Returning to Their Roots: New Professors Give Back to Alma Mater
Senior lecturers in Information Systems Cherif Amirat M.Eng. ’88 Ph.D. ’88 and Dennis Glacken M.S. ’90, two of the 13 new faculty members joining Stevens School of Business for the 2023-24 academic year, are ready to give back to their alma mater by sharing their unique perspectives with current students.
For both, their time at Stevens marked a transformative period of growth, discovery and skill building that would provide a foundation for successful careers. Now, they are bringing lessons and insights from their professional experiences to help prepare the next generation of agile, tech-savvy business leaders.
Finding a Pathway to Success Through Stevens
Dennis’s father instilled in him the power of education from an early age. Through hard work and determination, he became a first-generation college student and went on to earn his B.B.A. from Pace University. When Dennis decided to pursue his master’s after several years in the workforce, Stevens’ strong reputation made it the right choice.
“My career has been that intersection of business and technology,” he explains. “So, getting an advanced degree from Stevens, which had such a great brand for technology, was kind of a no-brainer.” Dennis also went on to get his Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall School of Law.
Making that investment in himself was one of the best decisions he could have made for his career. He credits having professors who excelled in their fields with providing a rich, industry-ready learning environment. “I got a very good, rigorous education. It definitely prepared me with the theory and technical skills I needed.”
Dennis’s skills to led to transformative work at industry leaders, including Johnson & Johnson, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, Enstar where Dennis was the senior most IT Executive in the United States for an international insurance company, and most recently at Munich Re Specialty Insurance where Dennis was the Head of Portfolio Management, Delivery & Office of the CIO. As a key member of the IT leadership helped modernize and grow the MRSI business from $1.9 billion in premium to more than $2.8 billion in premium in a three-year period.
Cherif learned about Stevens while working towards his undergraduate degree at the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineering in Algeria, a consortium seven U.S. universities, including Stevens, helped create. With the encouragement of his professors, he decided to apply to Stevens for his Ph.D., and was soon packing his bags for America.
Once classes began, the lessons not only included key topics, but also insight into how to learn. During his first job, he quickly put that skill to use. “I was hired to do systems design. I never designed systems, but because of the education I had, I was able to learn it very quickly and become an independent designer.”
Cherif continued to leverage this mindset, working for AT&T, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and most recently, for IEEE as its Chief Information Officer where he was responsible for leading a team of more than 200 IT professions to develop and deliver cost effective, reusable and scalable technology solutions.
Passing Along Lessons Learned
With long, distinguished careers, Cherif and Dennis agree that one of the most rewarding parts of the job is instilling the lessons they learned in a new generation of Ducks.
“I bring real examples to what we study,” says Cherif. “Whether it’s my own experience or other experiences from other people, I try to demystify all the theories and technical terms and create lessons associated directly with the workplace to make sure students get the right training.”
Dennis echoes the importance of using his own life experiences to help coach students on career success. “That’s one of the advantages that I bring as an industry professor. I not only teach how to manage projects or craft strategies, but we talk about what you’re going to experience in the real world.”
The Power of the Stevens Network
As part of Stevens’ vast alumni network, Cherif and Dennis are in a unique positon to share insights not found in a textbook or research paper.
“There is a certain warmth and family type of feeling they’ve created at Stevens,” says Dennis. “And having that network is a huge thing.”
Sometimes the simple connection point of a Stevens degree is enough to create a lasting relationship.
“As soon as you meet another Stevens graduate, you feel closer, even though you just met,” explains Cherif. “You have something in common. That’s powerful.”