Meet our Deans
- Steve Matson, Dean
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- Jennifer Gerz-Escandón, Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Education and Fellowship Programs
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- Hoi Ning Ngai, Associate Dean for Student Affairs
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- Stephanie Schmitt, Associate Dean for Academics
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- Rob Bacchus, Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Relations
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Steven W. Matson, professor and former chair of the department of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became dean of The Graduate School on July 1, 2008.
A member of the faculty since 1983, Matson is widely respected for his teaching, mentoring and research in the field of genetics and molecular biology, said Bernadette Gray-Little, executive vice chancellor and provost, in announcing the appointment.
On the national level, Matson is a recipient of the American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award and has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Biological Chemistry, where he served as an editorial board member from 2000 to 2005.
At Carolina, he has taught courses a variety of courses, including: Current Topics in Biology, Advanced Molecular Biology, Advanced Cell Biology and honors sections of Genetics and Molecular Biology. A 2004 recipient of the University's Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and a 2005 Institute of Arts and Humanities Leadership Fellow, Matson is also a member of the Chancellors Advisory Committee, Bank of America Distinguished Professorship review panel and Honors Program Faculty Advisory Board. He is a past member and chair of the Pre-health Professions Advising Task Force and has served on various University administrative review committees through the years.
Matson's research focuses on DNA repair, conjugative DNA transfer and enzymatic mechanisms and biological roles of DNA helicases. His laboratory's long-term goal is to understand the molecular role of several helicases in the bacterium E. coli and the budding yeast S. cerevisiae.
A native of Coos Bay, Ore., Matson earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Colgate University. His master's and doctoral degrees are from the University of Rochester, both in biochemistry.
Jennifer Gerz-Escandón is the Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Education and Fellowship Programs in The Graduate School. In this role, she provides leadership for policy development and implementation and oversees funding for 16 fellowship programs administered by The Graduate School, including the Royster Society of Fellows and Weiss Urban Livability Fellowship. She also oversees initiatives supporting graduate students receiving external fellowships and grants from private foundations and federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation professional training initiative. Gerz-Escandón serves as Chair the Fellowship Committee of The Graduate School Administrative Board. In collaboration with the Director of Fellowships, she manages the Graduate Funding Information Center and initiates innovative programs to meet the changing needs of graduate students.
Interdisciplinary education and professional development activities in The Graduate School also fall under her scope of responsibility. To ensure integration of professional development activities, Gerz-Escandón works with the Director of Academic and Professional Development to provide oversight of The Graduate School's professional development workshops and courses and international efforts such as the Preparing International Teaching Assistants Program.
During her 15 years of higher education administrative leadership, Gerz-Escandón has served in the roles of chair and associate professor in the International Relations Program, and director of the Center for International Programs and Services at Lynn University and director of International Studies and assistant professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Evansville. She previously served as director of National Scholarships and Fellowships in the Honors College at Georgia State University. As a visiting faculty member at universities in Japan and the United Kingdom, she enjoyed teaching interdisciplinary courses and was recognized by Lynn University students as Teacher of the Year. Gerz-Escandón is a 2001-2002 recipient of a Fulbright International Education Administrator grant to Germany. In The Graduate School, she supports graduate education across international borders through opportunities such as Royster Global and encourages graduate students to engage globally by pursuing international dissertation research funding.
Gerz-Escandón holds a bachelor's degree in government from Georgetown University, and a master's degree and a doctorate in international relations from the University of Miami. She is active civically and professionally, most notably with the National Association of Fellowship Advisors. In the past, Gerz-Escandón has served as a national reviewer for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute graduate and public policy fellowships and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and presented workshops on external funding opportunities, fellowship best practices, and strategies for engaging faculty and campus stakeholders. She represents graduate education interests on several university-wide committees, including the Carolina Engagement Council, Tuition and Fee Advisory Task Force and Humanities for the Public Good Steering Committee.
Hoi Ning Ngai
Hoi Ning Ngai, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, joined The Graduate School on September 1, 2017 to assume oversight and responsibilities for supporting the overall graduate student experience. She works closely with directors and staff in Admissions and Enrolled Students as well as Diversity and Student Success to promote and provide resources to students throughout the graduate student life cycle.
As part of her portfolio, Ngai collaborates with partners across campus on the Graduate Student Orientation, the December commencement, the May hooding ceremony, and the Boka W. Hadzija Award for Distinguished University Service. She meets regularly with the leadership of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation to identify and address key areas of interest and concern for graduate and professional students across schools, departments, and programs. Additionally, she serves on various boards and committees, including the Campus Health Services Advisory Board, the Committee on Student Conduct, the Graduate School Administrative Board (including the Academic Policy Committee), and the Graduate School Professional Development Advisory Council.
