Growing up in South Africa, new School of Science Dean Brian Jersky was unaware of Lasallian education, but he was very familiar with its values, particularly the consequences of poverty and the need for social justice.
"South Africa has one of the most unequal distributions of income in the world," Jersky says. "From my earliest days at university (in Johannesburg), I have been interested in helping talented but under-resourced students get an education."
As an undergraduate, Jersky taught black high school teachers in Soweto who were not high school graduates. "Such was the state of education in South Africa under apartheid," he says.
Jersky came to Saint Mary's on July 1 after 14 years at Sonoma State University, where he was a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and the director of academic planning and resources for the School of Science and Technology. He replaces Judd Case, who left SMC for a position as dean of the College of Science, Health and Engineering at Eastern Washington University.
Jersky views science as central to the liberal arts tradition. "Science is one of the key ways of looking at the world and I don't think you can claim to be liberally educated unless you know how scientists view the world," he says.
"Science, though, is an inherently more expensive undertaking than other subjects," says Jersky, who views fund-raising as crucial to his role. He hopes to develop opportunities for more undergraduate research that will ensure greater success for students in graduate studies and in their professional lives.
"One of my goals is to transmit the excellence of the science faculty here not only to the Saint Mary's community but to alumni, outside community and government groups and to national funding organizations so we can raise the profile of the school and attract additional qualified faculty and students to the College," he says.
Jersky specializes in statistics and is on the executive committee of the American Statistical Association's Section on Statistical Education.