Associate Provost Takes on Role as Acting Dean of RAK Campus

Posted: May 9, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

David Rossell, associate provost for personnel and budget, has always believed he had one of the longest commutes at Mason. Each day he travels from his home in Madison, Va., to the Fairfax Campus, a commute that can take up to three hours one way on a bad day.

When he was named acting dean of Mason’s new Ras al Khaimah (RAK) Campus in the United Arab Emirates, his one way “commute” became even longer – 15 hours. That includes 14 hours by air and one hour by car, including stops in Frankfurt, Germany, and Dubai, UAE.

Since he was appointed to the position in February, Rossell has been using his administrative expertise to put a structure in place for the new campus, which will begin offering academic degree programs this fall. Rossell earned his doctor of arts in community college education (with a concentration in public administration) from Mason in 2000 and has been teaching at Mason as an adjunct since 1986.

He expects to make six visits to the new campus over the course of eight months. Each trip so far has been filled with lots of activities.

“Any time you start a new campus there are going to be challenges,” says Rossell, who has been at Mason for 23 years. “But there is also an excitement in the air over there. It reminds me of our Arlington and Fairfax Campuses in the early 1980s.”

This first year, classes for the foundation program in English have been temporarily located in the former Higher Colleges of Technology for Men, located in the Al Zahara area of RAK. However, a new building for the RAK Campus is currently under construction, and during his March trip, Rossell and Provost Peter Stearns were present for the building’s cornerstone dedication ceremony.

RAK administrators and students
David Rossell, acting dean of the RAK Campus, and Peter Stearns, provost, (standing, center) pose with students and faculty at the RAK Campus cornerstone dedication ceremony.

One of the first challenges for the new campus was finding a compatible workweek. The workweek in RAK generally runs Saturday through Wednesday, with the weekend being Thursday and Friday. For the campus, they compromised: The weekend will be Friday and Saturday, with the first day of each week starting on Sunday.

As a result, when Rossell visits, he ends up working every day of the week. He has been dividing his time between the Mason RAK and U.S. campuses and doing double duty. With an eight-hour time difference, things are just coming to life stateside as he completes his workday in RAK.

At the end of a typical day in RAK, Rossell grabs dinner and then begins answering e-mails and making phone calls back to Fairfax. “It keeps a person very busy,” he says. “The second part of my day normally starts around 6 p.m. and ends at 1 or 2 a.m. the next morning. I then sleep until 7 a.m. and am back at the RAK Campus by 8:30 a.m.”

With academic programs at RAK beginning this fall, Rossell has been conducting plenty of faculty interviews. While many of the faculty candidates come from the Middle East, Rossell sees faculty and student exchanges with the American campuses as part of the campus’s future. “It is a great opportunity for students and faculty to learn more about the Middle East, break down any barriers and get to know that part of the world better,” he says.

Rossell has also been conducting open houses for potential students and their parents in both Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. “People are very excited about being involved with an American university. There is an awful lot of potential there. People are very friendly, and the location along the Persian Gulf is simply beautiful.”

Rossell expects it will take three years for the RAK Campus to get its academic calendar synchronized with the U.S. campuses. The fall semester will begin at the RAK Campus on Sept. 8 with bachelor of science programs in four disciplines: biology, business administration, electronics and communications engineering and nursing.

A search is under way for a permanent dean for the campus, and Rossell anticipates that he and the new dean will both be on site when classes begin in the fall. “I saw it as an opportunity to really help the university,” he says of his role as acting dean.

“My goal is to help the RAK Campus get started on the right foot, to get the administrative structure in place. I am enjoying the acting dean role and believe I can make a positive contribution.”

Campus sign in RAK
The university sign at the RAK campus.

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