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Stellar leaves Northeastern

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Published on April 8, 2009 in The Huntington News

After reluctantly resigning from his position as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) shortly before the start of last semester, professor Jim Stellar is now leaving the university.

“I was not planning to step down, and anyone that knew me and what I was going to do knew that,” he told The News yesterday.

Stellar will join the staff of Queens College in New York as provost and vice president for academic affairs beginning’ in the fall semester, according to a’ Queens College press release issued yesterday following his formal resignation from Northeastern.

“After I stopped being dean, I discovered that I really liked academic administration, and that’s why I began the search,” Stellar said. “I’m a very lucky man, and I got what I thought was the more exciting job for me.”

Stellar’s resignation as dean was partially because of conflicts with newly-appointed Provost Stephen Director, said journalism professor Nick Daniloff, a friend and longtime colleague of Stellar.

“There were differences between Provost Stephen Director and Stellar,” Daniloff said. “Apparently, the provost felt he couldn’t work effectively with Dean Stellar, so essentially he asked him to resign’ his position.”

This clash occurred because the two had different ways of operating, Daniloff said.

“What I can say about Stellar is he was very enthusiastic and very open,” Daniloff said. “All I can really say is that the two of them had different management styles. Stellar’s was one of enthusiasm and it seems to me Provost Director is a more restrained individual.”

Some students said they did not know what was happening at the time, and still feel in the dark about the issue ‘-’ even those who worked with him in the on-campus neuroscience lab.

“None of us are clear as to why he was asked to step down, aside from politics,” said junior behavioral neuroscience major Natalia Diaz. “I would’ve appreciated a straight answer from the president as well as the provost as to what the circumstances were, because it was unfair. Stellar did such an amazing job as dean and a researcher. He deserved a lot more.”

Very few people knew the details of what was happening, said George Gottschalk, a student who considers Stellar a good friend.

“Jim kept me informed throughout the entire ordeal, but insisted I keep the information to myself,” he said. “He still remains admirably dignified despite the atrocity of his dismissal.”

Because of his acclaimed style and his long history at the university, Daniloff said Queens College will benefit from Stellar’s experience.

“He was very lucky to get the position of provost at Queens College, and I must say it’s our loss and their gain,” Daniloff said. “I’m sad to see that he’s leaving, but it looks like he’s making an important new step in his career.”

Students also believe the new position is good for Stellar, Diaz said.

“I was actually happy for him,” she said. “I hope Queens College is able to appreciate him the way he should’ve been at Northeastern.”

Stellar also said he was hopeful for success in his career at Queens College, and said he appreciates parallels between the school and Northeastern.

“I’m really excited because in Queens, I see a lot of the same elements that I do at Northeastern,” Stellar said. “It’s big, it’s urban, and Queens has a prominent role in the borough and the area.”

His departure may be more dismal for others, and some said they consider it one of the worst mistakes Northeastern officials have recently made.

“I would call it the worst thing that’s happened to Northeastern since I’ve been here,” Gottschalk said. “He is a brilliant man that completely understood what sets Northeastern apart from every other school out there and he was truly dedicated to involving the students in his decision making process.”

Despite his enthusiasm for the new position, Stellar said he is disheartened about leaving Northeastern.

“All of this is sad, but on the other hand, I had to leave to pursue what I want to do,” he said. “The way I explain it is, I’m graduating with you and that’s the way I’m looking at it. It feels like that, and I’ve left places before and still cared about them. Any senior can relate to this feeling.”

Through the reactions of Stellar’s students and colleagues, he said he took the responses to heart and they affirmed that he accomplished a lot here.

“I’ve tried to focus on the team, and I’m taking it as a confirmation that we built a team here,” he said. “And I’m going to try and do that again as provost at Queens College.”

Written by jdunccc

April 8, 2009 at 12:00 am