Dr. Thea Zunick: leaving the mile-square city for the city of brotherly love

Associate Director of Student Life Dr. Thea Zunick will be leaving Stevens today to begin a new journey as Director of Student Life at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Prior to joining Stevens, Dr. Zunick had been working at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) within fraternity and sorority life where she met Natalie Waite, who formerly held Zunick’s current position. “She had just been moved to Graduate Affairs and asked me to come in to do some workshops with the Greeks while they looked to fill the position,” explained Zunick. Given her expertise in programming and leadership development, she felt that it would be a natural progression and thus accepted the offer to work with the Stevens Greek Community. After meeting with Dean Kristie Damell in the fall of 2013, she was given the job description for her current title and officially made Stevens her new home in the spring of 2014. “It’s pretty unique to be a Greek advisor of STEM-based campuses,” said Zunick. “So it was a match made in heaven.”

As the Associate Director of Student Life, Dr. Zunick was involved in various aspects of the Stevens student experience, including Pre-Orientation, Freshman Orientation, Freshman Family Weekend, and others. Her most notable role was that of advisor for the Stevens Greek community. “[In the role of] Associate Director, I do more than just Greek Life; however, it took up a lot of my time because our fraternities and sororities are so active,” said Zunick. “We’re trying to build a premier Greek experience on this campus, which I think we’ve been successful at so far.” She noted that while her experiences in Greek Life were different at NJIT, the “huge shift to working with fraternities and sororities very large in size” provided an “opportunity to use a different skill set.”

Her commitment to the Greek community did not go unnoticed; in her time at Stevens, Dr. Zunick received recognition multiple times, including the University Partner of the Year awarded by Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity; the Bonnie Wunsch Northeast Greek Leadership Association (NGLA) Volunteer of the Year; the Doctoral Fellowship awarded by the Order of Omega Greek Honors Organization; the Fraternity & Sorority Life Advisor of the Biennium awarded by Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority; the University Partner of the Year awarded by Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity; and the Making the Difference Award awarded by Stevens Institute of Technology.

When asked what initiative she oversaw that will continue to leave an impact on Stevens, Dr. Zunick responded without hesitation. “That’s the easiest question to answer, that being the Global Service Initiative: Project Jamaica,” said Zunick. For the past three years, Dr. Zunick, along with Director of the Global Service Initiative for the Delta Upsilon Fraternity, has led three cohorts of Stevens students to Jamaica to engage in a week-long service project. In addition to serving in several Jamaican communities, students also partake in an impactful curriculum regarding social justice, global citizenship, and service. “Looking at [Stevens’] mission statement, it was clear that the university aimed to create global citizens,” said Zunick. “Aside from study abroad and individual student organizations’ initiatives, there really wasn’t a commitment from this office to aid in that mission.” Dr. Zunick took part in a professional version of the Global Service Initiative, and on day two, she “knew this was it.” “To watch three groups of students experience the Global Service Initiative is something that cannot be replaced,” said Zunick. “It has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my career here, and I think it will remain pinnacle in my experience within Student Affairs.”

Dr. Zunick will begin her new journey as the Director of Student Life at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, a position that combines and parallels the responsibilities of both Dean Kristie Damell and Dean Kenneth Nilsen. “I will be supervising several staff members, which I’m excited to do since what I do now informally is mentor up and coming professionals,” said Zunick. She is also looking forward to overseeing different areas that she might have only partnered with during her time at Stevens, such as International Student Services and Residence Life. “I will be able to continue to grow and learn as a professional as well as rely on the skills I’ve developed,” noted Zunick. “It will be a good challenge.”

As her time on campus comes to an end, Dr. Zunick hopes that students recognize her “love for the Stevens community.”

“It is a bittersweet move for me,” said Zunick. “It’s exciting to advance your career and move into roles that are more senior, but I will miss the day-to-day contact with these students.” Dr. Zunick maintains that Stevens students will always have a special place in her heart. As she leaves to start the next chapter in her career, Dr. Zunick can only hope that the momentum she has started will continue for current and future students alike: “I can only hope that the next person in this position comes into the role and loves it as much as I do.”