Veteran Pacific leader named new pharmacy school dean

Berit Gundersen speaks with two students

Berit P. Gundersen, a well-respected professor, mentor and executive leader at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific, was named dean of her alma mater, the university announced today.

The 1984 graduate of the pharmacy school has served the university for the past 36 years as a faculty member, program director, university vice provost and for the past year interim dean of the Long School.

“Berit has done a tremendous job leading the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy over the past year, and I am thrilled she will continue to serve as dean,” President Christopher Callahan said. “She has a deep understanding of our school and its students. I am confident she will continue to elevate the exceptional education our students receive to ensure Pacific is graduating the best-prepared pharmacists who go on to become leaders in their field.”

Under Gundersen’s leadership, the school recently announced an immersive, three-week pharmacy licensure preparation program. Rx for Success is the first program of its kind, aiming to better prepare students for the state and national exams required to practice as pharmacists in California.

“It is an honor and privilege to work with our outstanding students, faculty and staff,” Gundersen said. “Pacific has been my home for more than three decades and I am committed to building and expanding programs that support student success and cultivate leaders who are dedicated to patient care.”

Gundersen earned her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific in 1984. She joined Pacific as an assistant clinical professor in 1986 and earned full professorship in 2005. During her tenure as faculty, she was instrumental in spearheading initiatives that developed a program for pharmacy students to become immunizers—one of the first in the nation. Additionally, her efforts helped launch a smoking cessation program further demonstrating the school’s commitment to patient care.

Prior to serving as interim dean, Gundersen held various roles in the provost’s office from 2007 to 2018, including assistant provost and vice provost. During this time, she played a key role in the founding of the School of Health Sciences and worked closely with faculty to successfully launch four new academic programs in 2020, including social work, clinical nutrition, occupational therapy and nursing. Gundersen later served as its interim associate dean.

Her work in the provost’s office also improved the climate for new and non-tenure track faculty and increased diversity and inclusion among faculty.

The Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy was founded in 1955 and is home to an undergraduate pre-pharmacy advantage program, an accelerated three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program and a graduate pharmaceutical and chemical sciences program, as well as several pharmacy fellowship programs.

Gundersen is the newest member of Pacific’s leadership team assembled by Callahan since he started as president in 2020 after 15 years as dean and vice provost at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Earlier this year, Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert, acting vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Scripps College, was named the new provost and executive vice president. She joins Pacific on June 21. Lee Skinner, dean of Newcomb-Tulane College at Tulane University and former associate dean at Claremont McKenna College, joined Pacific in January as dean of the College of the Pacific, the university’s liberal arts and sciences school and its largest college.

Last year, James Walsh, executive director and university controller at Tufts University, joined Pacific as chief financial officer. Niraj Chaudhary was promoted to dean of the William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center. Suong Ives, chief human resources officer for Providence St. Joseph Health System and former HR chief at Clarkson University, was appointed Pacific’s first chief people officer

In 2021, UCLA Dean for Students Maria Q. Blandizzi was named vice president for student life. Liz Orwin, head of engineering at Harvey Mudd College, another one of the five Claremont Colleges, was appointed dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Mary Lomax-Ghirarduzzi, vice provost for diversity at the University of San Francisco, was appointed Pacific’s inaugural vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. Scott Biedermann was promoted to vice president for development and alumni relations. Christopher Ferguson, an enrollment strategist from Occidental College, was the first of the new president’s leadership hires when he was named Pacific’s vice president for enrollment strategy.

Pacific is California’s first and oldest university, founded in 1851. The university, with campuses in Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco, is ranked as the No. 19 college in the West by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education and is in the Top 100 nationally.