Faculty Spotlight

Personal Business

In October, Professor of Business Administration Debra Salvucci was appointed the founding dean of the new School of Business, effective in July. For more than 30 years, Salvucci has been teaching accounting at Stonehill.

Along the way, she has served as department chair, has guided the department through a prestigious accreditation process and has received numerous teaching awards. Students know her for her enthusiasm and dedication, and many alumni consider her a mentor. Here, the CPA shares her thoughts on her new position, teaching accounting today (hint: no more green ledger sheets) and a funny meme that she has in her office.

Growing up, I thought I would become: A math teacher. Because I graduated high school when the employment market for teachers was not very good, my father talked me into majoring in business to make sure that I’d get a job. It was the best decision that I made because I ended up teaching accounting.

In my classes, students are most surprised to learn: How passionate I am about topics such as tax law and financial accounting that many would think are dull. Students tell me that I am not your stereotypical accountant.

As the founding dean of the School of Business, I hope to: Bring prominence and visibility to as well as strengthen the reputation of Stonehill’s quality education in business, healthcare administration and economics to national and international constituents. I want Stonehill to be a preferred choice for higher education in these areas. Also, to bring distinguished keynote speakers to the College and expand experiential learning and career opportunities for students.

Mentoring students and alumni is satisfying because: I love watching their growth and successes throughout their Stonehill years and beyond. It is so much fun when they realize how good they are and when they find a passion that will take them through life. Many alums are my friends and my favorite people today. I have watched them flourish in their careers, get married and create wonderful families. This is the very best part of my job.

How my teaching has evolved: I am just as enthusiastic as ever as I teach accounting and tax courses. I think that my enthusiasm is infectious—even for students who will not major in accounting. The current pedagogical technology allows more time for discussion on the whys and less need for the hows of accounting. The days of green ledger sheets are long gone.  

In my office, I have: An autographed picture of Tim Wakefield, a picture of me and David Ortiz, a picture of the Beatles (circa 1965) and a meme from my Class of 2016 tax students: “Just Call Me Bond, Municipal Bond.”

Real Scientists

As an undergraduate at Bucknell University, Kristin Burkholder says she benefited greatly from working closely with her professors and participating in a program similar to the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). Now an assistant professor of environmental science and physical oceanographer is eager to pay it forward.

Burkholder’s research usually focuses on understanding the way the ocean moves. She’s particularly interested in currents and how they affect climate. However, over the past two years her research has taken an unexpected turn, thanks to the interests of Patrick Farrington ’16, who conducted a rainfall study while he was a student in Burkholder’s climate science class his senior year. “Pat was very interested in the role of climate change in storms, in particular changes in hurricane intensity in response to climate change,” says Burkholder.

Hayley Bibaud ’17 began her research as a SURE participant last spring, analyzing data recorded at 12 weather stations around the state. 

Farrington’s research thesis focused on the way that Massachusetts rainfall has changed in recent decades. He discovered that the number of rainy days experienced by Massachusetts has been increasing and theorized that many of the rainy days today were days that had previously been snowy prior to the warming of the state’s temperatures in recent decades.

When Hayley Bibaud ’17 approached Burkholder seeking research opportunities to prepare her for graduate school, Burkholder gave her the chance to test that hypothesis.

Bibaud began her research as a SURE participant last spring, analyzing data recorded at 12 weather stations around the state. She continued her research for credit in the fall and presented her findings in her senior thesis as well as with a poster entitled “Variability in the Frequency and Intensity of Massachusetts Snowfall,” which she presented at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco, the largest meeting of earth scientists in the world.

Burkholder is delighted with Bibaud’s research and confident that she will continue to do good work as a graduate student. “SURE is the first time that many students have the opportunity to act like real scientists. They’re working on a research project 40 hours a week and tasked with understanding a real-world problem. They get a taste of real-world work, and I get to know them at a deeper level so that I can advise them more productively. As a teacher, it’s very rewarding.”

The Zen and Nature Connection

Over the years, Professor of Religious Studies Christopher Ives has explored Japanese Zen Buddhism—in particular modern Zen ethics—from a number of angles.

In his last book, Imperial-Way Zen, Ives explored Buddhist social ethics in light of Zen nationalism and ideology in the 1930s and ’40s. Now he has turned his attention to the natural world and Buddhist environmental ethics. “In part because of the popularity of all things Zen and the recent mindfulness boom, we often encounter glowing statements about the Zen ‘love of nature’ and what it might entail for environmentalism, and I have been curious about the accuracy of those statements,” Ives says.

The concept of environmentalism is relatively new, Ives concedes, but there’s a great deal of information available on how Zen Buddhists have viewed nature historically, and Ives is eager to know how contemporary practitioners compare. When modern Zen Buddhists draw from traditional Buddhist sources to discuss the environment, are they cherry-picking concepts, he wonders. And how are they treating traditional doctrines: Are they reinterpreting or distorting them?

Ives’ research into the topic is based on a two-pronged approach. “Because environmentalism is very contemporary, I’m obviously not analyzing ancient texts for discussions of that concept,” he says, “but I am exploring traditional Zen views of nature by reading texts from the 1200s, which is around the time that Zen Buddhism started arriving in Japan.” This aspect of his work reflects more traditional scholarship, “old stuff in foreign languages,” he explains.

The second aspect of Ives’ research entails tracking the activities and ideas of contemporary Buddhist environmentalists. Ives plans to compile his findings in a new book that will provide a critical overview of contemporary forms of Buddhist environmental ethics and his reflections on the same.

“Buddhists look at the climate crisis as a macro expression of a micro problem: Individual greed and the pursuit of self-interest, when expressed on a large scale, can cause problems for the global community. The question now: What do they recommend we do about it?”