New Penn State Abington dean ready to establish connections

Three things grab your attention as you enter the office of Norah Shultz, the new associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Abington: the Phillies bobbleheads perched on the mantle and the framed rally towel from the 2008 World Series. And the third thing? Well, that would be Shultz herself: an approachable and intelligent woman with a ready smile, thoughtful observations and a hearty laugh.

It is not necessarily the decor nor the demeanor you might expect from someone in a very visible and powerful role in higher education, but Shultz, who arrived this month after 20 years at Arcadia University in nearby Glenside, simply overflows with enthusiasm about Penn State Abington.

“This move was a pull not a push,” she said. “I was happy at Arcadia, but I felt a connection to Penn State. This was the right place, the right time and the right position.”

She jokingly reassures a hesitant employee that he can fix her computer during a meeting, and said, “everything here feels right, even in these first hectic days.”

Shultz is busy familiarizing herself with her new surroundings, an exercise she compares to arriving in a foreign country for the first time. “I need to move carefully until I learn the language and the culture at Abington,” she said.

But Shultz is forging ahead with one of her top priorities, building relationships with students. “I am very student-focused, and I want to ensure that they are productive global citizens,” she said. “I want this office to have a student-friendly reputation.”

Shultz has already met with Dolores Arevalo, coordinator of the international affairs program, and she praised Abington’s overseas immersion program. “It helps students understand our place in the world, our interconnections,” she said.

She also gave high marks to ACURA, Abington’s undergraduate research program, organized by Leah Devlin. “ACURA is one of the things that drew me to Penn State Abington,” she said. “It’s a shining star of this college.”

The strong connection Shultz has with Penn State could be partially genetic. As a child, her family would cheer the Nittany Lions football team from their suburban Philadelphia home, and her uncle, George Wolf, is a former dean of the faculty and professor emeritus at Penn State Harrisburg.

Although she lived and worked nearby, her connection with Abington began only a little more than a decade ago when she attended a conference on campus. She also knew Abington Chancellor Karen Wiley Sandler through a professional organization.

Sandler emphasizes the fit between the college’s needs and Shultz’s background and experience. “I have known Dr. Shultz for many years and always admired her organizational skills and passion for student success. But it was only during the search process that I learned how well-respected she is in higher education circles for the impact of her academic and administrative career. She brings the right vision and talents to our college at the right time in our development.”

Shultz prides herself on maintaining a healthy work-family balance. She and her husband, Jeff, are passionate Phillies fans, which explains the bobbleheads in her office. The new associate dean admits that her relationship with Jeff, who teaches a course on race and ethnicity in baseball, has intensified her love of the Phillies. She will not, however, offer a prediction for the 2011 post-season. “As a Phillies fan, I am always on guard,” she said.

Jeff, the assistant provost for special projects and an education professor at Arcadia, and Norah Shultz met and married while working at Arcadia.

The couple revels in spending time with their daughter, son-in-law and young granddaughters, who live nearby. Their other daughter resides in England and seems to have inherited her mother’s global outlook. With degrees in law and public health, her daughter works for Soroptimist International, a worldwide service organization for women.

Shultz earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Rosemont College and received a master’s in sociology and a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College.

She spent the bulk of her career at Arcadia, starting in the classroom and eventually becoming associate vice president for undergraduate education and dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

She also is active in the American Council of Education’s Office for Women in Higher Education and just recently spent a week as a faculty consultant for the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Shared Futures Summer Institute. She is very interested in how colleges and universities can provide a global education through both international and multicultural curricula.

The Glenside resident jokes that her new position has tripled her commute to 15 minutes, but, she said, “I am so happy to be here, and I can’t wait to be fully invested in this campus.”