A True Gift

Colleagues share their gratitude for retiring Associate Dean Sinaia Nathanson 

She’s been called “a treasure,” “kindred spirit,” and “equally at home camping outside or at the Ritz!”

And most recently: “The reason the Graduate School for Arts and Sciences is one of the best in the country.”

Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Sinaia Nathanson.

But this fall 2017, Sinaia Nathanson will be leaving Tufts after more than 30 years in the community. Nathanson came to Tufts as a graduate student herself, getting her Ph.D. in Social Psychology, and continued her career as a faculty member in the psychology department, where she focused on developing courses in organizational behavior for undergraduate students. She is now retiring as associate dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). Her legacy as a mentor, teacher, friend, and developer of vital programs has and will continue to help scores of graduate students not only excel in their studies but also prepare them to change the world. 

Economics Professor Lynne Pepall, former dean of GSAS, remembers partnering with Nathanson to found the Graduate Institute for Teaching (GIFT), a program that gives real-world teaching experience to doctoral students. Robert Cook, current dean of GSAS, calls it “the crown jewel of the graduate school professional development program.”

None of these programs would have been possible without Sinaia’s leadership and commitment to graduate education at Tufts.

Lynne Pepall Professor of Economics, Former GSAS Dean

Pepall and Nathanson also created a suite of professional development programs that include workshops that prepare graduate students for careers in academia and teaching and research assistant orientation programs. “So many students have benefitted from her educational creativity and dedication to teaching,” Cook says. Adds Pepall, “None of these programs would have been possible without Sinaia’s leadership and commitment to graduate education at Tufts.”

Widely known as someone who cares for the greater wellbeing of her students and their futures, Nathanson is also the director of the Graduate Resources and Development Center, which focuses on the professional and social development of graduate students. GSAS staff member Kim Ellwood says, “It is from Sinaia’s creativity and experience that we have the workshops and seminars that were developed and changed in response to the growing needs of the students.” Another GSAS team member Angela Foss says, “She is wonderful in the way that she can make all sides feel heard and part of the conversation.”

Karen Panetta, Associate Dean for Graduate Education of the School of Engineering, gratefully remembers Nathanson's efforts in garnering grants and subsequent scholarships for women, diverse, and underrepresented students pursuing graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). "Dr. Nathanson is selfless in her quest to enrich the lives of all our students, and has been the heart of the School of Engineering's professional development programs," Panetta says. "Because of her, our students break all the negative stereotypes of the engineering 'nerd.' She has helped us redefine nerds as brilliant, compassionate STEM professionals who use technology to benefit humanity."

If he could, University Professor Emeritus Sol Gittleman would clone Nathanson — and send her to every Ph.D. program in the United States. “Higher education would be better in all respects,” he says. Pepall adds that appointing Nathanson as associate dean was one of the most important things she accomplished in her own tenure as dean. “Graduate students enter Tufts as students but aspire to leave as independent researchers. And that is often not an easy path to navigate,” Pepall says. “Sinaia had the skillset to help students in this regard — being a faculty member, she understood both sides of the equation.”

Former dean of GSAS Robin Kanarek adds, “Sinaia has always impressed me with respect to her teaching, organizational skills, and hard work. However, what has impressed me most is her dedication to the many people she has positively impacted: undergraduates and graduate students, as well as faculty and administrators.” 

Looking back on his partnership with Nathanson in the dean’s office, Cook is thankful to have had her by his side. “Her unvarnished honesty and clarity of vision and thought are valuable commodities that are often in short supply,” he says. “She has touched the lives of students during the lowest lows and highest highs in ways that few of us get to experience. That is a gift.”

Story by Kristin Livingston, A05