Two Wagner professors have a special relationship to the Wagner Plan curriculum: They not only teach it — they also were taught it.
Chris Corbo ’06 M’08, associate professor of biological science, earned his bachelor’s in biology and master’s in microbiology at Wagner. Racquel Campo DeCicco ’07, assistant professor of chemistry, earned her bachelor’s in chemistry at Wagner.
For both professors, Wagner was a place that broadened their perspectives during their undergraduate years, and they were excited to return to the College as faculty members to nurture the next generation.
“We know what it’s like to be a student here, and it helps,” DeCicco says.
Corbo says that, as a college freshman, his ambition was to work in a zoo. That focus started to shift when he met biology professor Zoltan Fulop and became involved in his laboratory research, which looks at life from the molecular level. Corbo started to see that he could do research, that he enjoyed its intellectual challenge and its camaraderie — and that it offered him more opportunities in life.
“The Wagner Plan helps to show the importance of a liberal arts education and all you can get out of it.”
Corbo completed his Ph.D. in molecular neuroscience at the CUNY Graduate Center. Besides biology and microbiology courses, he teaches the First-Year Learning Community “The Love-Hate Relationship Between Humans, Microbes, and Chemicals,” which combines his microbiology class with a chemistry class.
Corbo emphasizes breadth as the advantage of a Wagner Plan education. “Many students come to the sciences because they think they want to go into medical professions. But, science is not just about human health, but also the planet’s health, and this all interacts with each other.
“I’m always telling students not to take so much science, but to spend time getting breadth in their education,” Corbo says. “The Wagner Plan helps to show the importance of a liberal arts education and all you can get out of it.”
DeCicco came to Wagner as a freshman thinking she wanted a pre-health major; but, like Corbo, she started down a different path when she found a role model. Hers was Wendy DeProphetis, who was then an assistant professor of chemistry at Wagner. “She was young and starting out,” DeCicco says. “I wanted to be her, and now I have her job.”
DeProphetis’s lab focused on both chemical synthesis and chemistry education research, and DeCicco found that she enjoyed both. She earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Stony Brook University. “As soon as I saw the position open up at Wagner, I jumped on it,” she says.
Now, she offers chemistry courses, mentors students in her lab, and also team teaches an Intermediate Learning Community, “Cuisine: Chemistry and Culture,” with anthropology professor Celeste Gagnon, showing students an integrated approach to food chemistry and culture.
Watch Professor Corbo talk about Wagner's microbiology degree program.