Growing up in Newton, Paul Guzzi knew Boston College only as a quiet "commuting school" with a good hockey team. But even before he became the University's first associate vice president for state and community relations last July, Guzzi's original impression had changed drastically.
Now, midway through his first year on the job, Guzzi says he feels gratified to be part of a dynamic institution with an impact beyond its academic mission.
"I'm enormously impressed with the caliber of people I've met - administrators, faculty, staff and students," Guzzi said. "What strikes me in particular is the almost universal sense of pride people take in BC's accomplishments, yet they also know much needs to be done to achieve our full potential. From outside, there is a perception that BC is a 'hot' university; from inside, there is a continuing drive to succeed and improve."
Guzzi places great importance on discerning the institutional character, since he must articulate its essence in his dealings with government officials and community leaders. Whether keeping abreast of impending legislation which might affect higher education, or reporting on the progress of a campus building project, Guzzi aims to make sure others view Boston College as he has come to know it.
"I honestly believe Boston College has come a long way and is a major asset to both the local and regional area," he said. "We are producing skilled, educated leaders for businesses, providing economic stimulus through purchases of goods and services, and offering resources to neighboring communities through our faculty and students."
As a former Massachusetts secretary of state, and with public affairs and human resources experience in the private sector, Guzzi is suited to traversing a variety of environments in representing the University's interests. One week, he might be in contact with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino or representatives from the Newton Board of Aldermen. Another week, he will appear at a special University event, such as the community reception held last fall at the Boston College Museum of Art. In the meantime, he is busy with ongoing initiatives, such as helping compile an environmental impact report on the Middle Campus Project due to begin this year.
"There is, of course, a distinction between what I'm doing here, and working in the technology industry," said Guzzi, who was a senior administrator for Data General Corp. and Wang Laboratories. "In the latter case, you're focusing on a physical product in a market which changes every six to 12 months. But higher education is a longer-term consideration and affects so many aspects of life and society.
"That is why I have to be concerned, as many others are, about the changes we are seeing regarding the support of education, especially at a governmental level," he continued. "To me, it is so short-sighted to have funding for education under attack, when education is the fuel by which our entire economy runs."
Building and maintaining support within the state and community "is not a one-shot deal," Guzzi says, but rather a continuing process. A priority for the University is to keep the spotlight trained on its many resources, he said, such as encouraging the public to sample its athletic and cultural events, and Evening College curriculums. The role played by the Boston College Neighborhood Center in Allston/Brighton and community service programs like PULSE and 4 Boston are equally critical.
"The idea is to ensure people understand what we are all about," Guzzi said. "We don't want to be isolated. I think there are so many opportunities for us to share educational and cultural assets we might take for granted: Inviting the neighborhood to the Art Museum, for example, or by sending our students out to the neighborhood to help. It is important for the public to know about the characteristics of these efforts, that they represent values and ideals at the heart of BC's philosophy."
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