Dr. James Peliska Promoted to Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Mary

Dr. Peliska working in a lab class with students.

James Peliska Headshot
Dr. James Peliska

BISMARCK, ND — Following a nationwide search, the University of Mary has appointed Dr. James Peliska as the third dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. Peliska brings more than 30 years of teaching, leadership, and science research experience to the position, including the past seven at the University of Mary as administrative chair of math and science programs and as associate dean, chair of the pre-medicine program, and professor of biochemistry, chemistry, and biology. 

“Not only does the faculty in our School of Arts and Sciences foster large and growing academic programs in fields of study that touch upon the central questions of human life, these impressive scholars also offer formative education to every student in our professional schools even while grounding the entire University more deeply in our Christian, Catholic, and Benedictine mission” noted Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary. “I have every confidence that James Peliska will bring out the very best in both his faculty and in the students who will now be under his watchful care. A man of strong Christian faith, steadiness of temperament, and prayerful discernment, Dr. Peliska’s willingness to assume this office of service is a gift of providential grace.” 

“I was initially drawn to the University of Mary by the meaningful and transformational impact this community has on the educational, professional, and spiritual development of its students, faculty, and staff. Over the past seven years, my commitment to the University's mission has only grown stronger. I am deeply humbled and grateful for the opportunity to play a part in this important work as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences”, Peliska said. 

Notably, beyond his day-to-day responsibilities as head of math and science at Mary, Peliska has been most known and revered for transforming and reinvigorating faculty-directed pedagogical research among students within the department. Under his leadership, Mary has been awarded more than $1 million in funding to support research endeavors like the Summer Undergraduate Research and Vocational Experience (SURVE) program, which has become one of the cornerstones of the University’s vibrant summer sessions. 

Under Peliska’s purview, the University has experienced a significant increase in the number of students entering competitive post-baccalaureate graduate programs in the sciences, into medical school, and other health-related professional programs. He’s increased the scientific equipment infrastructure and orchestrated lab facility upgrades. 

Peliska initiated the first formal, comprehensive pre-medicine program at the University of Mary. This initiative develops a cross-disciplinary environment within the University’s academic community and builds collaborative relationships with local and regional health care providers and medical leadership. The primary goal of the program is to develop an academic, social, and professional environment to serve those students at Mary who wish to pursue a vocation in medicine or medical research. 

Peliska has more than 20 peer-reviewed papers and over 2000 academic citations to date. He is currently working on a new book called, “The Cloning, Purification and Derivatization of Recombinant Protein,” and a manuscript titled, “The Construction of a Glutamine Sensor: An Advanced Lab Research Project in Biochemistry.” He’s earned the Chemistry Undergraduate Award from the American Chemical Society, and the National Institutes of Health granted him the Postdoctoral Fellowship Award. Peliska often serves as a scientific reviewer for the journals “Biochemistry,” “Journal of Biological Chemistry,” “RNA,” and the book publishers Macmillan and Wiley and Top Hat. 

Peliska came to the University of Mary in 2017 from Ave Maria University, where he was the school’s founding science faculty member and eventual chair (2002-2004) when it first opened in Michigan, and then later as it relocated to its current Florida campus. There, he became directly and extensively involved in the architectural design of the new campus’s teaching and research spaces and was one of two founding members in the initiation and development of a comprehensive natural science program. During those years (2004-2017), Peliska acquired extensive experience in all aspects of department and curriculum development, including faculty hiring and evaluation, budget formation, curriculum development and assessment, research and teaching facilities development, and student academic and career advising. 

After graduating with honors and earning dual degrees in chemistry and biology from Northland College and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Peliska’s first academic appointments were at Penn State (1990-1993) and the University of Michigan (1993-2001). 

Peliska will begin his service as dean on May 1.