Ngai believes strongly in the importance and value of self-reflection in undergraduate and graduate education, especially in terms of helping students become more aware of their identity, beliefs, values, and goals as they pursue advanced degrees and post-graduate opportunities. Additionally, she is focused on helping students better explore and engage with campus resources in order to make the most out of their graduate experience.
To this end, Ngai is in regular communication and consultation with Directors of Graduate Studies, Student Services Managers, the Learning Center, the Writing Center, the Dean of Students Office, the University Ombuds Office, Campus Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of University Counsel, the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office, and other campus resources to provide appropriate guidance and support to students dealing with challenging circumstances that may potentially impact their ability to progress, succeed, and thrive.
Prior to arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill, Ngai served as the Director of Academic Advising and Support at Kenyon College and an Associate Director of Academic Affairs and Advising at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Dartmouth College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Higher Education from UCLA. While at UCLA, she served as a Counseling Assistant at College Academic Counseling. Additionally, she worked closely with staff at the Graduate Student Resource Center and the Graduate Writing Center, as well as leadership within the Graduate Students Association.
Ngai is a first-generation college and graduate student who grew up in Brooklyn and Queens with immigrant parents in low-income housing. She attended Hunter College High School and Stuyvesant High School, as well as as the French Culinary Institute, in Manhattan. She has a fondness for bacon and ice cream, separate and together. She cannot drive a car or ride a bicycle, but she can make a mean pork shoulder. Her first name (Hoi Ning) means "peaceful journey" in Cantonese (Chinese). She appreciates the power of social media in promoting conversation and dialogue when used appropriately.
Stephanie Schmitt is the Associate Dean for Academics in The Graduate School. In this position, she is responsible for administrative oversight for graduate education assessment efforts such as the campus-wide Program Review Process. This includes approximately 8 external reviews each year and an equal number of closure meetings and midpoint evaluations for prior reviews. The review process is conducted for all undergraduate and graduate programs at the university in concert with the Provost's Office and includes the preparation of a self-study, a site visit by external reviewers from peer institutions, and extensive follow-up from the recommendations such as program responses and midpoint progress evaluations.
Stephanie also has collaborative oversight for several academic initiatives, including The Graduate School's academic policy interpretation, admissions and enrolled student services for graduate programs, academic and professional development for graduate students, international collaborations and initiatives, and major data collection and reporting initiatives within The Graduate School. Other academic initiatives falling within the scope of Stephanie's responsibilities include facilitating new and revised degree/program requests for graduate studies at Carolina, overseeing the graduate certificate policies process, chairing the Academic Policy Committee of The Graduate School's Administrative Board, maintaining the university's polices on graduate faculty designation, and updating academic policies like the Graduate Handbook relevant to graduate education.
Stephanie also represents graduate education interests on various university-wide committees, including the Student Data Stewards, Friday Center Advisory Board, International Advisory Council, Curriculum Committee, Diploma Task Force, and Academic Planning Task Force.
Prior to coming to The Graduate School Stephanie was an executive with a management consulting firm and served as a nonpartisan policy analyst with the North Carolina General Assembly. An alumna of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stephanie earned her BA in International Studies and Political Science, her MPA from the School of Government, and her PhD in Public Policy. She has participated in and worked closely with programs at Carolina Leadership Development, Carolina Women's Center, and the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, for which she was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece honor society and the Frank Porter Graham Graduate & Professional Student Honor Society.
Rob Bacchus is the Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Relations and leads The Graduate School's overall advancement efforts. In this role, he works to engage alumni and friends in the life of The Graduate School and secure resources critical to the School's mission. An important partner in these efforts is the Graduate Education Advancement Board, whose meetings and initiatives he helps to facilitate.
Prior to The Graduate School, Rob held leadership roles in development at The University of Texas at Austin, Elon University and Southwestern University. Before moving into fundraising, Rob worked with international corporations such as Dell Inc. and Hewitt Associates (now Aon), as well as Convio (now Blackbaud). After seeing the impact of graduate education on his own life, he strongly believes in the power of supporting graduate students and their success.
Born in Austin, Rob received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin as a Plan II/History major and a Master of Nonprofit Administration degree from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife are the parents of three boys. He is a huge soccer fan and general sports enthusiast, and is also a voracious reader in his fleeting moments of leisure.