Search for New Chancellor Narrowed to Three Finalists

A comprehensive national search has identified three finalists for the position of Chancellor at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Each finalist will meet with key constituencies, including students, faculty members, staff members, the college’s Council of Fellows and administrators in both Erie and at University Park. Campus interviews have been scheduled for Dec. 2, Dec. 14 and Dec. 15.

A final selection is expected in early 2016.

The finalists are, in the order they will be interviewed on campus:

Dr. Laura Niesen de Abruna, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn.,

Dr. Scott A. Gordon, dean of the Pott College of Science, Engineering and Education at the University of Southern Indiana, in Evansville, Ind., and

Dr. Ralph M. Ford, interim chancellor of Penn State Behrend.

 “We reviewed a highly competitive pool of candidates with impressive and varied backgrounds in order to identify these three finalists,” said Pam Silver, distinguished professor of biology and chair of the search committee, which included faculty members, staff members, students and college and University leaders. “We are confident that any of these three final candidates can lead Penn State Behrend to new levels of success in academics, research and outreach.”

The 18-member committee began its review of candidates in late September. The committee conducted preliminary interviews with candidates via Skype before selecting the three finalists, who will be interviewed at the college on Dec. 2, Dec. 14 and Dec. 15. Each finalist will spend a full day at Penn State Behrend and a subsequent day at University Park, meeting with top leaders, including the president, provost and vice president for Commonwealth Campuses.

Brief biographies of each finalist are below.


Laura Niesen de AbrunaDr. Laura Niesen de Abruna is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sacred Heart University, an independent Catholic university with approximately 8,200 students. She previously served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Roger Williams University, as dean of the faculty at Heidelberg University and as dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Communication at Susquehanna University. She has taught at Ithaca College, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has expanded online and graduate programs at Sacred Heart, adding more than 20 degree and certificate programs, and, by partnering with the American Council of Education Internationalization Lab, increased global awareness among students at Sacred Heart. She has taught abroad as a Fulbright Scholar and has spoken on leadership at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Aspen Institute. She has developed student programs with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. A professor of English, she holds an A.B. from Smith College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and an M.S. Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Scott A. GordonDr. Scott A. Gordon is dean of the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education at the University of Southern Indiana, a Carnegie Foundation Community Engaged University with approximately 9,500 students.  As dean, he is responsible for all college operations: guiding acquisition and use of resources; providing leadership in formulating and executing policies; making decisions and recommendations on appointment, tenure and promotion matters; evaluating the effectiveness of academic programming; and serving as college spokesperson. He founded the Southwest Indiana STEM Education Center, supporting teachers in 17 counties. He previously served as associate dean of Pott College, associate director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, and director of the Reform of Middle School Science Project, promoting inquiry-based teaching and learning at local middle schools. He developed and expanded the university’s honors and Undergraduate Research, Innovation and Creativity programs and directed the activities of multiple grants. Dr. Gordon, a professor of biology, holds a B.A. from the State University of New York’s College at Cortland, an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee and an MLE from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Ralph M. FordDr. Ralph M. Ford is interim chancellor at Penn State Behrend. He previously served as director of the college’s School of Engineering and associate dean for Industry and External Relations. As school director, he was the chief academic and executive officer, with responsibility for strategic planning, curriculum development, faculty and staff development and enrollment management. Working with industry, state and University partners, he developed the Medical Plastics Center of Excellence and the Applied Energy Research Center. He established the Engineering K-12 Outreach Center, which engages more than 5,500 students and teachers each year. As associate dean, he was responsible for the operation and expansion of Knowledge Park, a partnership with the Greater Erie Industrial Development Corporation. Dr. Ford has served as vice president of Member and Geographic Activities for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional society. Before his move to academia, he worked as a senior engineer for IBM and as a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory. A professor of electrical and computer engineering, he holds a B.S. from Clarkson University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.