By Natasha Muhametzyanova, Contributing Writer
New Dean for WLU College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Gerard NeCastro, found time in between meetings and teachings to talk about his decision to move to West Virginia, his responsibilities and future plans for the Liberal Arts college.
Appointed on July 1, 2017, NeCastro is adjusting to his new home. His office is still full of boxes stacked next to a book case. NeCastro points at a small Dante bust on his desk, “Look, I’m almost unpacked.”
Throughout his long career in academia, he got used to moving across the country changing cities, jobs and homes. This time, however, is rather special. “I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, went to college there. My wife is from Oil City area. She wanted to be able to see her parents more frequently, so our move was all about being closer to home. Now we are just a couple hours away from our families, and that means a lot,” NeCastro said.
He admits that moving wasn’t easy, but the WLU campus became a pleasant discovery for him. “I must confess, I didn’t know about West Liberty until last January when I read the job ad. So I did research about the University and the area,” said NeCastro. “I read about Wheeling and was impressed about Wheeling Convention during the Civil War. That was a very gutsy thing to do.”
When back at Erie, he realized that West Liberty now has a big presence in the area. “I worked at the Italian Festival in my hometown, and I had my West Liberty hat on, and so many people stopped by and said that they knew somebody who went to school here.”
NeCastro remembers his first weeks on campus that shaped his opinion about WLU. “When I talked to people here from the president to faculty members to maintenance staff, they all treated me like I was a part of the family,” NeCastro said. “My first week here I didn’t have any furniture because the moving truck was eight days late. So the president and the provost invited me to stay at Liberty Oaks, and I realized how lucky I am to live and work in a place where people actually care about you and want you to feel comfortable and welcome.”
NeCastro and his wife, Vicki, already settled in their new home in Bethany, W.Va. and started exploring the local area and places like Centre Market in Wheeling. The couple is excited for cultural events in the community and on campus as well as activities in Oglebay Park where they recently celebrated their anniversary. The only obstacle for him so far has been driving.
“I don’t like to drive very far. So the hardest thing for me was getting used to the idea that I have to drive 20 minutes to go to a grocery store,” said NeCastro.
Professionally, NeCastro is excited to work with the WLU faculty. During the interview, his thoughts always went back to his colleagues and their impact on the student body. “They are very dedicated to what they do. Their workload is heavy, but they don’t complain about it, instead they put students’ needs first,” NeCastro said. “Two professors from our college were just recognized at the Convocation: Dr. Aaron Harper for excellence in professional activity and Dr. Steve Criniti for excellence in teaching. I know they work hard on different levels, serve on a number of committees, and that is very inspiring to me. I can easily boast that I have great colleagues.”
As for the developments in the College of Liberal Arts, over the coming year he is hoping to add a couple of new minors and certificate programs and, possibly, a new major. “We also want to focus more on lectures and cultural programming,” he said.
Besides his administrative duties, NeCastro is glad to meet with students and make the College of Liberal Arts a place for their academic and personal growth. After two months at WLU, he is becoming a true Hilltopper.
“There are a lot of colleges to choose from,” said NeCastro, “but this place has something special about it, something that makes you feel at home.”
Photo credit: Media Relations