Wentworth’s New Sciences and Humanities Dean has Built Strong Reputation Around the World
Thaddeus Guldbrandsen shares more on his commitment to higher education and social justice
Thaddeus Guldbrandsen has built a formidable reputation over the last two decades as a collaborative academic leader with work that stretches across the globe. And—as of this week—he is Wentworth Institute of Technology’s new dean of the School of Sciences and Humanities.
Deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in his work, as well as a focus on interdisciplinary and hands-on learning, he was drawn to Wentworth’s commitment to Inclusive Excellence and to the university’s unique academic model.
Guldbrandsen previously served as vice provost of research and engagement at Plymouth State University, founding director of two university-based research centers at PSU and the University of New Hampshire, and as a faculty member at both universities.
Over the past six years, Guldbrandsen has been a consultant to more than two dozen universities, colleges, and schools in the United States and Asia. Most recently, he is worked at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, helping the university with its goal to attract and support the world's best scientists and engineers, especially women scientists, and to develop a more diverse and sustainable economy in Saudi Arabia.
He received a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in anthropology from the University of New Hampshire and his doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We spoke with Guldbrandsen as he began his new role at Wentworth.
Greg Abazorius: What drew you to Wentworth? Specifically, are there elements of the School of Sciences and Humanities that really speak to you?
Thaddeus Guldbrandsen: Wentworth’s commitment to hands-on and experiential learning is what drew me here, along with the human-scale community. The more I learn about the School of Sciences and Humanities, the more I see that we are poised to do something really great for our students and the communities we serve. The scale of the campus and student-centered mission make that possible.
Greg: Though Wentworth is well known for its STEM- and design-based education, there is also a dynamic Humanities program in place. What kind of potential do you see in the humanities at Wentworth?
Thaddeus: I believe that the greatest invention in the history of humanity is the university. Wentworth—along with other universities—is devoted to positively impacting individual lives and communities, and society as a whole. We invite students to come to Wentworth to learn and grow into their best selves. STEM disciplines have a role in that process, and humanities do too.
The humanities are about finding and making meaning and purpose in our lives. We can talk about how social sciences and humanities offer some of the skills that are most important to employers, including critical thinking, reading, writing, creativity, teamwork, global awareness, and all that. But it’s actually much more important than mere skills. The sciences and humanities in our school are about why we do what we do and how we make our lives meaningful. I feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a talented group of faculty in the sciences and humanities who really care about students. You don’t have to spend much time on campus before that becomes apparent.
Right now, conversations about the future of the humanities and the school in general are happening in collaboration with the faculty, and it's too early to report on where we are going. Soon, you can expect to hear exciting things from us, things that will revitalize enthusiasm for the disciplines in the School of Sciences & Humanities.
Greg: Can you share a bit more about your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Thaddeus: That commitment is at the heart of my life-long mission as a teacher, scholar, and administrator. At its core, the value of higher education lies in the capacity to transform lives and communities for the better. That work requires inclusive excellence, collaborative culture, and intellectual curiosity. Expanding opportunity and inclusivity of our campus communities improves the quality of education for everyone.
For me, the commitment to higher education and the commitment to social justice are almost one and the same. That said, every day is a learning experience for me as I navigate complex structures of inequality and strive to be a good ally for colleagues, friends, and students, however imperfectly I may do it. Our highest calling is to be life-long learners while we are here together. Isn’t that what it’s all about?