Final Words of Wisdom from Chris Celenza, Accomplished Dean and Academic

Headshot of Dean Chris Celenza in front of bookshelf

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We sat down with Chris Celenza for one final chat before he starts his tenure as dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in January of 2021.

What are some of the most rewarding lessons that you have learned during your time as dean?

All of the lessons that I have learned from the instilled Jesuit values at Georgetown have been valuable, but the most profound is the idea that the same value that is placed on the intellect should also be ascribed to feelings and emotions. There is also a deeply rooted service culture at the school, which is a good anchor for any institution to have and is something I will try to uphold moving forward. 

I have also found through my time at Georgetown that there is a strong presupposition in the good will of others. I will remember that most fondly and will carry it with me always. 

What will you be taking with you in your next role?

I hope that I can bring my experiences working with faculty, students and fellow deans to help create connections across the university. 

What part of campus will you miss the most?

I will certainly miss looking out my window in White Gravenor and seeing the outline of Healy. My wife Anna Celenza and I have grown quite fond of hearing the chime of the bells from that tower throughout the day and I am sad that I will no longer be able to do so. 

But I will truly miss my colleagues in the Dean’s Office and all of the excellent vice deans that I have had the privilege to work alongside. However, I know that I leave them in excellent hands with Soyica Colbert’s appointment to interim dean. From the moment I met her, she has shown herself to be a leader who is able to both listen well and make good, impactful decisions. She is a leader with vision and energy, and I think she’ll do a great job. 

What were you most proud of during your time as dean?

Georgetown is home to an incredibly strong body of accomplished faculty members. In my time as dean, I was very happy and proud that we paid special attention to diversifying the faculty in the College. I feel very fortunate to have worked alongside such high level academics and researchers. I console myself that we aren’t too far away and we are still united by the republic of letters. I know we will read each other’s work and continue to learn from one another for years to come. 

How do you balance your many roles as a professor, academic and dean?

Your calendar can be your best friend or worst enemy. At the end of the day, you have to take control over your own time and set boundaries. It’s important to take time for self care and disconnect for a while. 

What advice do you have for our students?

Our students are our future leaders who are working through the most difficult time in our country’s recent memory and I admire their resilience. As we emerge from this pandemic, I encourage students to begin reflecting on what you have learned. How did this change your world view? In all likelihood, it changed every aspect. 

Before the pandemic, there were people like grocery store clerks, postal workers and bus drivers who were often neglected. There were communities who were not given the care they should have received and are still fighting for justice. My advice would be to never forget that. Everyone has value. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. 

-interview by Shelby Roller (G’19)