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Vincent DeCola, S.J.: I am the Gabelli School

Profiles | Apr 22, 2021 |

Vincent DeCola, S.J., joined the staff of Fordham University in 2008 and after serving at Fordham College at Lincoln Center as dean of first-year students, he took the post of Assistant Dean at the Gabelli School in 2014.

In this week’s “I am the Gabelli School” series, Fr. Vin describes a staff member he finds truly inspiring, shares his thoughts on the Gabelli School’s namesake, and offers reflections on his work in Micronesia, Belize, Nepal, Tanzania, as well as some of New York City’s poorest communities.

Cultural awareness is a part of our foundation at the Gabelli School. What kinds of global experiences have you had, and how did they shape your outlook?

I have been fortunate to have had a lot of international experience in my career. I served for some years in the Pacific Islands of Micronesia. The culture there was, of course, very different from that of my native New York City. Island life is rooted in close-knit extended families on tiny patches of land separated by vast areas of the ocean. Fishing and native crops such as breadfruit provide what is needed to subsist. Most of these islands have no electricity or running water—but also no crime or income tax!

I also served for nine years as director of the international region of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. We would select about 50 college graduates each year to serve for two years as teachers or social workers in poor communities in countries such as Belize, Nepal, and Tanzania. Next, I served for seven years as president of a network of middle schools in some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods in the South Bronx, Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, and on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In these years running two different non-profit organizations, I came to value the contribution which solid business acumen can make to doing good in our world.

Is there a member of our community who has inspired you? Why? 

Vera Conka is part of the Fordham Facilities Management team and she is assigned to the 140 West building at LC. Vera’s work is impressive. The challenge to keep in decent shape a building of this size filled each day with college students, is a task most of us can hardly imagine. Vera does a remarkable job. She exhibits a work ethic which I suspect speaks of her appreciation as a recent immigrant to the United States. And in the spirit of so many generations of immigrant families who have made this trek, Vera focuses a lot of her energy on making sure her children will receive a solid education so they can enjoy the success available to them thanks to her efforts.

What is the main source of the joy you find in your work?

The things that first attracted me to come over to the Gabelli School from Fordham College at Lincoln Center are the same things I still enjoy most about my role. The undergraduate business program at Lincoln Center is small (about 150 students per year), and this allows me to serve as academic advisor to each student from before they enter right through to graduation (and even beyond). The students in our global business major are very international – north of 30 percent – and I truly enjoy working with such a diverse group of individuals.

What are three words that come to your mind that describe the Gabelli School of Business?

I think of three names and three words. First, there is “Mario” and “Success.” Mario Gabelli is recognized for his great success in business, but the true success I see in Mr. Gabelli is the fact that he is a self-made risk-taker who remembers with gratitude where he is from – and gives back generously in recognition.  Second is “Donna” and “Leadership.” I recall while I was earning my MBA, we read the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In it, Collins attributes the success of a great organization to “Level 5” leadership. A “Level 5” leader has an important mix of personal humility and professional will. They are “ambitious for the company, not for themselves.” I believe this describes our leader, Dean Rapaccioli quite well. And the final name-word combination is “Stephen” and “Dedication.” Most Gabelli School staff know Stephen McGuinness. There is no one more dedicated to our school than Stephen. I get an email every morning at 9 a.m.: “Hello and good morning. Do you need anything right now?” I am heartened by this dedication.

What was a particular moment when you felt proud to be a part of the Gabelli School of Business?

I don’t particularly like being publicly recognized, but this series, “I am the Gabelli School,” allows all of us to catch a glimpse into the unique members of our Gabelli School team and to see our common work for the school community through the eyes of our colleagues. I am proud to have been asked to participate.

Any reading recommendations?

I am reading a terrific book recommended to me by Marisa Villani: The Person You Mean To Be, by Dolly Chugh. I also highly recommend it.

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