Staff Spotlight: Mary Conran, Chief Academic Officer


As academic offerings continue to broaden and grow, Temple University Rome has created the position of Chief Academic Officer (CAO), to be filled on a rotating 2-year basis by a full-time Temple University faculty member.  The inaugural CAO, Prof. Mary Conran from the Fox School of Business, began her tenure in Rome in September 2018. Prof. Conran is a long standing member of the wider Temple community, and serves as an invaluable bridge between academic departments and programs in Pennsylvania and Rome.

As CAO, Prof. Conran is the point-person for student academic issues, collaborating closely with the Associate Director for Student Life. In addition, the CAO monitors academic programs to assure these meet or exceed the University’s standards for program quality, teaching excellence, student expectations and needs, core requirements, and accreditation standards. Alongside the Dean, the CAO also functions as the primary academic liaison with Temple University’s main campus faculty and departments during development of new course offerings and academic programs in Rome.

Q & A with Prof. Mary Conran

What do you enjoy most about working at Temple University Rome?

It is a pleasure working with the Temple Rome faculty and staff. This is a community of people dedicated to our students and programs, and I am quite impressed by how much gets done with tight resources. Temple Rome faculty are passionate about their courses and student outcomes, while staff work hard to assure everything runs smoothly and seamlessly.  There is a clear sense of Temple’s mission here in Rome, and I find it very comforting and familiar. It has been great to see how the professors connect our students to Rome, Italy, and Europe both in and out of the classroom. The entire Temple Rome team really works to transform our students during their time with us.

Why should prospective study abroad students choose Temple Rome?

I believe Temple Rome provides a great opportunity for our students, regardless of their discipline, to test (and develop) skills and competencies for today’s dynamic work environments. Temple’s mission of access and excellence (in education, research, and service to the community) is very pronounced here at Temple Rome, such that students feel challenged, but also welcomed. Every class seeks to take advantage of Rome as part of the learning and I think this offers students tremendous practical perspective on their courses and studies.

With proper planning, almost every Temple student can spend a semester in Rome. We work with the Academic Advisors and Program Directors to make sure we are offering courses that will keep students on track but also give them a chance to experience a new part of the world and develop cultural competencies.  

Prof. Mary Conran assists a young visitor during a live demonstration in the new papermaking studio.


Will you comment on Dean Link’s upcoming departure?

I was excited, and a little sad, at Dean Link‘s announcement that she’d been appointed President of Allegheny College. I was excited because I respect Dean Link and want to see her career continue to develop, but also sad that she will be leaving Temple Rome. Over the last six years she has done an incredible job transforming Temple Rome from a study abroad program to a vibrant academy with stronger connections not only throughout Rome and Italy, but also, very critically, throughout Temple University.  

Under Dean Link’s leadership and vision, Temple Rome has expanded curricular offerings which now permit virtually any Temple undergraduate to plan a semester here in Rome.  Having honored the foundational programs in Fine Arts and Liberal Arts by building and upgrading studios and learning centers, Temple Rome has also expanded curricular offerings for students studying in Engineering, CST, Klein, Fox, STHM, CPH, COE, and a wide assortment of CLA majors. Connections were built with academic units and programs across Temple University to assure alignment of the Rome curriculum with the academic plans for each program.  Also under Dean Link’s leadership, the Internship Program, so critical in developing our students’s cultural competence and preparing them for their professional careers, has expanded to offer credit-bearing internship opportunities to a wider variety of majors.

Curriculum and program changes also required Dean Link to reconsider the organizational design and support of the Temple Rome campus. In six years she has expanded student support services (both academic and wellness) and co-curricular experiences which allow students to better acculturate during their time in Rome.  Even my current position, Chief Academic Officer, is the result of Dean Link’s initiative in building stronger connections with both main campus and our partner institutions on academic issues. In creating the CAO position, she has sought to assure both the consistency and continuity of our academic programs and initiatives.  

Dean Link is leaving Temple University Rome having given the campus a stronger strategic direction and organizational infrastructure.

What inspired you to leave your life in Philadelphia (at least for a little while) in order to live and work in Rome?

I like a challenge, and I know there are many opportunities for Temple Rome to help Temple University increase its global profile. I came here intending to help achieve this objective. Along the way, I hope to continue highlighting the research and impact of our Rome faculty, and to demonstrate the versatility of Temple’s global campus in Europe.  

We are looking to expand our curricular and co-curricular activities here at Temple Rome, and going forward we hope to draw more diverse students, faculty, and programs to take advantage of our campus and programs. We are currently hosting a variety of new short term study abroad programs which introduce new student populations to Temple Rome, and we have successfully launched Dean Link’s Visiting Scholar Program. This program not only invites Temple main campus faculty to visit and experience Temple Rome for a week or two, but also enables us to send Temple Rome faculty and staff to Philadelphia to better understand their academic and work units and nurture collaborations between campuses.