By Brian Harris, Staff Writer
Many students would argue that getting to know the personal and professional lives of their faculty is an important part of the college experience. So today, UMass Dartmouth’s new Chief of Staff Dr. Donna Lisker joins us for a detailed interview regarding her personal life, her newfound job and more.
To start, I asked Dr. Lisker to introduce herself to not only me, but the entire UMass Dartmouth community.
“I grew up in Philadelphia and attended college in Massachusetts, at Williams [College]. I come to UMass Dartmouth from Smith College, where I spent 4 years as Dean of the College. Before that I had a 15-year career at Duke University.”
What immediately sticks out is the level of experience Dr. Lisker has under her belt. Having a former Dean in our faculty speaks miles to her expertise.
Next, we moved on to why she wanted to become the Chief of Staff here. What would draw someone to not just a Chief of Staff position, but one at UMass Dartmouth in particular? “I was drawn to Chancellor Johnson’s vision for UMass Dartmouth,” explains Lisker, “to help our community understand its importance and impact regionally and nationally, and to continue providing transformational educational experiences for our students to prepare them for the future of work.”
While that explains why she chose to come here specifically, I was still curious if she had any prior connections to the UMass colleges. And sure, enough she does, “Because I worked at Smith, I participated in the Five College Consortium that connects Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and UMass Amherst. I formed strong connections with colleagues at UMass Amherst and am looking forward to doing the same at UMass Dartmouth. Personally, I have known Juli Parker [our assistant Dean for Students/Director] for many years, back when we were both young women’s center directors, her here at UMass Dartmouth and me at Duke.”
Moving on, we discussed her now current role as Chief of Staff. Namely, we started with what it entails: “[the job] changes by the hour! Mostly I serve as a partner to the Chancellor, helping to drive important projects to completion, prioritize the many issues that come into the office and the University, and coordinate across all areas of the institution to ensure we accomplish our common goals.”
We also found the time to discuss her goals for the position and her plans for the future of UMass: “First and foremost, I am only successful if the Chancellor is successful in accomplishing his ambitions for UMass Dartmouth. This is a team effort and it encompasses all of us: students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. That’s the big goal. At a day-to-day level, I seek to create predictable and consistent systems that help the Chancellor’s office and by extension the senior administration run smoothly, and to ensure that we have a good flow of information into and out of the Chancellor’s suite. I also hope the UMass Dartmouth community will see me as a resource for them.”
All in all, with over fifteen years of experience and a clear passion for the job, Donna Lisker makes a strong impression as a fantastic addition to the UMass Dartmouth faculty. And, before we forget, when pressed to add anything she would like to comment on, Dr. Lisker added: “This may make me deeply unpopular on campus, but as a native Philadelphian, I am rooting for my hometown team on Sunday. Unlike Patriots nation, we have had a very long dry spell, and I would like to see my 85-year-old father celebrate a Super Bowl win!”