Provost Maria Pallavicini leaves lasting impact on academic programs

Maria Pallavicini with Keith Hatschek

Provost Maria Pallavicini with Professor Emeritus Keith Hatschek at an Emeriti Society luncheon (April 11, 2023)

Maria Pallavicini, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, leaves a legacy of educational excellence as she retires May 13 after 12 years.

A university-wide reception honoring her many contributions will be held April 25 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Don and Karen DeRosa University Center.

A visionary leader, Pallavicini has created forward-thinking academic programs and built new facilities that have reshaped the future of teaching and learning.

“Her grace as a leader is tremendous,” said Berit Gunderson, interim dean for the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and former vice provost for Faculty Affairs, who has worked with Pallavicini for more than a decade. “She makes data-informed decisions and from the very beginning she saw the big picture.”

Early in her tenure, Pallavicini strengthened Pacific’s footprint in San Francisco through the design of a new multi-story building on Fifth Street in California’s South of Market (SoMa) district. This campus building has enabled the expansion of innovative pedagogy in the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and new growth across university academic programs.

“Maria has served Pacific tirelessly, with passion, conviction and the highest values.” - President Christopher Callahan.

The School of Health Sciences, launched in 2020, is one of Pallavicini’s most impactful achievements. She was a driving force behind its creation.

“That fulfilled a vision to bring on board programs to meet the needs of the community and help grow enrollment,” Pallavicini said. “I love being able to help create new things and meet needs—whether they're programs, structures, or opportunities—that align with the mission of the university and where we need to be going.”

Pallavicini also was an integral part of transforming the library into a modern center focused on 21st-century learning and teaching. Extensive renovations to the William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center were completed in 2021 when the space was transformed to include a digital makerspace, collaboration areas, meditation and prayer space, and the Student Academic Success Hub, which integrates student services such as tutoring, the Writing Center and study skills courses.

“Maria has served Pacific tirelessly, with passion, conviction and the highest values,” President Christopher Callahan said. “Her service to the university will continue to be felt for decades by future Pacificans who will benefit from the innovative programs and services she helped establish.”

While serving as interim president during the 2019-20 academic year, Pallavicini guided the university through the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the quick transition to remote teaching and learning; forming the university’s COVID Council of researchers, scientists and health experts; and working with county and state agencies to secure an early supply of vaccinations, enabling Pacific to be one of the first university COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Pallavicini has also served as a mentor to colleagues in education and co-workers at Pacific.

“Maria was an extremely generous mentor to me, prompting me to see beyond my blind spots, to grow through challenge, to be discerning in all things, and to devote myself wholly to the task at hand. I learned more from her than I can express in words,” said Courtney Lehmann, professor of English and director of the Powell Scholars Program.

Her years as provost are the capstone to a 43-year career in higher education that has included time as a dean, professor and scientist.

Prior to Pacific, Pallavicini was founding dean and professor in the School of Natural Sciences at University of California, Merced. Pallavicini also was a faculty member at UC San Francisco where she taught undergraduate courses on stem cell biology and graduate courses in cancer biology and genetics.

Her career began as a biomedical scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1978. Pallavicini has authored or co-authored more than 80 peer-reviewed articles focusing on her research area of stem cells in cancer.

In retirement, Pallavicini plans to spend time with her three daughters, six grandchildren and partner Ron as well as hiking and gardening.