Last spring saw the retirement of our beloved Dr. Richard Sinclair, who served as dean for 22 years. After careful deliberation, a new dean has been selected to usher in a new TAMS era: Dr. Glênisson de Oliveira.
All TAMS students are united by the situation of leaving home two years early, an experience that de Oliveira, in fact, shares. “I had a path [overlapped] with what TAMS students experience,” he says. Growing up in Brazil, he graduated high school early, at age 16. “I ended up coming to this country without knowing how to speak the language, so I can relate a lot with the feeling of leaving home while having a great deal of excitement for new academic opportunities.”
After coming to the United States, de Oliveira scaled the ladder of academia, eventually becoming not only a professor at Rhode Island College, but also the director of the Rhode Island STEM Center. A theoretical physical chemist by trade, he largely centered his work around methods development in quantum mechanics, focusing on weak interactions between molecules.
In addition to pure scientific research, de Oliveira spent a great deal of time working to improve Rhode Island science education. “I got grants to bring [high school students] into my lab, to take them to conferences in the summer, and there was a lot of excitement in that,” he says. He also successfully helped teachers develop more effective, hands-on methods to excite their students about science. In fact, his program actively engaged 75% of high schools in the state.
After working with many highly intelligent students, de Oliveira has noticed that many parents lack opportunities for children who demonstrate talent, a situation he finds alarming.“Talent is not sufficient for people to do really well. It’s very important for them to have opportunities to develop that talent and to flourish,” he asserts. “You may have someone who is super talented, maybe at the 99.9th percentile of the rest of the population, and then maybe you have someone who is really talented as well, but not as much, maybe at the 96th percentile. The main distinction between these people is opportunity.”
He continues, “In TAMS I saw a place that was doing very well in creating opportunities for very talented students, and I found that quite exciting.”
Now that he has officially moved to Texas, de Oliveira, his wife, and his three sons are quite excited to see what this state has to offer. “We like to explore nature, and we would like to see the natural scenic places,” he says. Although he has only been here for a short time, he has noticed a bit of a difference between the Rhode Island and Texas cultures. “The nature of the interactions are very different. People in Rhode Island, the whole state, they have some sort of connection with just about everyone else; you know someone who knows someone because it’s so small. But Texas is a whole lot more friendly. People have a greater focus on customer service when you go to a store, and it’s just a warmer culture to some extent.” At the prospect of facing the infamous Texas summers he laughs, “I’m afraid I’ll melt.”
Despite only recently coming to TAMS, he is already quite impressed with the students here.
“I’ve just found the community to be very friendly, very energetic. The student population has a very pleasant demeanor about it,” he smiles.
TAMS has a great record of successful students, and de Oliveira asserts that he “never want[s] to lose that.” However, he places importance on TAMS giving the absolute best possible preparation for the academic and professional landscapes that the academy’s students will embark upon. “[It’s about more than] what you can show on paper with your academics,” he states. “It’s about the whole person. I certainly want to make sure that TAMS will stay with the times and that we make sure that we think of new ways to strengthen the community and the ability of students to collaborate and to develop the so-called ‘soft skills.’”
“[When] something is very, very good, you never want to change drastically or quickly. When I talk about adjustments and changes for the future, I am really working with the TAMS staff very closely to look at possibilities and then carefully consider the implications,” he assures.
Overall, de Oliveira is excited at the years ahead, in which he will be both a UNT chemistry professor as well as TAMS dean. “I am really looking forward to meeting [everyone].” he smiles. “I wish I could spend all day with the students, and I will certainly hope that the students feel free to approach me.”