Paul J. D’Anieri, the new dean of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Above: Paul D'Anieri, the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Paul D'Anieri

Head of the CLAS

His last name is pronounced Da-NYER-ee, but he won’t mind if you botch it. “My family doesn’t even agree on how to pronounce it,” said Paul J. D’Anieri, the new dean of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

D’Anieri grew up in a suburb of Schenectady, New York—Niskayuna—about a half-hour west of Albany. His father was an engineer at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, and his mother was a mathematician until starting a family of five children—D’Anieri being the second youngest of four boys and a girl.

As one might suspect, given the career paths of his parents, D’Anieri loved the sciences in school. But he also became deeply interested in world politics. He took German from 8th grade through his second year of college, and spent a month in Bochem, Germany as an exchange student at age 16. When he enrolled as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, he was torn between majoring in the natural/mathematical sciences and the social sciences or humanities.

“I took some pre-med classes and went in that direction for a year,” he said. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think, hmm…maybe I should have majored in Chinese or physics. It’s all intriguing to me.”

D’Anieri settled on a bachelor’s program in international relations at Michigan State, followed by a master’s and doctorate in government at Cornell University. His first year in graduate school he took freshman Russian and—coincidentally— Daniel O’Neill, a UF political scientist, was one of his classmates.

In 1991, he was hired as an associate professor of political science at the University of Kansas. After the Soviet Union collapsed, D’Anieri won a Fulbright Scholarship to Ukraine, where he picked up a third foreign language while working as a visiting scholar at L’viv State University. “The university where I worked in Ukraine had no money—no heat, no chalk, no textbooks—but they had fantastic students and faculty,” he said. “That’s what matters most.”

D’Anieri’s research has been centered on the international and domestic politics of the Soviet Union and, in addition to Germany and Ukraine, his studies have taken him to Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. “From the time I was fairly young, issues in the world were very prominent,” he said. “The Cold War was always in the news, always being discussed, and the fact my father designed nuclear reactors for naval ships made an impression.”

During the summer of 1998, D’Anieri was a visiting associate professor at Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute. He served as Associate Dean for International Programs at Kansas from 1999 to 2003, Director of the Center for Russian and European Studies in 2003-2004, and Associate Dean of Humanities from 2004 until accepting his new position at UF.

“KU has been a great place for me,” he said. “I have great colleagues and friends, I love the institution and I love Lawrence, but I’m very excited about coming to UF and Gainesville.”

D’Anieri said what attracted him to CLAS was its rapidly improving academic reputation. What excites him most about his new position is the people with whom he will have the chance to work. “I met a lot of people when I was down there for that whirlwind interview process, and I came away feeling that, whether I got the position or not, I’d like to talk to them again,” he said. “CLAS is full of enthusiastic, bright people.”

He plans to spend his first year at UF getting to know the college, the university, and its people. D’Anieri believes his job is to help the various faculty and departments in the college excel, and he said his goal is to get the college back on the road to realizing its quest to become one of the top liberal arts and sciences colleges in the nation.

“I want Florida to be one of the schools that come to mind when people talk about the best public institutions in the country,” he said. “We’re so close. We might have taken a small step back recently, but we need to keep working toward that goal.”

D’Anieri’s first day on the job is July 1, 2008. He moves to Florida with his wife, Laura, who works in public relations and marketing. They have five children: Jacey, 20, a junior majoring in sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles; Courtney, 19, who works as a certified nursing assistant in the Kansas City area; Zachary, 16, who will start 11th grade in the fall; Joe, 14, 9th grade; and Lily, 11, 6th grade.

The family loves outdoor activities and is looking forward to exploring natural Florida together. When asked how he balances such a busy career and a large family, D’Anieri laughs, “Maybe you should ask my wife! Laura works really hard. We’re organized and we make choices about what we do and what we don’t. Some days we don’t hold it together at all, but I love having a big family.”

His big family in CLAS welcomes him with open arms.

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