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Notre Dame College Senior Administrator Teaches, Mentors Notre Dame-Cathedral La
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Notre Dame College Administrator Teaches, Mentors Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School Students

Post Secondary Educational Opportunity Programs (PSEOP) continue to gain in popularity for many good reasons. They challenge the student, they hone the competitive edge of the school and the student, and they can substantially cut the cost of college for students bright enough to meet their requirements.

But how many high school students have the opportunity to study with a college professor and senior administrator who is both a recognized expert in the field of developmental psychology and the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Notre Dame College?

A group of 30 Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School seniors this semester is reaping the benefits of being taught by Nicholas Santilli, Ph.D., the name behind those credentials. And according to Dr. Santilli, he is both the teacher and the student.

“For more than 25 years, I have taught, studied and kept current with state-of-the-art research and trends in the field of psychology with a particular interest in youth and adolescents. But because research and trends tend to report on statistical averages, every time you meet a new student you are in for another new learning experience. That’s what makes life and teaching exciting and fresh. Every day is a new learning experience no matter which side of the desk you are on,” said Santilli.

A working collaboration between the college in South Euclid and the high school in Chardon, both of which are founded on the traditions and mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame, the collaborative approach to integrating “real life” college into the high school curriculum was an idea conceived by NDCL President Sr. Jacquelyn Gusdane, SND, NDCL Assistant Principal Sr. Joanne Keppler, SND,  Roger Abood, former NDC High School Coordinator, Sr. Carol Ziegler, SND, NDC Mission Effectiveness Coordinator and Santilli. Recognizing that the distance between Chardon and South Euclid would pose transportation and scheduling challenges to the students, Santilli felt it best for him to trek to NDCL to work with the students, as he does twice weekly.

Seeing the value to the high school student of exposure to college curricula and faculty, the joining of forces is a natural for preparing the students for college. And the fact that the students can earn college credits while in high school can amount to a huge cost savings.

Taking on the challenge of teaching high school along with his full-time duties at Notre Dame College never caused Santilli to have second thoughts. “It’s the right thing to do as a professional educator. Enhancing the classroom experience for the younger students cannot help but make them better prepared for college in the few months from now when they graduate from NDCL. And for me to get back in the classroom with these students, to support the high school that is run by the same congregation that founded Notre Dame College, is a privilege to me, no question about it.”

The course Santilli teaches in not a watered-down college course; it is the exact content, taught in the same format and with the same expectations as NDC’s General Psychology course. And yet he finds the students are bright, attentive, interested in psychology and focused on college. “The NDCL students are well-prepared; they are polite and respectful and very intelligent and motivated, a joy to teach,” added Santilli.

A published authority, Santilli is the author and co-author of numerous publications and presentations in his specialty area, adolescent social and personality development. In 2003-2004, he completed an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellowship, the signature higher education leadership program offered by ACE. His research interests include the development of civic engagement and volunteerism among high school and college students, moral and spiritual development, Ignatian pedagogy and emerging adulthood and identity formation.

Through Santilli’s 25 years teaching in higher education, he has held academic positions at John Carroll University, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Augustana College in Illinois and Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and M.Ed. in Educational Psychology from The University of Toledo as well as a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from The Catholic University of America.