UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Abington Chancellor Damian J. Fernandez recently announced the appointment of Andrew August as the associate dean for academic affairs following a national search that yielded a deep pool of candidates.
A professor of history at Abington, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. August’s area of expertise focuses on modern Britain and European History.
As associate dean for academic affairs at Abington, August serves as chief academic officer and is charged with budgeting and planning for the college’s three academic divisions; advising; instructional and learning support including the library; and academic enhancements such as the international program and undergraduate research.
Penn State Abington (PSA): What changes have you seen at Abington since you arrived in 1995?
August: We’ve grown up a lot since we first began awarding bachelor’s degrees in the 1990s. We are more self-confident about who we are and what we do — we are now the first-choice campus for many students. Faculty are excited and embracing the new vision and mission Chancellor Fernandez has developed during the past 18 months — to provide access to a high-impact education to students of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
We enroll students from incredibly diverse backgrounds, meet them where they are, and support them as they work to earn a Penn State degree. We are embracing a different way of thinking about students, where they come from, and what they need. It’s a more mature approach. We’ve grown up, we’re happy with what we’ve become, and it’s allowed us to get a clearer perspective on our important work.
"We enroll students from incredibly diverse backgrounds, meet them where they are, and support them as they work to earn a Penn State degree."
— Andrew August, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Abington
PSA: What is your vision for Abington?
August: I am focused on four pillars: student success, program growth, faculty development and staff support, and leadership.
I would like to see the college offer more degrees. We want to have a broad enough range so students can come to Abington expecting to finish their degrees here but can still choose the two-plus-two model and finish at another campus including University Park. We need to get much better at helping students succeed whether it’s working through academic, economic, or personal challenges. We can do better about providing support to help them succeed.
I want to build on a model for faculty where scholar-teachers are active and productive researchers as well as engaging and effective teachers. I want to develop an environment within Academic Affairs where faculty and staff feel supported and where there are structures in place where they believe they can succeed.
PSA: What are your biggest challenges?
August: Resources are always a challenge. We need funds to hire and support faculty and staff, and there are space resources to address in order to run programs. And then there are students’ resource challenges. We have a lot of students who struggle to afford a Penn State education. We are focused on finding creative ways to meet these challenges.
PSA: Now to something more fun. What are you currently reading?
August: I just finished “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. Yes, the book on which the musical is based. My family saw the show in New York, and we’ve been listening to the music.
PSA: You have been interviewed about the historical accuracy of “Downton Abbey,” and, since it ended, “The Crown” is luring millions of viewers. Which show do you favor and why?
August: “Downton Abbey.” I’m more comfortable with a fictional drama set in the context of actual events. The writers did a pretty good job putting its characters into a context that made sense.
I’m uncomfortable with dramatizations of actual of historical events because I worry as a historian that people think they are learning history. What the creators of a dramatic history are not teaching viewers is how to sift through the dramatization to find out what actually happened. Otherwise, what people see on the show becomes history to them.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of its 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. Students can start the first two years of more than 160 Penn State majors at Abington and complete their degrees at University Park or another campus. Lions Gate, our first residence hall, opened in 2017.