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SHU Promotes Prof to Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University’s exhaustive search for a new dean to lead the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) circled back to SHU and ended with Professor Mark Beekey, who took over the role July 18.

Beekey, of Middlebury, has served as the college’s acting dean since June 2021. In his new role, he will be responsible for CAS’s strategic, operational and financial health. He will work in close partnership with other deans and executive officers as part of the senior leadership team. He also will help guide faculty, staff, students and campus partners to execute SHU’s vision.

As dean of SHU’s largest college, Beekey is charged with fostering multidisciplinary pursuits and collaborations within and beyond the college. “I believe our college is the University’s heart; every student’s pioneer journey begins in the College of Arts & Sciences,” Beekey said.

Beekey joined Sacred Heart’s community in 2005 as a faculty member in biology, rising through the ranks to professor in 2017. He served as department chair from 2018 to 2021 and was co-director of the SHU in Dingle program, which has seen significant expansion and growth in Ireland.

Additionally, during his tenure at SHU, he has obtained $6.6 million in funding to improve K-12 STEM education, along with colleagues from SHU’s mathematics department and the Isabelle Farrington College of Education & Human Development. This includes four grants—each more than $1 million—from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships and professional development to future secondary and elementary school teachers. Along with his biology colleagues, he has also obtained more than $500,000 to create scholarships for biology majors seeking careers in STEM fields. Moreover, Beekey has obtained more than $900,000 to support invasive-species research in Lake Champlain (which encompasses areas of northeastern New York, Vermont and Quebec) with colleagues from the University of Vermont, as well as assessments of horseshoe crab populations in Long Island Sound and shoreline restoration at Stratford Point with biology department colleagues at SHU.

Beekey has witnessed tremendous growth at Sacred Heart. “Our students and faculty have grown while other colleges have struggled,” he said. “I attribute that to our caring and compassion for our students. The faculty here is student-centered, which is one of my favorite things about SHU.”

He recalled that during his undergraduate years at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, the guidance and care he received from faculty had a significant impact on his academic experience. “I wanted to work somewhere with the same level of care for students,” he said.

There are limitless opportunities for SHU to continue its progress, Beekey said. “We need to work actively on attracting a more diverse student population in terms of students of color, LGBTQIA+ students and students from various religious backgrounds. It’s essential that we reflect the world around us,” he emphasized.

“We’re at the threshold of change,” said Beekey. “I think we are in prime position to expand on many fronts, especially our graduate programs. As an institution, we are on the edge of some exciting growth, and the faculty is ready. We just need to be sure to maintain the close-knit community we have here. We can move forward without losing our identity of who we are as a University.”

Beekey also wants faculty research to include undergraduate and graduate students. “The more grant and research opportunities we give to our faculty, the more opportunities our students get as well,” he said. “I don’t view faculty research as separate from teaching. Research drives how we teach and provides new opportunities in our teaching. Plus, one of the most important things we can offer our students is the chance to get their hands dirty—or, in the case of marine biology, get their hands wet.”

The transformative experience of study abroad is another SHU offering that Beekey believes should be available to as many students as possible―including students from other colleges and universities. As the co-director of SHU in Dingle, he has witnessed how students evolve during their time in Ireland. “At first they are often unsure. Soon, they are taking weekend trips to Spain or Rome and learning about the world,” he said.

SHU Provost Robin Cautin said she is thrilled that Beekey is stepping into the dean role officially. “His dedication of him to SHU and our students over the years has been palpable, and we look forward to seeing his vision of him for the College of Arts & Sciences come to fruition,” she said.

Beekey earned his bachelor’s degree in ecology from Juniata College and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Delaware. He also was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

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About Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the US, Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers nearly 90 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education & Human Development; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, RN, & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 387 Colleges–2022 Edition“Best Northeastern” and Best Business Schools–2022 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theater. www.sacredheart.edu

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