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Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School

Dr. Levon T. Esters was named dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education at Penn State in December 2022, beginning his appointment on May 1, 2023.

Dr. Esters is a nationally recognized scholar on mentoring, equity, and diversity in STEM-based agricultural and life sciences disciplines. His research focuses on the mentoring needs of Black graduate students, the STEM career development of students attending Historically Black Land Grant Universities, and educational and professional mobility and development of graduate students. Dr. Esters is also an adjunct professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and a senior research associate at the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Prior to joining Penn State, he served as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and faculty affairs for Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Esters earned a B.S. in Agricultural Business from Florida A&M University, an M.S. in Agricultural Education from North Carolina A&T State University, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education from Penn State.

Michael Verderame Sr. Assoc Dean

Dr. Michael F. Verderame is Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Penn State. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Verderame was a respected educator, mentor and leader at Penn State’s College of Medicine, where his many significant accomplishments during 25 years of service included the first revision of the graduate Core Curriculum in more than 10 years, the reorganization of the doctoral graduate programs, and service on numerous College committees and peer review positions with the National Institutes of Health. Under his leadership, the Graduate Student Association wrote a Graduate Student Oath (analogous to the more widely known Hippocratic Oath taken by medical students) that has become the capstone of incoming students’ orientation, and has been incorporated into Commencement.

Appointed as assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the College of Medicine in 1989 and named Associate Dean in 2004, Dr. Verderame joined an elite group of faculty when he was honored as a College of Medicine Distinguished Educator. A member of the Graduate Faculty at Penn State, Dr. Verderame is a longtime member and previous chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Graduate Research Education and Training Group Steering Committee that impacted biomedical research and graduate education, both locally and nationally. He remains a co-principal investigator for a Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity research grant, and has published more than 65 peer-reviewed articles.

Dr. Verderame received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Columbia University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, before joining the faculty at Penn State’s College of Medicine.

Dr. Michelle Corby is the Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Services at the Graduate School at Penn State. Prior to joining the Graduate School, Dr. Corby served as Assistant Dean for Academic Services in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State.  In this role, Dr. Corby provided leadership, administration, planning and oversight for academic services in IST.  The position led recruiting and student engagement, advising, career services, teaching and learning initiatives, academic operations (undergraduate, graduate, and online), and instructional design and production functions. In addition, she was involved with strategic planning and assessment initiatives for the college.  

Dr. Corby has also worked for Penn State World Campus and Juniata College in a variety of different administrative roles supporting student, program, and organizational success. Dr. Corby has a Ph.D. in Workforce Education and Development, Human Resource Development/Organization Development from Penn State. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and Theatre Studies from Juniata College and a master’s degree in Education from Duquesne University.

Dr. William Clark is the Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Penn State. An alumnus of Penn State, Dr. Clark most recently spent twenty-six years on the faculty at Louisiana State University as professor and chair of the department of political science. While at LSU, Dr. Clark served as director of the master’s degree program in liberal arts for 10 years, as both director of graduate studies and as an undergraduate adviser in the department of political science, and served on the system-wide Executive Graduate Council. 

As Associate Dean, Dr. Clark will primarily focus on graduate program review and assessment for all of the graduate degree programs at the University. Additionally, he will be involved in the coordination of professional development activities for graduate faculty that promote best practices in graduate education. Dr. Clark will also report on the Graduate School’s progress in meeting strategic plan goals and will oversee the development and continuing enhancement of standardized graduate program data resources to support meeting program quality objectives in every graduate degree program.

A native of Philadelphia, Dr. Clark received his bachelor's degree in political science from Penn State, a master's degree in political science from Drew University, and a doctoral degree in political science from the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Stephanie Danette Preston is the Associate Dean for Graduate Educational Equity. Previously, Dr. Preston was the Senior Director of the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs where she spearheaded the Graduate School's efforts to increase diversity within the graduate student community across the University.

Dr. Preston has administered, coordinated and evaluated comprehensive recruitment programs and retention activities which enhance the professional development of underrepresented graduate students. As Senior Director, and in her current role, Dr. Preston leads the Big Ten Academic Alliance Summer Research Opportunities Program and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. She has represented Penn State as a participant in programs such as the National Science Foundation's Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, designed to broaden participation in science technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Additionally, she has coordinated the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Scholars Program. 

Dr. Preston completed her Ph.D. at Penn State in curriculum & instruction in science education. Her graduate research focused on the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities and women in STEM fields. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology and her master’s degree in curriculum & instruction (science education) at Xavier University of Louisiana. Dr. Preston taught high school biology, chemistry, and human anatomy & physiology in New Orleans. 

Photo cred: Lindsay Hayes | ©Hayes.Photography

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