By Cristina Di Leva
Franco Pavoncello, 66, the first Italian to hold the challenging position of president of John Cabot University since 2006, has been re-elected by the Board to lead the university until Spring 2019.
President Pavoncello’s renewed term, which was to expire in June 2016, will facilitate the university’s growth in next three years with some initiated plans that include transformation and progress.
In fact, the university is currently purchasing a new building located at the corner of Garibaldi Bridge, on Viale Trastevere, where the administration offices will be moved and some new classrooms will be added. In addition, the building in front of the Guarini Campus will be cleared to provide students with another residence.
The university will also have its own TV studio called “W-JCU,” in which students will have the opportunity to work in the field of television broadcasting.
“The most important skill a president of a university should have is the courage of making decisions,” Pavoncello said.
Pavoncello was born in Rome in 1950, where he lived until 1970. He left Italy to study in Jerusalem, where his passion for Eastern countries and politics earned him a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Chinese and Japanese Studies (summa cum laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 1974, Pavoncello arrived in the United States, where he completed a master’s degree in Chinese Politics at the University of Michigan. He later became a research assistant focusing his studies on International Politics, and moved to Cambridge to work with Professor Robert Putnam at Harvard University. He earned a doctorate degree in Political Science.
During his Harvard experience, Pavoncello had the opportunity to meet politicians. “It was a very interesting experience,” he said.
After ten years in the United States, he returned to Italy where he worked at Censis (Italian institute of socio-economic research).
In 1990 Mr. Pavoncello started working as an Adjunct Professor at JCU and five years later was confirmed Associate Professor. “The University was going through a moment of transition during those years: the former president left, while the new one wanted to change the Dean of the Academic Affairs, and asked me to cover that position.” Pavoncello was JCU’s Dean of the Academic Affairs from 1996 to 2005.
“When I became Dean, John Cabot University had only 150 students. Today, we have 1200 students coming from 70 countries,” he said. In 2005 Pavoncello became active president, and one year later he was confirmed president.
During his ten-year mandate, the president continued his intellectual path by publishing books and articles in The American Political Science Review, the British Journal of Political Science, Asian Studies, and World Affairs. He also spoke actively to both Italian and international newspapers and broadcasters, such as CNN, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, and other media organizations. Indeed, he is one of the few accredited professionals who can speak about Italian politics in English. “However, I dedicated myself to the growth of the university,” Pavoncello said.
“Being Dean for many years before becoming presided was helpful, even though being president means having the complete responsibility of managing the future and direction of the university,” he said. Under his administration, JCU purchased both the Tiber Campus, located near the Tiber River, and the Kushlan Wing, inside Guarini Campus, which allowed the university to expand and provide more classrooms for the increasing number of students.
“You can decide whether you do not want to grow or whether you do want to grow, and to grow means finding perfect system able to help you to do so…” Pavoncello said, referring to the university’s changes. Other important developments were the Tiber Café, introduced in 2010, and the Gianicolo Residence.
Pavoncello believes that being present is essential in order to keep a trustworthy relationship with the students. He, in fact, participates to most of the events held in the university during the semester. “I think I have a reciprocal trustworthy relationship with my students. They are very active and intelligent, and I always try to do my best to put them in condition of growing and being successful. I care about their future, their career, their studies.”
Being Italian and having studied in the United States for many years has given Pavoncello two homes. “I am an Italian citizen, but I profoundly love and understand America. I feel very comfortable when I’m back in the States,” Pavoncello said.
“It’s not always a matter of place or city. It’s a way of interpreting relations with others, of developing a dialogue and bringing forward interactions with other cultures and other people. This is the greatest thing about the tradition of Liberal Arts, and here it assumes a universal value. People from all over the world come here and talk.
That’s John Cabot,” Pavoncello concluded.