President's Blog: First 100 Days

Published: December 13, 2021

First 100 Days

Since my arrival in July, I have been talking about faith and family as these words have real meaning for me personally, and for us as an institution. They reflect our current position, how we arrived here, and where we are headed. One poignant example of this occurred at one of our weekly masses in the chapel. I noticed two Muslim students in attendance, and as we chatted after the service, they explained they were taking a world religion class and wanted to understand Catholic traditions. Astutely, they cited similarities to their own faith and commented on how welcoming and open the Holy Family University campus was in making them feel right at home. This is what we are about.

As I look back on my first one hundred days, I am grateful to Sister Maureen McGarrity and everyone at Holy Family for the fiscally responsible management of the institution and the creation of a strong academic tradition, which enabled me to immediately focus on the future.

To know where we want to go, we must first understand where we have come from. Our Strategic Plan 2021-2026 provides a critical roadmap for our future. As part of the university’s planning and implementation, we are deep in the data gathering stages to create critical baselines from which to formulate goals and execute measures of success. As with any good strategic plan, we are able to phase our initiatives so that we can continue to fine-tune some projects as we implement others.

Some of these initiatives include academic program reviews to ensure we are providing the most in-demand programs for the current market, enhancing the student experience, and developing experiential learning opportunities through internships. We know that internships are an invaluable part of a student’s education, and as a result, are in the process of embedding internships into all majors so that by the 2022-23 academic year, every undergraduate student in every major will have a required internship.

While plans are moving forward across a range of areas, I have had the privilege of meeting with all faculty from all schools and learning about their tremendous teaching and research, we have modified our grading policy to better align with student needs and expectations, effective in the spring 2022 term, and we were able to provide compensation adjustments in line with our mission and as a demonstration of our commitment to faculty and staff.

As an anchor institution in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County, we have a responsibility to address the needs of our community, including the majors that best serve the demands of our area businesses. We are fortunate to be located in innovative economic communities, and I look forward to partnering with our neighboring businesses on a number of fronts.

I believe in the power of the arts and am thrilled with our partnership this fall with Mural Arts Philadelphia, which not only demonstrated our presence in the local art community but also provided opportunities for our community to engage with the local arts community in new and exciting ways. We also continued with our on-campus artist talks and exhibits, including some powerful presentations from our art students through their senior shows.

In the earliest days of my tenure, I appointed a vice president for mission and diversity, and under her leadership, a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team was formed. The group is already beginning to implement some high-impact new programs and initiatives. On a parallel path, the first-ever Holy Family University Black Student Union was approved by Student Government in early November to create a space for Black and African-American students to unite, support, and celebrate one another on campus. I was honored to attend their inaugural event, where student leaders spoke about FEAST – Family, Empowerment, Attitude, Social Responsibility, and Trust. The alignment with our mission could not be more spot-on, and we are eager for all of the important initiatives this group will develop.

The campus is our sacred space, where we spend the most time and make lifelong connections. Our public spaces, where everyone gathers, are vitally important and we will continue to look for ways to enhance those spaces. Structural improvements on campus over the next several years will include a new façade on Holy Family Hall along with a new Welcome Center and an interior connection to the Nursing Education Building, traffic flow improvements to the Frankford Avenue entrance, and multimodal construction at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Grant Avenue that will incorporate pedestrian walks and elevated stone signage befitting our University. Many of these improvements will include new landscaping to further beautify the campus. We will continue to explore further development at the Newtown campus as well.

Like all educational institutions, we are reimagining what teaching and learning mean as we approach a post-COVID world. We know that faculty development and success lead to student success. Additional investments in technology will address not only more flexible options for students in the classroom but also in areas such as telehealth for counseling services. We will continue to incorporate new technology for remote and enhanced classroom learning, as well as for a new eSports program which is scheduled to launch in fall 2022.

Ultimately, providing an affordable and first-rate education for all is the cornerstone of who we are and what we do. This means ensuring that all students are afforded every opportunity to succeed by implementing plans to shrink the equity gaps.

With the current enrollment of more than 3,000 students, we are in a position of strength from which we can truly thrive and grow in innovative ways. I am even more excited about my next one hundred days as we move forward together to advance our mission of educational excellence within our faith-based and supportive community, a community that values each individual and serves all as family.

Onward & upward!