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Staff Fast Facts: Paul Russo, Vice Provost; Dean, Katz School of Graduate and Professional Studies

russo paulDr. Paul Russo is a vice provost at Yeshiva University and dean of the Katz School of Graduate and Professional Studies. He has over 15 years of experience in planning and leading higher education divisions, with particular strengths in online education and program development.

Before joining the University, Russo was assistant vice president for curriculum and instruction at Long Island University. As director of online programs at The City University of New York (CUNY), he helped to create the School of Professional Studies and Guttman Community College, and oversaw the Data Analytics and Information Systems programs. He was also co-principal investigator for a $15 million award to found the CUNY Center for Big Data.

Russo holds a PhD in technology management from New York University, an MBA from the University of Dallas, an MS in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University and a BS in physics from Loyola University.


1. What profession did you think you would hold when you were in school?

I studied physics and engineering, and in my early career I worked as an engineer at Texas Instruments on aircraft guidance systems, computer vision and (primitive) data science. But deep down I wanted to be like the faculty who helped to shape me personally and professionally. They were smart, independent thinkers, who developed new knowledge and young minds. I realized that’s the best job in the world.

But it wasn’t until later that I had the opportunity to move to university life, starting at Baruch College then moving to CUNY’s central administration, to work with Selma Botman, who at the time was CUNY’s Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and is now YU’s Provost.  As part of her team, we worked on huge projects such as founding the new School of Professional Studies, launching CUNY’s move into online education and designing the framework for Guttman Community College.

Now I had the best job in the world. I was able to both contribute to the university’s academic mission and to apply my engineering skills as a designer and builder—in this case, a builder of schools and programs.


2. What aspect of your job with YU do you most enjoy?

Without a doubt, the fun part of this job is getting to know and work with students. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, spending time with students is always re-energizing and just fun. A few months ago, I’d run back to the office around 9 p.m. to pick up a book, and there were two graduate students outside of my door. They had a breakthrough on their thesis research and wanted to talk through their ideas. It made my night. I encourage students to drop by unannounced. It’s a break from meetings and spreadsheets!

I also really appreciate the opportunity to help YU create the new Katz graduate school. The entire University is rooting for us. And I thank Drs. Mordecai and Monique Katz for their trust and partnership. Beyond just financial support, they share their own experiences in higher education and regularly come to the campus to be part of our work. We’re lucky. Both Mordy and Nicky Katz have served as Yeshiva University Trustees and faculty throughout their lives, and continually demonstrate their commitment to YU.


3. What are some of your goals for the Katz School and what progress have you made?

Our commitment is to expand YU’s offerings in STEM and health sciences and a few other key areas, and to open the University to new groups of students. Our current graduate programs include quantitative economics, applied mathematics, data analytics and visualization, risk management, biotech management and entrepreneurship, and speech language pathology. We also offer two graduate degrees in partnership with other YU schools. We have a master’s in Data and Privacy Law in partnership with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a master’s in Marketing with the Sy Syms School of Business. Our graduate students come from across the United States and from other countries around the world, including China, India and Korea. There are a number of exciting new programs at New York State’s Department of Education and a few more ideas percolating with the faculty.  Keep an eye out later in the year.

We also offer associate degrees, tailored to students for whom a two-year degree is the right place to start. If they do well, then they have the option to move on to a bachelor’s program. Our first group started in the fall with 35 students (24 men and 11 women). These are smart, hardworking and accomplished kids. In fact, one is on the men’s basketball team, a second is on the women’s soccer team and another is a gamer. We even have a day trader in the group.  The next class is forming now. Please do tell your friends.


4. What would your colleagues be surprised to learn about you?

Well…I’m not too sure. They might be surprised to know that I had a farm in the Hudson Valley. Drop by and we’ll talk about growing tomatoes and fending off Japanese beetles.