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July 29, 2022 CORNER OFFICE

New SCSU School of Business dean: 'Never conform'

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Jess Boronico is the School of Business dean at Southern Connecticut State University.

Jess Boronico knows all too well about not judging a book by its cover.

With his trademark, long black hair, Boronico has often been mistaken for rock ‘n roll royalty Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons. But don’t let the locks fool you. This Ph.D. and newly-named business school dean at Southern Connecticut State University is only a rock star in the academic business arena.

Though the Bronx-born Boronico grew up aspiring to be “the next Eric Clapton,” honing his chops on the guitar at age seven and playing in an 1980s rock band, his path took a completely different turn.

Strong mentoring from his favorite college professor led Boronico to earn his Ph.D. in operations, research and management science from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Boronico is also a member of several honor societies including MENSA and Phi Beta Kappa, and a published author.

Boronico has a track record of academic business leadership in his previous jobs, including a stint as dean of the New York Institute of Technology. He has led universities here and abroad to successful accreditation.

Throughout his career, Boronico has held firm to his belief to “never conform.” And that’s why he’s never cut his hair.

“Some people do immediately approach me and ask if I am any of many rock ‘n roll artists,” Boronico said. “I often get mistaken for Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper, but I also believe that I am a source of inspiration to students because they do want to be themselves and know that they can be successful without conforming. I am a living example.”

Never cutting his hair was part of “a demonstration that anyone can be successful, regardless of their individual characteristics,” Boronico said.

“That’s provided that you never lose your quest to learn, adhere to strong ethics and moral character, always think first of using your intellect and heart to help others and always be yourself – that is who you are best at being,” said Boronico.

Accreditation is key

Being himself is what helped Boronico stand out among 53 applicants for the SCSU dean job. He began his new role in June and jumped right in to helping the university continue its process to attain its Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation.

It’s a key designation for a business school looking to raise its profile. Other Connecticut business schools with AACSB accreditation include UConn, Central Connecticut State University, University of Hartford, Quinnipiac and Yale, among others.

Boronico replaced former Dean Jennifer Robin, who returned to her previous home institution Bradley University, where she serves as a  professor, SCSU officials said.

SCSU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost Robert Prezant said Boronico is an excellent addition to the academic family.

“Jess has compiled an extensive and outstanding record of academic business leadership positions at a variety of schools including NYIT, the University of New Haven, William Paterson University and Monmouth University,” Prezant said. “He also has had extensive experience guiding the successful accreditation of many universities, both in the U.S. and in China, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.”

Boronico said his top priority is to raise the business school’s profile.

“I want to establish the School of Business as a cornerstone of inspiration for others to aspire towards, integrating universal best practices into all that we do,” Boronico noted.

Hands-on learning

Boronico believes SCSU is doing its part helping students overcome challenges, but he said there’s always room for improvement.

“Students seem to be in-line with what the world needs in terms of their approach and mentality,” Boronico said. “But higher ed needs to change. Southern is aware of these challenges.”

Boronico said one of his goals is to engage students in more “meaningful learning opportunities,” and to provide them with firsthand experience in the field that can’t be found in the classroom or lecture hall.

He wants students to apply what they’re learning in their business courses to real-world situations. Students can assist small- and medium-sized enterprises, or help a struggling company affected by COVID find solutions, he notes.

“It is important for higher ed to provide training in business resiliency and for business owners to engage in this training so that they are better prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” Boronico said. “We operate in a global ecosystem and our students must be immersed in ways where they can embrace and leverage elements of diversity, inclusion, and multiple perspectives that differ from their own.”

Boronico said he is a firm believer in philanthropy. And in his down time, he enjoys a good book, watching both horror and romantic movies, playing board games and eating pizza and ice cream.

As for his advice to students pursuing a career in business, Boronico says this: “Know yourself, understand who you are and work toward understanding where your inclination can make a difference in the world."

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to indicate that Jennifer Robin is a professor at Bradley University. An earlier version of this story incorrectly included an additional title.

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