As voyagers prepare to reach their first port of the Fall 2023 Voyage, we sat down with Executive Dean, Dr. Rameen Talesh to discuss his role and his hopes for the voyage ahead.
To start, could you tell us a little bit about your role? What exactly does the Executive Dean do and what are they responsible for?
As Executive Dean, I’m responsible for making sure that [all communities] on the ship are progressing forward with the educational mission of the journey. I oversee the academic component, the programming component, health and safety, and work with our captain and crew. So it’s a combination of a lot of things, and really just looking to create a healthy and safe environment on the ship.
And with all those things in mind, what’s the best part about your job?
I enjoy the people. We have amazing students who are willing to learn and grow, ask questions, and see the world. The amazing faculty, staff, companions and kids, lifelong learners– we form a community on the ship. And we get to spend time really talking to people, digging further, and understanding different people. I love that exchange and the chance to go a little deeper.
What makes the Semester at Sea experience so magical and impactful? What’s the magic sauce?
I think [Semester at Sea] is the best example of a living-learning community out there. You have classes, you have programming, you have students, faculty, staff, and everyone living together on a ship. So you’re seeing people in the mealtimes, you’re hanging out with them playing basketball, you’re talking to them, but then you’re also in the classroom really discussing serious issues and learning about interesting topics.
I know you’ve sailed with Semester at Sea before, what advice do you have for voyagers, as we start the beginning of our journey together?
Wow. So much. Be patient, know yourself, and continue to learn and grow and stretch yourself to really look for those opportunities to step outside your comfort zone, to empathize with new people on the ship, and when we go to the ports, to really learn to appreciate and take in those moments. I think that’s when a lot of learning takes place, [in times] when you’re really challenged to listen or challenged to understand someone who is different [from you].
Embrace the opportunities, embrace the learning, and go at your own pace.
What are your hopes and wishes for our voyagers and for future voyagers?
Hopefully, students have that sense of, “I’m a part of something bigger.” We get really narrow sometimes as people, so really engaging with the great diversity, the cultural opportunities, to learn from different people’s spiritual backgrounds, and learn history.
In the end, I think what I’m hoping for is that they see themselves as lifelong learners and that they want to help make this world a better place. Ultimately, I love what I do in education, because I feel like I play a small role in helping students, and I think students can play a large role (or a small role) in helping make our community become a better community, helping solve problems in the world, helping to deal with [global] challenges, and helping to bring kindness and more love to the world.
Hopefully [through this journey, students] feel like, “Yeah, I know what’s right and wrong. I know that can make this world a better place, and I’m going to live that. It’s going to be a part of who I am.”
Okay, now it’s time for our lightning round– what’s one item that’s left on your bucket list?
Eventually, I would love to go to Iran. Because that’s my family’s home. I went as a child and I have not traveled back since, but I still have family there.
What’s one of your favorite hobbies? In your free time, what do you like to do for fun?
I like to play basketball when I can. I also like music. I will write raps or songs sometimes and have fun with it. Oh, and karaoke. I brought my microphone.
If you could host a podcast, for fun, what would it be about?
I’d probably do a Dallas Cowboys podcast, maybe music podcasts, and like old-school music, talking about old-school music songs.
What’s something that you’re deeply grateful for right now?
I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be given to be in this role. To see the world in this way, and the opportunity to work with all these great people.
Dr. Rameen Talesh has been working in higher education for nearly 34 years and comes to Semester at Sea from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) where he serves as the Dean of Students and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Leadership. He is also a Semester at Sea alumni, sailing in 2014 as the Dean of Student Life.