Farewell to Academic & Student Affairs head Anthony Marchese

Anthony Marchese at a College function in 2019
Anthony Marchese listens in as the Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering hosts an ice cream reception for the Scott Scholars and Scott Fellows. September 13, 2019

Anthony Marchese started notifying close colleagues in August that he was leaving CSU for the University of Rhode Island.

Dan Zimmerle, one of his closest research collaborators, had a one-word response not suitable for print followed by, “And congratulations.”

It’s a sentiment many across the college share about Marchese’s departure. He has been on the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering since 2008, and has served as Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs since 2016. He leaves in December to become the new Dean of Engineering at the University of Rhode Island, which will be closer to family. Marchese grew up in New Jersey.

“As the first in his family to earn a college degree, Anthony especially related to our first-generation students,” said Dean Dave McLean. “Under his leadership, his team in the Engineering Success Center created a culture of support for students studying engineering even though the curriculum is rigorous. He helped create programs that prepare our students to be successful and accomplish great things. He will definitely be missed.”

Marchese bonded with students over shared experience. He spent every fall reassuring first-year students that someone would be there to believe in them. He told them he was almost a college dropout until his mother made him go back to school. And he shed tears when Denver entrepreneur Marco Campos increased his CSU scholarships fivefold during the pandemic to assist the college’s lower income, first-generation students.

“Anthony is the ultimate Swiss army knife – in the very best sense of the word,” said Bryan Willson, executive director of the CSU Energy Institute. “He came to CSU in 2008 when there was no Powerhouse – just the crowded, noisy Engines & Energy Conversion Lab. He was soon leading large projects on big industrial engines, third world cookstoves, and algae biofuels, and developed a cult-following among the students for his technical expertise and his concern for their careers and well-being. We will miss Anthony greatly, but he absolutely deserves to be leading an organization and I’m really excited for Anthony in his new role – and for Liz and the family as they move back closer to their East Coast roots.”

Engineering Source talked with Marchese before his last day at CSU in December:

You grew up on the East Coast, right? Tell us some things that excite you about the job AND returning to the East Coast. You love seafood?

My wife Liz and I grew up in New Jersey, so this will be a homecoming of sorts for us. At the same time, we don’t know that much about Rhode Island, so it will also be a new adventure. I love both the mountains in Colorado and the ocean on the east coast.  Liz prefers the ocean over the mountains, so she is excited about that part. We are both looking forward to good pizza, good bagels, good seafood, etc. The new job at The University of Rhode Island is an exciting opportunity. URI is a land-grant university with a similar mission and student body to CSU, which was a key factor in my accepting the position. In addition to its strong programs in engineering, the university has a world class Graduate School of Oceanography, which is an area that I am looking forward to learning more about.

What drew you to CSU in the first place, and why’d you stay 14 years?

I spent the first 12 years of my career in academia focusing on undergraduate engineering education at a startup engineering program. That chapter of my career was very rewarding, but I was becoming increasingly worried about the civilization scale challenge of climate change. So, I began exploring faculty positions at universities with the resources and reputation to enable me to build a research program that could contribute to solutions and make a global impact. I was very fortunate to get an interview with CSU and, when I visited the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory I knew that this was the place for me, so much so that I gave up tenure at my previous institution and dragged my family 2,000 miles across the country. I did not expect to land my dream job and I am very much indebted to Bryan Willson and Allan Kirkpatrick for taking a chance on me! I have stayed at CSU for 14 years because I have had the opportunity to work on problems that were both fun and impactful, including developing fuels from algae, developing clean cookstoves, measuring the impact of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and many others. And, during the past 6 years, as Associate Dean, I have had the opportunity to focus on the success of our undergraduate students.

Highlight for us some of your favorite moments – what sticks out in your time here?

There are too many favorite moments to count. As I tell my own kids, as well as parents and prospective students, I have the best job in the world. I will always treasure those early years mentoring graduate students, all of whom have gone on to establish their own careers in academia, national labs and industry. In addition, I have traveled all across the U.S. measuring methane emissions, I have visited the world’s largest algae biorefinery in India, I have traveled to White Sands, NM to launch rockets with students and I have presented the results of our research at places as far and wide as the Dead Sea in Israel, Colombia, China, Poland, Brazil, Italy, Denmark to name just a few. That said, the best part of the job is mentoring students and collaborating with my good friends and colleagues on solving important problems.

What have you learned here that you can use in Rhode Island?

The thing that resonates most with me about CSU is the passion for student success and the commitment to providing access to higher education to all students who have the will and desire to succeed. The University of Rhode Island shares that common mission and heritage, so I have no doubt that I will be able to leverage what I have learned here at CSU to help URI fulfill its mission. For the past 14 years, I have learned so much from my CSU colleagues and friends regarding performing research, creating a community, promoting diversity, encouraging student success, outreach, fundraising, scholarships, communications, and so on.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment while at CSU? In terms of research? In terms of your service as associate dean?

Anthony Marchese speaks to a group of students and staff in the Engineering Success Center
Anthony Marchese gives his annual Holiday Speech to students and staff in the Engineering Success Center, Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

As a researcher in academia, we perform research, write papers, hope that our papers are cited by our peers and, if we are lucky, our work might eventually make a measurable impact on society. It is often a slow process and difficult to assess the true impact of our work. The methane emissions work that my colleagues and I have done at CSU, however, has made immediate impact on the EPA greenhouse gas inventory and has informed public policy. As associate dean, my proudest accomplishment has been building a dedicated and highly capable team whose mission is to make student success accessible. Our success, which is only possible by collaborating closely with all engineering staff and faculty, is measured by every student – many of whom are the first in their family to go to college – who walks across the stage each year at graduation.

What do you see in the future of our college?

The future is bright for the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering.  Given the challenges that we face – technological, societal, political – public, land-grant universities are uniquely positioned to train the workforce of tomorrow, develop technological solutions and serve as an honest broker between government, industry and citizens to implement solutions and policy that benefit society. I look forward to seeing what our students, faculty and staff accomplish in the next decade, and I am looking forward to fostering collaboration between CSU and URI.

What will you miss most about CSU, Fort Collins, Colorado, etc.?

Above all, my family and I will miss our good friends and colleagues.   I will also miss the sunny weather, low humidity and powder on the ski slopes.

Who’s going to miss you the most? Will Dan Zimmerle be inconsolable over the next few months?

Dan will be fine without me, that is for sure. The only thing that I have been doing for Dan the past few years is signing off on graduate school forms for his grad students. I don’t know who is going to miss me most, but one thing that I am certain of is that we are going to have a fantastic new Associate Dean who is going to take the Engineering Success Center to new heights.