Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Full Agenda for New College

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Full Agenda for New College

Article excerpt

Q&A DONAL O'SHEA

Today, more than 150 professors from New College of Florida and delegates from universities including Oxford, Harvard, Yale and Princeton will don their academic regalia for the inauguration of Dr. Donal O'Shea as the fifth president of New College.

O'Shea, 60, was named president of the college last March and started at the beginning of the current academic year, succeeding Dr. Gordon E. Michalson Jr., who returned to teaching after 11 years at the helm.

New College, founded in 1960 as a private liberal arts college, became part of the University of South Florida in 1975 and in 2001 was designated as the state of Florida's "honors college for the liberal arts."

Its enrollment is about 850 students. Earlier this month, the school was ranked No. 3 "Best Value Public College in America" for 2013 by The Princeton Review.

Annual tuition is $6,060 for Florida residents, $29,089 for out- of-state students.

O'Shea came to New College from Mount Holyoke, a women's private liberal arts college in Massachusetts, where he was dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs.

Mount Holyoke, one of the venerable "Seven Sisters" in the Northeast, is the oldest college for women in the world and one of the most elite.

The Princeton Review in 2011 ranked Mount Holyoke No. 1 for "best classroom experience and No. 3 for "most politically active students." Its enrollment is 2,200; annual tuition is more than $41,000.

O'Shea holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Harvard; he earned his master's degree and Ph.D, also in mathematics, from Queen's University in Canada.

Q:How has mathematics prepared you for life in college administration?

A:First of all, mathematics is an academic discipline with rapid changes and many recent discoveries, and there is nothing like being in a rapidly advancing academic discipline to prepare one to be an administrator in an age of very rapid change in our higher educational institutions and systems.

On the purely technical side, mathematics deals with structure, and administrators deal with the same.

The number skills, and the sense of scale that one develops in thinking about mathematics, are useful in reading and understanding balance sheets and long-term plans.

Being in a mathematics department also gives one experience interacting with many different sorts of people, including individuals who misunderstand or fear or loathe mathematics -- the latter experience is very useful for college administrators. …

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