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DR. A. GABRIEL ESTEBAN

 

When Manila-born Dr. A. Gabriel Esteban was appointed 29th president of Seton Hall University by the Board of Regents on Jan. 11, he has joined an expanding roster of foreign-born university and college presidents.

The Association of American Universities, which represents most of the large research campuses in the United States and Canada, said that 11 of its 61 American member institutions have foreign-born chiefs — up from six — five years ago.

In the past two months, three colleges in the New York region have appointed presidents born abroad:

Cooper Union tapped a scholar originally from India, Stevens Institute of Technology appointed a native of Iran, while Seton Hall opted for the University of the Philippines-educated professor.

Esteban, 49, is the eldest son of Lita Intengan Munson and Dr. Jose N. Esteban of Paniqui, Tarlac.

He is the first layman to become president of Seton Hall, the oldest diocesan Catholic University in the U.S.

“The globalization of the college presidency, higher-education experts say, is a natural outgrowth of the steady increase of international students and professors on American campuses over the past four decades,” reports The New York Times.

“And it will most likely lead to more relationships and exchanges abroad, they say, while giving students a stronger sense that they are world citizens — a widely advertised goal in academia.”

“There’s a logic to seeing individuals born in other nations, who have excelled in their scholarly work, now move into college presidencies,” Molly C. Broad, president of the American Council on Education, which represents two- and four-year colleges, told The Times.

“I think the trend will continue and maybe even accelerate as more people move up in the faculty ranks, becoming deans and provosts.”

That trend extends to Washington, where a year ago President Barack Obama named a native of Argentina, Eduardo M. Ochoa, to be his top adviser on higher education, as an assistant secretary in the Department of Education.

The number of international scholars working at colleges and universities in the United States — as researchers, instructors and professors — rose to 115,000 last year, an all-time high, from 86,000 in 2001.

That growth, documented by the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit group in New York, came despite the problems in obtaining visas after 9/11.

Allan E. Goodman, the institute’s president, said he had an “epiphany” two years ago about the changing landscape at a banquet in Washington.

The gathering honored about 40 scholarship recipients — undergraduates at the nation’s strongest institutions in math and science.

“The first thing I noticed was that nobody looked like me,” said Dr. Goodman, who is white.

“At least half, if not two-thirds, were international students. They were from India, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and yet they were Harvard students, Stanford students, Rice students. It just reminded me that American higher education is not American. It’s for the whole world.”

Esteban, like other foreign-born university presidents, has distinguished himself as an academic leader and fiscal manager.

He joined Seton Hall in 2007 as its provost and then interim president since Monsignor Robert Sheeran stepped down from the presidency on July 1, 2010.

Immediately, Esteban has begun to implement his strategic vision for the university.

“His commitment to academic excellence and the University’s Catholic mission along with his strong Catholic faith make him the ideal choice to lead our great institution into the future,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Board of Regents.

Throughout his career, Esteban has been involved in implementing institutional change and transformation.

He has extensive senior level experience having served at a number of institutions with distinction.

During his years at Seton Hall, he has provided essential leadership and has been instrumental in the formulation and development of a strategic plan for implementation.

He attended Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and completed the Japan Management Program at the Japan-America Institute for Management Science.

He holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Irvine, an M.S. in Japanese Business Studies from Chaminade University in Honolulu, and an M.B.A. and B.S. in mathematics from the University of the Philippines.

“I am honored to be at the helm of this university that has been a leader in Catholic higher education for more than a century and a half,” Esteban said in accepting the position.

“I remain committed to ensuring Seton Hall’s preeminent position and look forward to continuing to work with the campus community to provide the best possible academic and spiritual education for our students.”

The Board of Trustees made an exception to the University’s bylaws to allow the appointment of Esteban as president.

Archbishop John J. Myers hailed Dr. Esteban’s appointment.

“I welcome heartily the Board of Regents’ selection of Dr. Esteban as the new president of Seton Hall University,” Myers said.

“At this time in her history, Seton Hall University deserves both a consistency in her leadership, and a consistent and dedicated leader who will serve Seton Hall with distinction.”

He added, “His successful track record as both provost and interim president, and his dedication and commitment to Seton Hall’s Catholic identity, are important qualities that will surely benefit this great Archdiocesan institution.”

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