With more than 35 years of experience in higher education leadership, Douglas J. Pisano, Ph.D., the new dean of Merrimack College’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, has the bona fides to lead the College’s ever-expanding nursing and health science programs.
“I have a great deal of support from faculty and staff at this point, and also the administration above me,” said Pisano, who officially started his role on July 1. “They want to grow. President Hopey has been very clear with me on what he’s looking for and that really helps.”
That includes continuing the momentum of the School’s growth at the undergraduate level, adding to the graduate program offerings and finding new, innovative research opportunities. Of course, Pisano says, it is the students, faculty and staff who make the College tick.
“Every single school is different in how it operates,” he explained. “No matter what you have in your toolbox, you always have to make it work where you are.”
Pisano, who previously served as the founding dean of the Dennis R. DePerro School of Health Professions at St. Bonaventure University in New York, took some time to answer questions about his vision for the School and what it will take to achieve it.
What attracted you to Merrimack?
There are three things that I was looking for in my next role.
First, I was looking for an institution where I could have an impact and build something. I wasn’t interested in an institution that wanted me to maintain what it had. I wanted an institution that was focused on evolving and growing.
Second, I really enjoy working for a Catholic institution; I think it fills a space for me.
The third reason is I made a promise to my wife that I would find a job that was closer to home. My previous position was 500 miles away and I commuted each way for six years. I would drive to western New York on Monday, stayed all week and came home on Friday. I live 20 minutes away from Merrimack and haven’t had to fill my gas tank in a week and a half.
What are some of your big-picture plans for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences?
One of my first charges is to put together a plan to envision what the School will look like in three to five years.
My philosophy with all of that is to make sure I do it in a way that the faculty and staff can buy into it. I will look out for the best interest of the School and the College, but to do that, we need to take a little bit of time to see what the capacity is. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m meeting with everybody and getting ideas on what they do, how they do it and what they aspire to.
The big picture is to grow the School, grow research programs, develop professional partnerships for internships and set the tone for the next decade. I’ll be building graduate programs primarily, and looking for opportunities in both academics and research to have lasting change and growth. I think there’s great potential and capacity here.
How has planning for the 2023-24 school year been?
We seem to be doing fine. Faculty really understand what they need to do and I’ve been allowing them to do it. We’ve got a lot of heavy lifting accomplished over this summer, and Associate Dean Janet Blum and Associate Dean of Nursing Tracy Alberti really know what needs to happen to move the School forward.
What is your message to students, faculty and staff for the start of the semester?
It is always good to be associated with and in the process of working with a School that knows where it’s going and has the will to move ahead. That’s exciting, and that’s what I see in Merrimack.