By Gerianne Wright
SUNY Plattsburgh has appointed Dr. Stephen Danna as new dean of the college’s branch campus at Queensbury.
The Long Island native didn’t start out as an educator. In fact, his interest in biology and marine life led him to a degree in oceanography and a stint with the government as an oceanographer. It wasn’t until he was invited to be a guest speaker at a small middle school in Bay St. Louis, Miss., that he unearthed a desire to teach.
“I began the session full of confidence and swagger, but quickly succumbed to the challenges of a rambunctious, bored group of 200 young adolescents,” he said. “Fortunately, I recovered and spoke from my heart. Rather than lecture, I connected. My passion for teaching and the greater realization of a deep, unyielding desire to make a difference in the world led to a dramatic career shift.”
A year later, he was teaching physics and chemistry to students in Glens Falls, N.Y. But teaching wasn’t enough. Danna wanted to be part of the process that changes how teachers teach.
Danna returned to school, earning a certificate of advanced study in education administration from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1997 and a second advanced certificate in brain research in education in 2006 from University of Washington. His transition from classroom teacher to administrator followed, with posts as the director of secondary curriculum for the Glens Falls City School District and then as director of curriculum and building principal with the Hadley-Luzerne Central School District in Lake Luzerne, N.Y. In 2011, he earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Sage Graduate School in Albany, N.Y. At that time, he became senior facilitator for the Race to the Top Network team in an area encompassing 31 school districts in and around Glens Falls.
Race to the Top is a $3.4 billion federal educational grant program. It created a pool of funds awarded to school districts that embraced and demonstrated successes in best practices. New York state received nearly $700 million.
Danna said his role as facilitator was to help make changes such as the overhauling of the education department’s system for teacher evaluation as manageable as possible and to give schools districts — their teachers and administrators — the skills needed to do it well.
Danna said he was looking at where to go next in his career when the opportunity with the branch campus came “at the right time.”
“I had just finished my doctorate and was trying to get a position as an adjunct at SUNY Plattsburgh’s branch campus. This window opened, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Dr. Michael Morgan, dean of education and human service at SUNY Plattsburgh, chaired the search committee that hired Danna.
“His profession is education; it’s teaching; it’s what we (at SUNY Plattsburgh) do,” Morgan said. “He is a highly skilled instructor, somebody who has spent his life in the field of education helping others — the principals, the teachers — learn how to do what they do. He is the one who trains the teachers.
“Dr. Danna is a leader who has tremendous insight into developing an organizational culture and structure that leads to success,” Morgan said.
“The faculty and staff are delighted with Steve’s appointment as branch campus dean,” said Dr. Thomas Corigliano, branch campus associate dean. “Steve comes to us with a wealth of teaching experience and a set of core values that fit perfectly with the mission of the branch campus. He is also very student-oriented, which will be a real asset to our program.”
Danna said his life is all about education.
“I live it and breathe it. I’ve done so since I entered this profession. I see so many possibilities and potential.”
The branch campus seemed like a good match for him, he said.
“It felt right,” he said about his interview for the position. “But the other thing that really drew me to the position was how the branch campus has grown in the last 10 years.”
Danna said he’d like to see it grow even further.
“I’d like to see the branch campus as a hub of activity that brings together business, schools, organizations and community members on a regular basis to collaboratively develop innovative solutions for meeting the needs of our graduates and the communities they seek to work in.”
Danna will be officially welcomed at a branch campus reception and open house Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Regional Higher Education Center, 640 Bay Road, Queensbury. For more information, contact the Office of Alumni Relations, (518) 564-2090 or visit www.plattsburgh.edu/alumni/calendar.php.
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