ABINGTON, Pa. — Damian Fernandez, CEO and head of school at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City, has been named chancellor of Penn State Abington, effective July 1, 2016.
Fernandez will succeed Karen Wiley Sandler, who announced her intention to retire as chancellor of the Abington campus in June after more than 20 years of service to Penn State. Sandler will remain as chancellor until June 30, 2016, after initially planning to retire Dec. 31.
“The vast experience that Dr. Fernandez brings to the table as a senior academic leader, particularly in the areas of strategic and long-range planning, program development, fundraising and community engagement, will serve Penn State Abington well as it moves forward into a new era,” said Madlyn Hanes, Penn State vice president for Commonwealth Campuses. “I am confident that under his innovative leadership Penn State Abington will continue to evolve as a major educational, economic and cultural partner in the Philadelphia region.”
"Penn State Abington is a dynamic college with an admirable past and a promising future,” said Fernandez. “I am honored to work together to advance academic excellence, access and community engagement."
Fernandez has enjoyed a distinguished career as a teacher, scholar and administrator. As head of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a prominent progressive private school with 1,700 students, 300 faculty members and two campuses, Fernandez led faculty, staff and the board in creating a strategic plan focused on integrating science, technology, engineering, art and math; re-centering the ethics curriculum; and enhancing world languages and global education. During his tenure, the school launched a number of new initiatives, including the Progressive Teaching Institute, an in-house professional development program. At the same time, Fernandez advanced sustainability efforts to reduce the school’s carbon footprint and increased the diversity of the student body.
Prior to joining the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Fernandez served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Purchase College in Purchase, New York, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. As provost, Fernandez oversaw all aspects of the school’s academic programs, as well as the Neuberger Museum of Art and the Performing Arts Center. Under his leadership, Purchase College started new bachelor’s degrees in high-demand fields and established a School of Media and Film Studies, among other notable accomplishments. Fernandez served on SUNY’s system-wide strategic plan steering committee, where he co-chaired subcommittees on diversity and arts and culture.
From 1988-2008, Fernandez held multiple positions at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida, ultimately serving as vice provost of the school’s Biscayne Bay campus. As vice provost, Fernandez was charged with re-energizing the Biscayne Bay campus’ academic programs, physical environment and campus life. During his two decades at FIU, Fernandez also served as director of university long-range planning, director of the Cuban Research Institute, professor of international relations, chair of the international relations department, and director of the graduate program in international studies.
Fernandez’s research interests include Latin American politics and international relations, politics of Latinos in the United States, state-society relations in a transnational context, and Cuba’s domestic politics and foreign policy. He has published extensively and is a National Science Foundation grant recipient.
Fernandez holds a doctor of philosophy in international relations from the University of Miami, a master of arts in Latin American studies from the University of Florida, and a bachelor of arts from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.