Dr. Charles DeSassure's first day as of dean of the STEM division was Jan. 11.
Dr. Charles DeSassure’s background is in computer science and information technology. However, history drew him to Thomas Nelson.
“As you know, for any position, you always do research. After doing research, I was very interested in the rich history of Thomas Nelson and the community,” said DeSassure, whose first day as the new dean of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) division was Jan. 11. “I also looked at the different industries and the military. It appeared to be very attractive.”
DeSassure (pronounced Dess-a-sar) had been at Tarrant County College in Arlington, Texas, since 2001. While there, he spent time as a professor, program coordinator, and chair in the computer science department. But that wasn’t his first experience with the community college atmosphere.
He grew up in South Carolina and earned an associate degree in computer technology from Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College before getting his undergraduate degree in business administration from Claflin University (Orangeburg, S.C.). He also has a master’s in information technology management from Webster University (Missouri) and a doctorate in computer science from Colorado Technical University.
Beth Dickens, the STEM division’s associate dean, was involved in the hiring process. She met DeSassure for the first time in person, all the interviews were virtual, his first day on the Hampton campus.
“Just meeting him in person definitely confirmed what we saw virtually; that he’s genuine, that he’s excited about leading our division, taking it to the next level,” she said.
DeSassure said he will spend a lot of time, especially at the start of his tenure, learning, and listening. However, there are specific things he wants to accomplish.
“My goal, really, is to establish a presence for the STEM program,” he said. “And when I say presence, I mean a presence in the state of Virginia. I’m not just talking about a presence in the community. So when you say Thomas Nelson, you will know, ‘Oh wow. They have an outstanding STEM program.’”
DeSassure’s background points to that being more than simply talk. He began his career in education in 1984 as a middle school teacher before a two-year stint at Mansfield Business College (Columbia, S.C.) beginning in 1988. He worked in IT in “corporate America” for about 10 years before returning to higher education.
“It was a great company, but another opportunity presented itself,” he said of joining Tarrant County College.
The college had a new campus in Arlington and wanted DeSassure to help build its computer science program. He calls achieving that goal his proudest at that institution. He also was a founding faculty in the cyber security program and wrote a curriculum program for the help desk. He had been an adjunct at Tarrant, which is how they became aware of him.
“They called me for a job interview, and the rest is history,” he said.
He recalls how far that program came in his 20 years at Tarrant.
“We started from nothing,” he said. “We went into the community and we came up with strategic ideas and tried things. Some things worked and some things didn’t. But the point is, we had the energy to continue to move forward.”
That fits well with the mission of Thomas Nelson.
“He has a lot of experience in community partnerships. That’s something that was missing,” Dickens said. “He is going to, once we get out of this pandemic, get out into the community. He’s looking forward to that.”
The history of the College and the area weren’t the only things DeSassure, who has been married 25 years and a daughter in the 11th grade, noticed while doing his homework about Thomas Nelson.
“I also did research to find out there’s some outstanding faculty and staff that work there,” he said. “I’m sure working together in a collaborative team effort approach, there are wonderful things we can do.”
The STEM division had been without a dean since February 2020. Dickens, who was named the associate dean last August last year, looks forward to working with DeSassure.
“He believes that faculty, staff, we all should work together to accomplish the goals and the mission of our college, which is to help our students succeed,” Dickens said. “I’m just excited about working with him.”