In May, Alana Nicastro joined PLNU as the new director of external program development, an aspiration she had been seeking to acquire for quite some time.

“I’ve always loved this university,” said Nicastro, “and now I’ve found a position here that allows me to work with all of the talents I’ve been given.”

Nicastro received her doctorate in education and leadership studies from the University of San Diego, and her master of arts in communication from San Diego State University. Before joining PLNU, Nicastro was a professor of communication for 18 years at SDSU. In the last eight years, she has been serving as an educational reform consultant for the state at the Institute for Evidence-Based Change, all the while teaching in the classroom simultaneously. As a consultant, she launched, managed, and evaluated the effectiveness of various programs implemented to solve common statewide problems. Nicastro worked at the local level for educational reform, but was soon asked to go national with her work, which she decided was not for her.

“I realized that, while I can appreciate large scale work in that field, I really loved working on a local level, and specifically in one region.”

As the director of external program development, a brand new position to PLNU, Nicastro will be able to use her many experiences and knowledge to create strategic and quality programs that will solve both students’ and the community’s needs in terms of workforce developmental demands.

“Right now, there is a shortage of skilled workers in California, and many researchers have found there to be a significant skills gap in the knowledge of university students who have graduated and are now entering the workforce,” said Nicastro.

This skills gap, depending on the industry, involves professional, developmental needs that can be as simple as knowing the language of the specific field. Nicastro’s job is to find out how the university can close that gap. She will be learning from those industries what exactly their needs are from educated workers, and then implement university programs that will allow students to meet those needs in the future.

“My position essentially embodies PLNU’s brand, Forward. As an institution that serves the community, through these programs, PLNU will help students prepare for their futures, as well as for the community’s future.”

Nicastro is also helping to expand the university’s accessibility.

“The face of education is changing. What once was the face of a young student out of high school is now becoming a working parent who cannot access PLNU as easily.”

Because of this, PLNU will be creating more evening classes, as well as online courses that are more accessible and can reach a wider population of students. Nicastro is also implementing certificate programs that will allow educated workers to stand apart from other possible job candidates in the workforce, as well as workshops on weekends and professional development activities for even further knowledge. The practical knowledge these programs offer will include the categories of ethics; program management; Say It Smart; and Six Sigma, a business management strategy program that will be the first to launch.

She will be heading these programs and developmental strategies from her office in PLNU’s new space at the conference center at Liberty Station, a building that offers the expansion of available meeting rooms, classrooms, conference space, and offices.

Nicastro shared her excitement for the position as she explained, “My heart has always been with Point Loma Nazarene University, and I’m excited to apply all of my strengths to the university’s forward movement. Come visit me at Liberty Station!”

Posted & filed under Academics, Community, Faculty/Staff.

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