By Kristina Huderski
Dr. Albert Inserra, who was appointed the Dean of the College of Education, Information and Technology on Oct. 10, had a long journey before acquiring this position. Studying chemistry and biology at Seton Hall University, Inserra never thought his life would end up the way it did. After receiving his masters degree in genetics at Seton Hall, he applied for a job at Essex Catholic High School, an all boys school in New Jersey, helping biology, chemistry and physics teachers set up labs. Just after receiving the job Brother Clancy, a priest who worked at the school, offered Inserra a teaching position even though he didn’t have an education degree. Inserra took the job and while teaching, he finished his masters degree.
At first, Inserra struggled with his job, not having any support or experience in the educational field. But, he fell in love with education; leading him to move to Long Island, taking a job in West Islip teaching Chemistry and Biology for 10 years. During his time teaching at West Islip, Inserra got his Certification in Administration at Hofstra University and received his doctorate at Fordham University. He then began a career in administration and soon became a Superintendent in Carle Place for 10 years, and in Port Washington for seven years.
Although Inserra loved teaching in a high school setting, he knew he couldn’t do it forever. After spending 34 years in K-12, Inserra knew he had had enough, which is why he retired in 2002 and became a professor in educational administration at Dowling College. In 2014, after being at Dowling College for 12 years, holding both professor and chair positions in educational administration, the chair of the Board of Trustees asked Inserra to become the president of the College of Educational Administration. Inserra was shocked regarding the offer saying, “I had no aspirations to be, nor even thought about it.” After conversations with his wife and thinking about the future of Dowling College, a school that was already $54 million in debt and had an enrollment decrease from about 6,000 to 1,500, Inserra took the job offer and started his presidency in September 2014.
During his first year as president, Inserra, said, “We did very well, but were still struggling.” Although enrollment was not stabilized and the college still had a lot of debt, things seemed to get a bit better. In September 2015, the incoming class was larger, but still not enough. By January 2016, the college was in trouble and when a potential partnership fell through, was forced to close. “The worst part,” Inserra said, “was the students.” Worried about where they would go, Inserra reached out to Dr. Kimberly R. Cline, the president of Long Island University. Cline sent a team over to Dowling to help the students. Inserra and Cline worked out a program that allowed all of the Dowling student’s credits to transfer over to Long Island University. On Aug. 31, 2016, Dowling College officially closed its doors.
In September 2016, 150 Dowling students started school at LIU Post, several of them joining the education department. “Post did an excellent job welcoming Dowling students, it was really incredible,” Inserra said. “Dr. Cline and their faculty went out of their way.” Some students who transferred from Dowling to Post have struggled with the transition and are trying to get back on their feet at a new school. Rebecca Sapan, a senior who transferred from Dowling to Post, said, “Although transferring schools was very unexpected and hard at times, LIU is a great place to continue my education. Because I was going into my senior year at Dowling, I was scared I wasn’t going to graduate on time.” Sapan majored in media at Dowling and because that major is not offered at Post, her major is now broadcasting. Sapan has struggled a little with advanced classes because of material she had not learned, but will be able to graduate on time.
Kerri Ilyichenko, another senior transfer, said, “Changing schools unexpectedly was hard to come to terms with. It was something I never thought would happen, but transferring to LIU is allowing me to further my education with the right tools for a successful future.”
After Dowling closed, Inserra wasn’t sure if he wanted to retire or continue working. He said the closing of Dowling “wasn’t a good way to end a career in education.” Inserra then found out that the dean position for the College of Education, Information, and Technology at LIU was available because the dean at the time, Louisa Kramer-Vida, was holding the position temporarily . Inserra applied, was offered the job and accepted it. He officially started on Oct. 10 and said, “everyone here has been terrific.” His first goal is “to make the College of Education a place that everyone thinks about when they think about teaching and learning.” Inserra believes enrollment is going up because of the growth in education jobs, which will benefit LIU.
Inserra has been busy in his first few months. He is creating five dual certificates, allowing education students to be certified in two areas. He is partnering with local school districts to get freshmen involved in field work right away. Also, he is expanding the doctoral programs to Brooklyn and Hudson, and partnering with departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “If you can marry your passion with a career, you’ve never worked,” Inserra said.” This is advice he believes every student should follow.