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Meet the Deans

Published on November 07, 2022

Meet the Deans

A conversation with Niti Pandey and Emily Todd

Emily Todd (left) and Niti Pandey (right) sit down with University Relations student writer Molly Boucher.
Deans Emily Todd (middle) and Niti Pandey (right) sit for an interview with University Relations student writer Molly Boucher (left).

Niti Pandey and Emily Todd come from different realms of academia, but as deans at Eastern Connecticut State University, they are united in their mission to advance the liberal arts. Niti Pandey is the dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies. Emily Todd is the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. The two sat down to speak on their backgrounds and the goals of their respective schools.

What inspired your love for academia?

Pandey: I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Delhi and felt comfortable being immersed in academics from a young age. Also, when I was growing up in India, there was this very conscious awareness that if you wanted to do something professional in life you needed to pursue higher education.

Deans Niti Pandey (left) and Emily Todd (right)
Deans Niti Pandey and Emily Todd 

Todd: I always loved the classroom and research. When I was a junior, I did this project on an 18th-century Scottish woman’s diary that was in a rare book collection and I loved making discoveries reading this diary. I loved having my own questions and so I think that drove me into graduate school. I believe in higher education, believe in what happens in a university classroom and the discovery, and the possibilities students encounter there. So, I think that’s what made me feel like this is the career I wanted to have. I’ve always been at teaching-focused institutions as a professor and now as a dean, and I really value the day-to-day work with students and with faculty.

What are the greatest opportunities facing Eastern?

Pandey: I think the biggest opportunity is our liberal arts mission that combines high-quality education with employability skills. It leads us to make innovations in our curriculum and it also allows us to tie in alumni and professional engagement, as well as our research and community outreach work in meaningful ways that creates impact for our communities and for our state.

Todd: I want to second the idea of the liberal arts mission as an opportunity here. One of the reasons that it’s such a great opportunity is that everybody is really connected to that mission.  We’re a public liberal arts university, at the moment when the world needs students and more citizens to have a rich, robust liberal arts education. ... it’s the answer to all sorts of challenges we face nationally and globally. We have amazing students, faculty and resources, so there are so many strengths here to build on as we fulfill our shared liberal arts mission.

Dr. Pandey, you’ve been with Eastern since 2012.  How has the university changed over the past 10 years?

Dr. Niti Pandey, Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies.
Niti Pandey, dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies

Pandey: In the last 10 years, we’ve seen innovative programs and curriculum changes, a lot more pre-professional opportunities for our students, and increased participation in undergraduate research. I have seen increased and improved support services for our students to ensure student success and wellbeing.

Dr. Todd, you’re new to Eastern. What inspired you to join the Eastern community?

Todd: I came from an institution that has a lot of similarities to Eastern. I wanted to continue doing dean work, and Eastern was at the top of my list because it’s a public institution of higher education and it centers on the liberal arts mission. My first time on campus I was really wowed by the facilities and the beauty of the campus. While I was interviewing, all the people I met were really thoughtful and smart and interesting. I got to meet a small group of students and they were great, I saw a lot of strengths in this institution from the beginning.

What is your favorite spot on Eastern’s campus?

Pandey: The Student Center. I think of it as the beating heart of our campus.

Todd: Yes, the Student Center and outside where students interact in between classes. That’s where you see the bustle and people greeting and laughing and talking. Since I arrived in July, it was exciting for me to start to see students when the semester started − you know that’s the way the campus should be!

What is your vision for your respective schools?

Pandey: My vision is to emphasize our strengths as a public liberal arts university by articulating the value of liberal arts skills in applied disciplines. As a professional school, it’s critical for us to build strong relationships with our alumni and other professionals in the community. Developing innovative undergraduate and graduate programs that reflect the workforce needs of the state and our communities is a key goal.

Dr. Emily Todd, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Emily Todd, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences

Todd: I see so many strengths at Eastern and in the School of Arts and Sciences. We already have lots of experiential opportunities here, good internship partnerships, good field work and study abroad, but I think there’s room to extend that outreach and build on those opportunities that help students. And as Niti was saying, I see opportunities to connect with alums, continue outreach to alums, network with them and help our students take what they’re learning in different programs and graduate here with a sense of what is available to them. I want to focus on equity, access, partnerships, outreach, building up and continuing to highlight those strengths. And I want to continue to support the centrality of the liberal arts to our students’ education.

What is your best piece of advice for current students?

Todd: Connect with the community. I encourage students to get involved in clubs and activities, but even beyond that to connect with one another, with people in their classes. Go to office hours, introduce yourself to professors, get involved. So much learning happens outside the classroom. I also encourage students to pay attention to what’s interesting to them. So, even if you are committed to a major, but you take a course in another discipline in the Liberal Arts Core and you think, ‘you know what, I really like this.’ Take another class in that discipline. Come up with a minor, pay attention to what your interests are, what strengths you’re wanting to build on and shape an education that allows you to explore different areas and activities." 

Pandey: Go to class, attend university and club events, and make sure you’re connecting with your faculty advisor and the other faculty through your classes. They are a great source of career advice. ... Many of the events on campus will bring back successful alumni and other professionals and so I tell students that it’s never too early to start building a professional network because success can depend so much on the connections and networks that you build.

Both of you earned degrees in other countries, Dr. Todd from St. Andrews University in Scotland and Dr. Pandey from the University of Delhi. What have you taken from those experiences and brought to Eastern?

Pandey: I think one of my biggest insights from having been a part of a different educational system is that for so many people around the world, higher education is such a privilege. It changes people’s lives for the better and it makes a deep and significant impact on communities. To be a part of a public liberal arts university that provides accessible and affordable high-quality liberal arts education to diverse students is the quintessential purpose of public higher education. Eastern is fulfilling a critical role in society, in a democratic society, in generating career opportunities and social mobility for our graduates. ... Being able to see the role of higher education in sustaining that part of society, I think that’s what I brought with me.

Todd: I would say that my experience at St. Andrews, which grew out of time I took off from college, was incredibly influential. I took a semester off to travel on my own and I travelled through England, Wales, Scotland and France with a backpack and stayed in hostels, but Scotland was the place that really spoke to me. So, when I had a chance to apply for a one-year master's degree after college, I jumped at the opportunity to study in Scotland. I really benefited from the one-on-one tutorials that were part of the British system. ... What I bring back to Eastern is an understanding of how valuable it is to be able to travel and study abroad or study through a national exchange or have field work experiences, and Eastern makes a lot of those opportunities available. I have experienced firsthand the value and I hope that students continue to have all those opportunities.

Written by Molly Boucher

Categories: Academics