If Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, SUNY Broome’s new Associate Vice President and Dean of Liberal Arts and Business & Professional Studies, wants his students to remember one thing about their collegiate experience, it would be this: “Remember that school is practice. We leave very little wiggle room for ‘messing up’ in college, but I firmly believe that mistakes and missteps are what learning is about. It’s perfectly OK to try something and not like it. Academic exploration changed my life and I hope that our students also experience opportunities to change directions and grow based on those experiences,” shared Dr. Anderson.
Born on the South Side of Chicago and raised primarily by his mother in a working-class neighborhood, Dr. Anderson was the first and only person in his family to be college educated. “It is a blessing and a curse to be the first person in your family to go to college. On one side, my mom never pushed me into pursuing a specific academic path, which is something that happened to one of my closest college friends. On the other side, my mom wasn’t able to offer any college-specific guidance. I really only became a ‘student’ in graduate school, because I just sort of fumbled my way through my undergraduate degree,” explained Anderson.
After graduating from high school, Anderson joined the military. He spent six years in active and reserve roles as an Intelligence Analyst and Interrogator for the U.S. Army within the 77th Military Intelligence Detachment 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Part of his time within the U.S. Army included studying the Russian language at the Defense Language Institute. “I learned that a career in the military was not for me, but I certainly valued my time with the U.S. Army and was honored to serve my country, ” said Dr. Anderson.
At the conclusion of his time with the U.S. Army, Anderson attended Illinois Wesleyan University, a private liberal arts college in Bloomington, Illinois. “To be fully honest, I went to Illinois Wesleyan University because it was the only school that I applied to and it accepted my application. I sent in that application primarily based on the college’s location and it’s dining hall,” admitted Anderson.
Thanks to a few influential professors, Anderson was guided away from his initial academic inclinations of mathematics and economics and into history, philosophy, and literature. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in history and political science, Dr. Anderson spent “a miserable year in law school,” before realizing that his ultimate desire was to teach at the collegiate level. He completed his graduate degrees in history at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and lived in London for two years while working on his doctoral dissertation, which included studying rare texts at the British Library.
Dr. Anderson has spent the past two decades teaching and working as an administrator at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and public universities across the country. He has taught a wide range of history courses, in addition to some truly interesting experiential courses like “Dogs in Literature,” ”Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and “Founding Farmers.”
Jeff and his wife Sarah live in a 170+ year-old farmhouse in Cobleskill, NY with their daughter, Francesca. He did not hesitate to happily and proudly share beautiful pictures of Francesca on her first day of 5th grade. “She loves to read and explore history. I certainly didn’t push this on her, but I secretly love that we share some of the same interests.”
When Jeff is not in his role of SUNY Broome’s new Associate Vice President and Dean, or spending time outdoors with his family and dogs, he is working on his manuscript which focuses on the history of the story of love. This passion project is not meant to be an academic book, but an accessible read for both scholars and lay readers alike. “I am having so much fun researching, reading, and writing this manuscript, which is what is keeping me motivated. I love to read, because I want to be a better writer. The best writers are readers,” he said.
As Associate Vice President and Dean of Liberal Arts and Business & Professional Studies, Dr. Anderson has a lot of projects to tackle, but he is most excited about expanding SUNY Broome’s Global Experiences offerings. “Shared travel experiences, even small ones to places like New York City, can have dramatic and transformative effects on student engagement and classroom discussions. I would love to help facilitate more of these experiences for our students.”
If you find yourself worrying about finding the “right” program of study or career, refer to Dr. Anderson’s advice. “Mistakes and missteps are what learning is about.”