Debbie Stasolla: A constant in a school filled with change

When Debbie Stasolla returned for her second stint as a Rider University employee in 1997, she was only brought back to the school as a temporary worker; however, her tenure at the school has been anything but.

Since making her way back, Stasolla has climbed the university employment ladder, now acting as Rider’s vice president for strategic initiatives and planning, as well as a member of the president’s cabinet, serving as a flexible piece for a constantly changing school under multiple university leaders. 

Stasolla served on a committee whose responsibility was to enact change in the school’s Greek life in the aftermath of the 2007 fraternity hazing death of Gary DeVercelly Jr. and remains the point of contact between the university and the DeVercelly family to this day. She was one of the leaders of Rider’s COVID-19 Implementation Team, helping enforce and communicate guidelines during a global pandemic. Recently, Stasolla took on the challenge of bringing stability to Rider’s Title IX Office, a division that has experienced an abundance of turnover in recent years. In February, Stasolla served as the interim director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity Compliance and as of March 1 assumed the role of Title IX and Equal Opportunity coordinator.

“I’m more of a generalist, which means that my skill set can apply to different things, and I think that’s why I’ve been called on for these different things,” said Stasolla, previously saying that she enjoys having a variety of different responsibilities. “It’s also an attitude; you can’t have an ego, and I don’t have an ego. I roll up my sleeves and get the job done.” 

Through all the unique situations she has faced, Stasolla described her work with COVID-19 as “one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever had to do.”

Stasolla said she was originally brought in to help with COVID-19 testing, something she knew little about. However, it was not long before she was leading the implementation team alongside Kelly Bidle, the dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“We both are very familiar with each other, we know each other’s styles, how we work,” said Bidle, who has known Stasolla for more than 20 years. “Luckily, Debbie and I have very compatible styles in how we do work.”

Bidle and Stasolla led a group together which navigated the hardships of the pandemic as a unit, constantly sending emails to the community, ensuring that university policies were representative of the ever-changing ones the government was implementing and  “being that glue” that kept the university informed during a time of widespread worry. 

“It’s that being willing to do, that give and take at any moment while still not doing it all yourself, because then that’s a turnoff for your colleagues,” Stasolla said. “Keeping them in the fold, but being willing to pitch in when needed and bringing that kind of flexibility to the fold, I think makes the difference.” 

Stasolla first arrived at Rider in 1988 when she was informed a proposal-writing position opened up in the Development Division, since renamed the Office of University Advancement. She decided to accept the position while also earning her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Rider. 

Stasolla (right) and honorary degree recipient Jazmine Fenlator- Victorian ’07 (left) in 2019.
Stasolla (right) and honorary degree recipient Jazmine Fenlator- Victorian ’07 (left) in 2019 (Courtesy of Debbie Stasolla).

While working in the Development Division, Stasolla said she had a supervisor who saw potential in her beyond writing proposals and started handing her responsibilities within records and research, gift processing and the school’s life insurance program. 

She departed in 1992 after more than three-and-a-half years to open up a home inspection business with her husband in Virginia. Eventually the couple decided their new life was not a fit for them and decided to return to New Jersey. 

After her departure, Stasolla said she stayed in touch with many colleagues. Upon their return, Stasolla immediately reached out to her old employers. 

“It was tough to leave Rider when we did, but I made the choice to support my husband’s desire to own and operate his own business. When we decided that business and Northern Virginia were not for us … the first thing I did was check to see what was open and hope to get my foot back in the door,” Stasolla said. 

The reason she’s enjoyed her time at Rider is the unique and diverse responsibilities she’s been assigned. Being a “generalist” is the ideal role for someone that enjoys new challenges and being on the forefront of critical situations. 

“It keeps life interesting, but at the same time, you’re like ‘Oh my God, I’ve got all this stuff I got to learn, this is crazy,’” said Stasolla. “But I would not have been able to stay at Rider for as long as I had if these opportunities had not come up because I can’t sit still doing the same thing year after year.”

Stasolla said she “lucked out” getting the assistant to the president position under Bart Luedeke in 1999. She’s worked for three presidents in her second stint as a Rider employee and four as a whole. Combining both of her stints, 2023 will be her 30th year at Rider. 

“She absolutely bleeds Cranberry, she loves this place,” said Bidle. “You will be hard pressed to find anyone more dedicated to Rider than Debbie.” 

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