As a doctoral student in Education Law and Policy studies, there was no need for Vince Pellegrino to push any boundaries with his dissertation. He could have done something rote, conservative, and safe.
Instead, he found himself working on a qualitative, humanistic, study of symbolic language in the civil rights movement, viewed through a feminist perspective.
“Plato describes the context for learning as other people, because learning involves understanding, deeply understanding, what other people mean,” Vince says. “So I examined speeches from the civil rights era to capture the context of meanings about words used like color or gender, and the symbolic issues they raised during that time.”
Why did he do it? Why did he go so far out of his way to write a dissertation that involved qualitative research and potential political ramifications?
“It was having good faculty members push me along to do deep exploration of my topic, and at the end still love it, not hate it,” he says. “That made all the difference. I value that engaged learning, and the way it was made available to me.”
Today Vince Pellegrino is Saybrook’s Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, and he says the experience of his dissertation helps him understand the value of Saybrook’s values, and its model of education.
“For an education to be truly humanistic, it requires faculty who can see in the students that willingness to be engaged. I didn’t know I had these interests: somebody saw a light in me ready to be turned on and kept after me to follow that discipline through,” he remembers. “Besides Plato there was Johann Gottfried von Herder, Ernst Cassirer, and Susanne Langer … and I had no idea who these people were, and suddenly I’m reading these very deep scholars and it slowed me down to a stop. It changed my life.”
People who want that experience, he says, will end up at Saybrook. “There are people you admire here on the faculty, who share the same passion for the humanistic values and scholarly work.”
His job as Interim VPAA is to help Saybrook navigate four areas:
- Creating a harmonious climate between the VPAA position and faculty and staff;
- Ensuring course delivery is in compliance with the Department of Education;
- Assisting with the integration of processes and structures appropriate to Saybrook University’s governance and engaged learning;
- Creating an environment of assessment and accountability.
He sees Saybrook’s future as particularly bright. “I’d like to see Saybrook advance its reputation significantly.”
In the meantime, he’s enjoying meeting Saybrook’s faculty and staff, exploring San Francisco, and providing his children with a richer, deeper, multi-cultural experience, and the opportunity to experience school online. “They’re in middle school and going to the California Virtual Academy,” he says. “They’ve never been in a place quite this large, quite this diverse. It’s a living and learning lab.