Provost Deek Reflects on his past and plans For the Future

Provost Deek Reflects on his past and plans For the Future

After 20 years of serving as NJIT Provost & Senior Executive Vice President and Dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts, Dr. Fadi Deek will return to NJIT faculty on July 1 as a Distinguished Professor of Informatics & Mathematical Sciences. Besides earning all three of his degrees here (B.S. Computer Science ‘85, M.S. Computer Science ‘86, and Ph.D. Computer and Information Science ‘97), over the past four decades, Deek has served in various capacities at the university, earning his tenure and rising through the administrative ranks.  

“Two years ago, I informed the President and the Chair of the Board of Trustees that on June 30 2022, I would like to conclude my role as Provost and Senior Executive Vice President. The primary reason is because I believe that over a decade in this role I have delivered on what I promised to do and on what I was asked to do and perhaps even more. Also, because I had served in administration prior to this, as Dean for another decade,” said Deek. “So I will be back on the faculty as a Distinguished Professor of Informatics… I look forward to returning not only to the classroom as a teacher, which I cherish, but also as a researcher.”As a faculty member, Deek had earned numerous accolades for his research, publishing over 150 articles in journals and co-authoring three books with colleagues from the Ying Wu College of Computing. He is excited to return to research and foresees writing another book in the near future. 

It was not Deek’s original plan to stay in academia when he immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in the 1980s, entering to study computer science at NJIT. Like many other immigrants, his initial goal was to earn his degrees and then return to his home country to work.  

However, partially due to the Lebanese Civil War ongoing at the time, Deek decided to prolong his stay and pursue higher education. By this time, he had met and fallen in love with one of his classmates, fellow Class of 1985 alumna Maura Deek. She is also actively involved with academia at NJIT, currently serving as a Senior University Lecturer of Informatics. 

“I came to NJIT as an international student from Lebanon. One reason I stayed in the US was a classmate, Maura McShane, who became a soulmate, now my wife and the mother of our three children. Also, an ongoing war in Lebanon made it more logical for me to stay here and earn additional advanced degrees. That’s why I joined the Ph.D. program,” said Deek. “As a master’s student, I was a Teaching Assistant. Subsequently, I became a Lecturer and my professional career started to take off. I held that job and other similar jobs while I was doing my Ph.D., and when I finished my Ph.D., I was appointed to the faculty. Soon after, I was also given additional administrative responsibilities. The last two are, of course, the Provost and Senior Executive Vice President, and the one before, Dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts, and earlier roles included Associate Dean, Vice Chair, Director of the Information Technology Program.” 

As Provost and Senior Executive Vice President, one of Deek’s first significant assignments was to produce a strategic plan for the university with the help of more than 200 other community members. Under this multi-year strategic plan, titled “2020 Vision: A Plan for Success,” NJIT’s student success rate improved, a faculty renewal initiative was created and there was increased growth in doctoral students and research expenditures. Not everything can be planned for, however, and one of Deek’s recent important contributions to NJIT was helping guide the community through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the initial transition to virtual learning due to COVID-19 two years ago, Deek sent out the initial emails announcing the temporary cancellation of classes and the special grading provisions, and he served as part of the Pandemic Recovery Committee and helped develop the converged learning model. He wrote in an update on March 31, 2020, that “in this challenging time, it is gratifying to see our NJIT community support each other as we adjust to the new normal… There inevitably will be times when things do not go exactly as they should, but know that you are not alone. The NJIT community is your second family and together we will persevere and prevail.” 

Of all of his contributions, Deek hopes that he is remembered as a mentor. He proudly recalls the 14 Ph.D. students whom he mentored into careers and is looking forward to returning to the roots of his career as a faculty member.  

“I’m very proud that my students recognized my desire to be there for them, to guide them toward successful careers. That’s why I’m excited about going back to the classroom,” said Deek. “If you asked me what I derived the most satisfaction from [throughout my career], I would say the first 17 years, when I was primarily a teacher and a mentor. I love what I did in the last 20 years, but I was primarily an administrator.”  

“As I embark on the next phase of my professional career, returning to the NJIT faculty on July 1, 2022, I would like to thank the entire NJIT community for everything we have accomplished together during my time as Provost and Senior Executive Vice President,” wrote Deek in a memorandum to NJIT faculty and staff members on Jan. 20. “I am excited by the prospect of once again dedicating myself to teaching and mentoring students toward successful careers and advancing knowledge through research, a passion that I put on hold to focus on my administrative roles.” 

The search for an Interim Provost, generally selected by the President, is currently ongoing internally. After this, a nationwide search will be conducted to select the next permanent Provost. 

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