A New Era
Dr. Maria Gallo brings passion, dedication and a forward-thinking mindset to her role as new president of Delaware Valley University
by Leigh Stuart

“If you would speak to my family, they would say, ‘You went to school and you never left,’” jokes Maria Gallo, Ph.D., the 13th—and first female—president of Delaware Valley University in Doylestown. “I just adore education and I felt like that was the best way to contribute where my passions were. There’s a Nelson Mandela quote that I absolutely love. He said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,’ and I truly believe in that.”

Dr. Gallo, who received her undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University, went on to earn her master’s degree and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. She spent 16 years at the University of Florida in Gainesville, rising through the ranks from assistant professor to associate to full, till being offered an administrative position as chair of the school’s agronomy department.

“It’s a wonderful institution and it taught me a great deal,” she says. “I thought that certainly was a big part of my development as a professional.”

From one warm-weather locale to another, Dr. Gallo moved on to the University of Hawai‘i at M?noa. Fittingly, as she focused her graduate and undergraduate studies on sustainability and agriculture, she served the university as dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

“I was always interested in the environment,” Dr. Gallo says. “I wanted to feed the world. I wanted to understand the basic science and how to use basic science to solve real-world problems, particularly [those] related to food production, sustainability and the environment.”

Dr. Gallo intends to build upon her track record of success in her new position as president of Delaware Valley University. Her plans include an initiative she refers to as “renovate to innovate,” wherein she wants to ensure that students have the latest technologies and spaces in which to learn. She also wants to “break down silos” between disciplines, so that students can have a more holistic education in terms of integrating entrepreneurship and academics.

“I want to engage in a listening tour because I want to hear from all the constituents, both internally and externally, about the strengths of the university, opportunities for areas of growth, and then use all that information to move into a strategic planning phase and then an implementation phase that’s also going to dovetail with a capital campaign,” Dr. Gallo says. “We’re going to be focusing on strengthening our academic programs, particularly our graduate programs; developing a research component at the university; and training our students to face the global and local challenges that are here today.”

Dr. Gallo adds, “I would welcome the community to engage with the university in ways that they feel would be valuable to them and I’d like to explore ideas.”

Such community engagement will be a central tenet of her time as president, Dr. Gallo notes.

“We should be a very integral part of the fabric of the community and a resource where people feel comfortable coming to us to try to get information, to get educated,” she says. “I think it’s great for every member of the institution to be a part of the community, to be an integral part that allows everybody to grow and have strength in what we’re doing.”

For Dr. Gallo, “the community” extends far beyond the walls of the university. Although she has since transitioned from a scholar to an administrator, Dr. Gallo continues to be an active participant in several groups related to agrarian education. She was president of the Crop Science Society of America and also belongs to the American Society of Agronomy. In addition to reflecting her own personal passions, Dr. Gallo feels her membership in these professional organizations will be a boon to the students of Delaware Valley University.

“I feel it’s really important to stay connected to the latest science and the latest research,” she says, “because that’s what we want to bring to our students—the cutting edge.”

Engagement includes not only the administration and faculty but also the students. Dr. Gallo says, “For students, the civic engagement piece allows them to be better people, better citizens, and I think studies have shown people are happier even in their personal lives, are more successful, when they have that kind of interaction.”

One vital means by which Delaware Valley University students engage with the community is through an initiative known as Experience360. Through this program, every Delaware Valley University student participates in an internship program, which provides not only community connections but also integral skills that students can use in future careers.

“That’s so vital these days for the students to get these real-world experiences, get out into the marketplace,” she says. “Then also, for potential employers, to mentor our students, be able to evaluate them, too, and maybe have those kinds of networks and partnerships that you need to be successful later on.”

‘A Fantastic Opportunity’

This community-mindedness is just one of the aspects of life at Delaware Valley University that drew Dr. Gallo’s interest and ultimately convinced her to leave a tropical paradise for idyllic Bucks County. Likewise, the university’s core values—namely, teaching, learning and serving with passion and commitment; acting as one learning community with one purpose; valuing the world of ideas and differences; living each day with integrity; respecting all people; and pursuing excellence—had a hand in her decision to lead Delaware Valley University. 

“When I read those core values, they resonated with me a great deal personally,” Dr. Gallo says. “I could live them and I really want to model them for the rest of the institution.”

Above all, Dr. Gallo feels grateful for the chance to serve Delaware Valley University as president.

“I’m very honored to be here and have the opportunity to lead and guide this great educational institution,” she says. “I truly believe that education—today more than ever—is what all of us need, both traditional students and continuing education students. It’s just a fantastic opportunity to be able to influence what we’re teaching, how we’re teaching it, and [help] people have the ability to reach their potential.”

Delaware Valley University
700 East Butler Avenue
Doylestown PA 18901

Photograph by Allure West Studios