Many pioneers come and go from the campus on 5151 Park Ave, but that isn’t the case for Sacred Heart University’s beloved faculty member, Denise Tiberio, who will be moving into one of the highest esteemed roles in the university starting this fall.
On Aug. 1, it was announced to the university community that Larry Wielk would retire as dean of students after 27 years of service. Taking over the role would be Tiberio, whose 32 years of service to the university proved that she would be a perfect fit for the job. Knowing that she won’t be simply filling Wielk’s shoes, she wants to have her own unique spin on the job. “I want to continue to be a voice for the students”, said Tiberio. “While I know it is important that I am going to have to hold them accountable, I still want them to know I’m here for them. I have an open-door policy, and if there is any question or concern they have, I want them to know that I will listen to anything they want to share.”
To begin, who is Denise outside of Sacred Heart? First and foremost, she is a mother of two children, one who just graduated college and another who is currently a sophomore at The University of Connecticut. In her free time, she loves to travel up to her house at Lake George, reading, and her new hobby is playing pickle ball. On top of all that, she is currently in her third year of a, asynchronous doctorate program and she will be defending her dissertation this coming year.
Denise Tiberio’s journey as a pioneer started as a student, where she graduated with a degree in political science as part of the class of 1989. At the time, Sacred Heart was just a small commuter school, a place that would practically be unrecognizable to any current SHU student.
Shortly after graduating, she started as a graduate assistant at SHU. Her roles quickly began to advance throughout the 32 years she has spent at the university. From holding titles such as assistant director of student activities, director of student life, and senior associate dean of students, she has truly shown her commitment to the community.
Throughout her tenure at SHU, Tiberio oversaw a wide variety of departments directly, which include fraternity & sorority life, first-year programs, performing arts, student engagement, international and immigration services, student government, and the student union. Having direct oversight over all these departments kept her very busy, but the challenge allowed for there never to be a dull moment.
Another department that Tiberio started from the ground-up is the Orientation program, which she was tasked with starting in the year 1991. This program has always been her passion because she had a love for engaging with first-year students, as well as developing skills within the Orientation Leader team.
When asked about some defining moments within her career, one that comes to mind was when she was approached with developing Greek life on campus in 2008. At the time, there were 96 students involved in Greek life, and all of the organizations were local. She was told that the organizations had to either go local or they had to abolish them, and Tiberio chose the path that put the students first.
In one of the busiest years of her career, seven national organizations found their way onto campus, and she found a love for what these organizations stand for considering she wasn’t a part of one herself. Looking back at her work, there are now about 2,100 students involved in Greek life, which makes up for close to 30% of our students.
Another project that she helped start is Family Weekend. When she started her position at SHU, there was no opportunity for families to come experience student life. She created a program that brought the entire community together. Now, our Family Weekend has become an absolute craze and a time that all SHU students look forward.
As the keys are now passed over to the dean’s office, Tiberio has great praise for everything that Wielk had done for the university. Tiberio had a close relationship with Wielk, as she hopes to hold some of his practices close to heart. His ability to be well-respected, but also have a calm and authoritative approach to conflict is something she admired. Funny enough, Tiberio was actually a part of the committee that hired Wielk, and although she knows she isn’t filling his shoes, she is carrying a great deal of what she learned from him with her.
Tiberio will continue to work to enhance the experience of the students at Sacred Heart University. With such a grasp on the university and knowing what a tight-knit community this school is, she is confident that SHU will continue to grow and achieve things that we couldn’t have imagined.