Carla Romney’s career has taken her all over the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). After studying electrical engineering as an undergraduate, she earned a master’s in biomedical engineering and went to work designing instruments for a surgical laser company, earning an M.B.A. at night to get better at the business aspects of her job.
She then returned to her early interest in cancer cell biology, earning advanced degrees in that field from Harvard. She spent the past 14 years at Boston University, serving as a faculty member, department chair, and assistant dean. She has also served as the research director for CityLab, the medical school’s biotechnology learning laboratory for middle- and high-school teachers and students.
Romney, D.Sc., came to Fordham on June 1 as associate dean for STEM and pre-health education, where she plans to support the surging student interest in these majors.
What does your position entail?
I’ll look holistically at faculty, pedagogy, student experience, and student retention in STEM fields to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to prepare students for whatever careers they choose. I’ll also look at students’ long-term outcomes as alumni. I hope to have a say in decisions about new technologies and facilities upgrades.
What are some of your short- and long-term goals?
I look forward to building mentoring relationships with students, and I plan to work with the Science Integrated Learning Community (SILC) to expose students to careers they might not have considered. What about the quantitative data analysis behind baseball, for example? Or looking at patent law or actuarial work? One great thing SILC can do is integrate students into the Fordham and New York community and show them that in everything they do, there’s science and technology, and there are jobs in these fields.
Another goal is to get more disciplines talking to each other, because the definition of STEM is broader than some might think. We have to think about quantitative economics, psychology, and other fields that use experimental approaches to see how they fit into the scope of STEM at Fordham. There’s a lot that can be done by bringing together people from seemingly disparate fields and sharing their expertise in a more interdisciplinary fashion.
How will Fordham create more research opportunities for undergraduates?
Fordham must successfully compete for more external funds that require a nuanced analysis of student outcomes. One of my big projects is assembling a longitudinal database of what has happened to students from entry to many years post-graduation to support faculty in writing successful grant applications that require these data.
Why did coming to Fordham appeal to you?
I was born in the Bronx and grew up in Westchester, so coming back to New York was certainly a draw, as was the commitment here to investigating what we can do better in the sciences.
Fordham’s ideal of cura personalis resonates with me because of my interest in helping faculty and staff better understand how we can support our students. One of my joys is helping each student find a suitable major and a career, rather than one that fits other people’s ideas of what the student should do. It’s a blessing, really, to be able to help students in that way.
What’s your vision for the alumni role in advancing the sciences at Fordham?
The alumni in the sciences and those of us on the academic side really need to be able to communicate with one another, and the university’s Science Council is obviously important in this regard. I want to get a handle on where Fordham graduates—including non-science majors—have gone in the sciences and bring those people on campus to tell their stories and mentor students. I’d also love to see a lot more alumni involvement in creating internships and funding for student research.
How does Fordham make its mark in science and technology in New York?
Fordham will ultimately have to put its stake in the ground and define a unique hook in the sciences. How is STEM at Fordham different? Is it the unique focus on undergraduate research experiences? It’s a tremendous selling point if we can say that we’ll always have a pipeline of students engaged in research. And that’s what I really want to work on—helping to define what it is that makes Fordham the place to come to for STEM!