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Paola Sztajn

Meet the Interim Dean

Paola Sztajn serves as the College of Education's interim dean.

Paola Sztajn began serving as interim dean of NC State’s College of Education Oct. 5, 2021. She is a professor of mathematics education who previously served the college as associate dean for research and innovation and as head of the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences.

She has also worked at NC State as a special assistant fo faculty research and development with the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and the Office of Research and Innovation and as NC State’s interim associate vice provost for academic personnel and policy.

Sztajn is originally from Brazil. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s in physics. While working with the Suruí people in the Amazon jungle as part of an ethnomathematics research project, she became passionate about early mathematics and eventually came to focus her work and research on teachers of elementary mathematics. “Teachers are the biggest school-based factor impacting student learning,” she says. “And so, because I wanted more kids to learn math, I started working with teachers.”

After earning a Ph.D. in mathematics education at Indiana University, Sztajn returned to work in academia in Rio, Brazil, before joining the faculty at the University of Georgia and then becoming a program officer with the National Science Foundation. She joined the faculty at NC State’s College of Education in 2008 and helped establish its STEM-focused elementary education program — the first and only one of its kind in North Carolina and one of the few in the nation.

Getting to Know Our Interim Dean:
In Her Own Words

  • On her name: My first name is PA-oh-LA, three syllables. My last name kind of sounds like “Shtein.” It’s a Polish name. So that’s why there are so many consonants and very few vowels in the name. 
  • On why she accepted the appointment to be interim dean: I am always inspired by the college’s land-grant philosophy to apply knowledge to better society, its mission to be a voice of innovation with attention to social justice and diversity, and its amazing faculty, students and staff with whom I get to work. 
  • On her leadership style: I strongly believe that we are smarter as a group, and so I hope to create spaces for consultation where we can hear different voices. At the same time, I believe leaders have to make decisions. So I hope people will say that I made informed decisions in a collaborative problem-solving fashion, and I made important decisions when they needed to be made. 
  • On the most important educational issue facing North Carolina: Equity — making sure that all students have opportunities to achieve at their highest level. This is the issue of the moment, as it has always been. But I think we now know better what we can do to help all students learn, and we have the opportunity to do better.
  • On why she chose education: I’m super passionate about education and I think the field in which we work is not an easy one. I am married to a high school teacher, so I’m very aware of the everyday work in K-12 education. And I, myself, I’m in higher education. So I know education has a lot of challenges, but I couldn’t think of a more rewarding field for one to work and to impact society.

The Leadership Team

The college’s leadership team is composed of the deans’ cabinet, department heads and faculty, staff and student representatives who represent the entire college. They meet monthly to address key college-wide issues and matters and to provide feedback to the dean.

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