by ANNA WOODS, Staff Writer
The communication department underwent massive changes this past summer as Michael Grabowksi, Ph.D., was announced as the new chair of the department. Grabowski is only the second chair in the department’s twelve year history. Thom Gencarelli, Ph.D., has held the position since its inception.
“This is my tenth year at the college. So I’ve been teaching since 1998. I started off as the master teacher of post production at New York University’s School of Continuing Professional Education [where] they have a department of film video broadcasting,” Grabowski said.
“So I came from the field of production and post-production and started teaching post-production there. I had worked as an editor, as a videographer, I’ve directed a few short films. And when I started teaching, I fell in love with it so here I am,” Grabowski said.
The chairperson of a department is its administrative head, so in addition to teaching fewer classes now, Grabowski has to manage the budget of the department, set goals and priorities for the department and help to create the schedule of courses that the dept will be teaching.
“I approve any variances, internships, independent studies and then be the representative for the dept at the school and the college. So I attend the dean’s meetings and so on. I found out that information I bring that back to the department and I represent our faculty back up to that,” Grabowski said.
When asked what the most difficult part of the position is Grabowski said he wants to prioritize his time and what is most relevant to the students.
“I really want to take some time focusing on the not urgent but important stuff.” Grabowski said. “What’s the vision of the program, what makes sense in growing in areas that will serve our students the best, [and] how to connect our students to our alumni so it’s a seamless transition from college to career, or graduate school, or professional school if students want that. How do I make that happen for more of our students?”
For Gencarelli, the communication department was essentially his passion project.
“I got this unique opportunity to come in and build something. I have a sense of ownership and pride in what we came to do and one of the hard things about stepping down was to step away from all of that,” Gencarelli said.
While Grabowski is facing a lot of work in the years ahead of him, he is thrilled to take Gencarelli’s place.
“Thom Gencarelli was the founding chair of the department. He built this program. It didn’t exist before him, and so we were created as a department 12 years ago and he has grown it from five faculty members to seven [and] from four concentrations to six concentrations,” Grabowski said.
“He has grown the number of students that are in the program, and so I’m really lucky that I’ve been handed off a department that’s in really good shape. So my goal, and what I’m most excited about, is growing it even more finding better quality internships for the students, increasing the profile of the department [and] having more alumni come back who are in great positions now and give back to students and now making those connections forging those connections. That’s what I’ve been working on and I’m really thrilled to be doing that,” Grabowski said.
Although it was hard for Gencarelli to give up the position, he has full confidence in Grabowski.
“He is definitely, at this point here, absolutely the best person for the job. In the beginning I’m not sure that he was thrilled about the fact that he knew that it was coming. But as the time drew nearer he became more ready and not just more accepting. He’s taken on the mantle and I think he’s going to be great. I’m really happy that he’s here and is now the chair,” he said.
Gencarelli’s one piece of advice is for Grabowski is “to be himself and make it his.”
Gencarelli is looking forward to a year of new opportunities.
“I’m most excited that I’ll have more time to do all of these other things that i never stopped doing but that I never had enough time and energy for,” he said. “I’m [the] editor of a journal. I go to seven conferences a year. I have been working on a book for a bunch of years and then I came up with a new book idea. That I kind of want to get started on. I just applied for sabbatical for not this academic year but for the next academic year. And I’m hoping I’ll get the sabbatical to work on that book. And I’m excited to see what happens now that I’m in the office as opposed to that office.”
Aedan Roney, a junior communication major with a concentration in media production and a minor in film studies, is a student of Grabowski’s.
“I think he’s a great professor,” said Roney. “I think he has a genuine love and interest for what he’s teaching about. And he was always coming in to class more than prepared… and was always very quick to be helpful to anyone who needed it and just a very knowledgeable guy.”
When asked about how he felt when he heard that Gencarelli was stepping down, Roney said, “ I was surprised at first because as long as I’ve been here and as long as the department has been around, Thom Gencarelli has been the chair. But when I found out it was Grabowski, I had no doubt that he was gonna be an excellent successor because like I was saying earlier, he was very prepared when he always came to classes and he seems like he’s just got a drive and passion for what he’s teaching about.”
As Grabowski steps into the position, he recognizes that the work he’s doing has an impact on the people he has been able to meet.
“It’s really the students who want to learn that succeed and when they do and they come back and tell us about their accomplishments. That makes me incredibly proud. I feel like a proud parent in that respect. I mean I know I’m not their parent but I hope their parents are proud and I’m really proud of them,” he said.