The New Face of AHSS: David Bertolini

The new Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS), David Bertolini, has been settling into his new title since March and has been enjoying his newly found dedication toward the college.

He foreshadowed his want for being dean of the college after being the chair for six to eight years, but with all of the aspects affecting the college and position it triggered him to want it sooner rather than later.

What he believes to be the number one reason for him applying for the AHSS dean position was to ultimately help the college improve.

“I felt that I could help meaning that we have a great college, remarkable faculty doing remarkable things, but I think in the scheme of things it tends to — need a little bit of push in promotion meaning that I thought that I could help with that,” Bertolini explained.

Now having to deal with things on more of a broader scale and more difficult aspects of representing a college, Bertolini gave his input on difficult topics.

“Across our college, if there is a unit that is struggling or needs help you need to find a plan for them and you can’t just focus on the ones that ‘oh you know this ones got everything,’” Bertolini explained. He compared it to a game of chess and how if one is not paying attention to all sides of the board they will lose.

Budget cuts is always a concern since there is a limited amount of money available, but Bertolini tries to focus on the aspect of what a state needs since he has experience with the difficulties of university budget.

He explained that he came from Louisiana State University in which had drastic budget cuts, more severe than NDSU in the fact that it lasted approximately seven years.

“You still have to put a team on the field, you still have students coming, you still have great professors and I think that’s the first view of things when you look at budget cuts. You have to realize that you have incredible strengths and you need to focus on those first,” Bertolini said.

Focusing on the great research NDSU faculty is doing and the incredible students coming here to learn are the aspects one should be focusing on in detrimental times.

Although he is not trying to act as though it is not happening and that students should act as though it does not affect them, but rather focus on the positive aspects of the university first.

After looking at the positives within the university and AHSS College, one should look at the deficiencies that we have so the money goes to the place that needs it the most.

When referring to when he was in college he explained how they were dumb compared to students now. Before students used to walk around only caring about class and registration, when now students have taken a stand on what is right and what needs to be changed.

Bertolini explained that students now understand when they are not being taught, when there is a problem, when services and resources are not being given, he explained that if there is an issue students and faculty can talk to him, whether it is on the sidewalk and you are just passing by or you schedule a meeting.

“The one thing I know about students is — you don’t know the topic you’re here to learn, but you know when things aren’t working,” Bertolini said. Students can provide advice and bring it up to the right people in charge to make a change in something we see needs to be changed.

Many look at NDSU and see the engineering program or the agriculture courses it offers, but Bertolini explained that it would not be possible to be such a well-known research one school without all colleges including AHSS.

“If we are a research one institution, and that means we do high performing research at all levels, whether its ag, engineering, sciences, cancer research, all of those spectrums, if you want to be that player you need a broad-based education, meaning you’re not a — tech school if that’s the case then you have arts, humanities and social science,” Bertolini said.

Although Bertolini explained how he is not being exclusive, one must know that unique and interesting ideas come from aspects provided through AHSS. When employers are looking for employees/newly-graduated students, they look for skills beyond their field like communication, critical thinking and an understanding of the world.

“Each group and each area has different issues and concerns, but our ultimate goal is that, one all of our students in every major succeed and to do that that means every department has to succeed and to do that requires — different methods and techniques to work with them,” Bertolini explained.

As being apart of NDSU future students need to be informed of the different aspects NDSU brings, so they can make an intelligent decision as to what field they would like to become apart of. Bertolini has been doing this since 2013 and educating high schools through outreach to give future students opportunities they may not be thinking of.

David Bertolini| Photo Courtesy
Bertolini enjoys black and white photos for the aesthetic and connection to architecture.

Bertolini was an architect for 15 years before becoming a full-time academic faculty member in 2003, then starting as chair of architecture and landscape architecture. He then moved to AHSS interim dean in 2017.

After graduating he went back for a Ph.D. and ultimately decided he had an interest for English. He enjoyed the “anesthetic component” and that “the things I was interested in were more theoretical, cultural issues and theories about those,” Bertolini explained.

He also enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the English department, at the time, no one was talking about the aspect of English being interdisciplinary which is what Bertolini liked about the subject.

Now with students having minors, changing majors and having duel major’s people have become accustomed to the idea of having more than one category of knowledge.

“It helped me, I think, become dean because I’ve had feet in two different camps,” Bertolini explained

Why go from architect to chair to interim dean to dean of AHSS?

“Because of things I was doing there (chair of architecture and landscape architecture) but also just coming together of issues with Ken left, that was our previous dean, we had our 20 percent budget cuts that were on the table, a lot of people were upset,” Bertolini explained.

“I think things I do well are managing things I think I’m very good at bringing people together, I think I’m very good at strategically looking at things, so as interim dean I thought that I could help that was my number one goal,” Bertolini shared.

He also liked the higher management scale of overlooking the college; he liked that experience because he has been experienced in management before. Near the end of his architecture career, he had many projects one of which just finished at a value of $1.3 billion.

Through his experience beyond NDSU and at NDSU he sees this as a new opportunity to no longer be in the middle of things, but be involved at a higher level by building more of a connection with students and faculty by helping the college grow.

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