studies in the human development department, a member of the college education policy committee and as the dean’s fellow for racial and social justice.

As the dean’s fellow, De Rosa created Pathways to Social Justice, an initiative that hires six to eight like-minded scholars to study topics such as childhood poverty and nutrition, racial and ethnic identity and discrimination in the workplace, using their expertise to leave a positive impact on their communities.

De Rosa said her collaborative leadership style will support her in the dean of faculty role as she works to promote the wellbeing of every part of the senate, from the faculty to the professional librarians and archivists to the post-doctoral researchers.

De Rosa said she hopes to follow some of the goals of Van Loan, including improving transparency and communication. She also said that as someone who was able to attend the senate meetings once they became remote in spring 2020, she said she wants remote attendance to remain accessible to the Faculty Senate once gathering restrictions ease.

“I would love to bring more discourse into the senate,” De Rosa said, “allowing more perspectives to come in front of the senate so that there’s more of a conversation rather than a presentation.”

De Rosa’s fellow faculty members expressed delight that she won the dean of faculty election. Prof. Neil Lewis, Jr., communication and psychology, said De Rosa is one of the senior faculty members who has supported him and other junior faculty since he began working at Cornell in 2017.

“I am confident that she will use her new role to continue to support faculty across the University,” Lewis said. “The fact that it took us until 2021 –– over 150 years –– to finally elect a woman or a person of color to the role is something we should deeply reflect on as an institution.”

Van Loan said the senate will be in good hands and that De Rosa will bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table.

“When you leave a position like this, there is no better feeling than handing off to a successor, like Eve, who cares about the same things as you,” Van Loan said.

De Rosa said it was very rare to receive an invitation to the senate before she was a member, unless there was an issue directly impacting the staff and faculty. As dean, she said she hopes she can encourage more senators to invite constituents to the meetings.

“I know that there is a diversity of voices there,” De Rosa said. “I think if we really have the senators make a greater effort of bringing their faculty’s voices into the senate by inviting them to the senate, that would be lovely.”

De Rosa said she wants to create a structure for mentorship among the faculty, which would better connect super departments within the colleges and give voice to more faculty members.

“Just having that conversation across the University will be really meaningful,” De Rosa said, “especially as we start to bring more diversity into the faculty.”