A Bucks County native, Christopher Fiorentino first came to West Chester University in 1983 while a doctoral student in economics at Temple University. His one-year sabbatical position was extended, eventually turning into a permanent one. Fiorentino became dean of the College of Business and Public Management, the vice president for external operations, and the interim university president. In January, after 33 years at WCU, he was inaugurated as the university’s 15th president. This fall marks his first full academic year in the role.
MLT: Was being president always a goal for you?
CF: I didn’t even really have the deanship in mind, but probably around the time that [former WCU president] Madeleine Adler left, it occurred to me that I probably had the skill set to be the president. I had knowledge in a broad range of areas and had done a lot of fundraising as dean.
MLT: What was your reaction when you were named president?
CF: That was a very emotional thing for me, because it’s not normally the case that a person spends an entire career at one institution in so many different roles. My connection to this place spans 33 or 34 years. I’ve seen it grow and advance—I’ve been involved in things that have impacted that. It’s part of me, and I’m part of it.
MLT: What are your goals?
CF: We’ve grown about 20 percent in the past five years. What are the things that we need to deal with as a result of that growth? When you have more students, you have to hire more faculty. We collectively need to make sure we are putting our faculty in the best position to be successful, that they have the resources to really hit the ground running, because the faculty is really the key to the mission.
MLT: What about in terms of programs?
CF: We need to make sure that we’re offering the right programs and the array of programs we’re offering are the ones that are in demand and are going to meet the demands of the region. We don’t have any engineering programs at this point, but engineering is a high-demand profession, so we’re working towards launching our first engineering program.
MLT: Any plans for the start of the 2017-18 academic year?
CF: That’s a time when the president has traditionally given the State of the University address. From my perspective, that’s a very key moment. What do we do moving forward? What are our goals for the coming year?
MLT: How has higher education changed in the past 30 years?
CF: The infusion of technology has had a huge impact on campuses. So many things have been converted to technology-based things. There are a lot of things that are the same—like critical thinking, problem-solving. While teaching techniques might be different, I don’t think that teaching is better just because there is technology involved. Good teaching is still good teaching. Students aren’t learning more today than they did generations ago because of technology. It’s just a different tool.
MLT: What are you looking forward to?
CF: I love to come to work every day. I love the challenges. I am in a position to provide the vision and shape the future of the institution. I’m very excited about the prospect of leading West Chester to even better days than we’re enjoying right now.