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Daunting Challenges, Creative Opportunities

October 5, 2011

Inaugural Address

Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN

Tenth President of Regis College
October 5, 2011

Thank you, Donna. I accept with joy the responsibility to lead Regis College, and through my service and leadership I will fulfill the confidence that the Board places in me, symbolized by this medallion.

Thank you, Regis Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, honorary degree recipients, honored guests.

Thank you all for joining me on the occasion of my inauguration as the tenth president of Regis College.

Political wisdom often tries to measure the success of an administration by measuring what happens in the first 100 days. Historians looked at the first 100 days of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. Recently, pundits have been assessing the first 100 days of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel as he takes on the “daunting challenges” facing Chicago.Mark

I am coming up on day 100 of my presidency, which I assumed on July 1, and I identify with those facing daunting challenges.

We at Regis College are blessed, however, in understanding, as one of our trustees put it several years ago, that transforming an educational institution is a little bit like turning a ship in the open seas. It takes time and patience.

Regis has turned the ship and is moving in the right direction.

I would like to credit publicly my predecessor, Dr. Mary Jane England, and our CFO Thomas Pistorino, for managing the daunting challenges of our budget for ten years, even through this national recession. I would like to thank our trustees, faculty and staff for their collective dedication in setting a course that is good for Regis and for our students.

Now we must all go full steam ahead. Daunting challenges we still have – and they will continue to come, wave after wave. They come with the tectonic changes in higher education today in our competitive region and our competitive economy, and with technological changes setting the pace so that our students, who are shaping us as we shape them, will also be able to help shape the world. When we are overwhelmed with change, with information, with decision-making, let us listen to our students, and they will tell us what they need.

So let me use these few minutes to put our direction in perspective. In virtually every daunting challenge I see creative opportunity. Building on the strengths of Regis – “Building Regis together” -- this administration aims to move forward on all fronts, to take hold of creative opportunities and use them to grow Regis.

Our challenges and our opportunities are revealed in the core strengths that guide our ship and will help us chart our course during my presidency.

First, Regis is student-centered. Regis is a leader in giving educational opportunity to first-generation, minority and immigrant students as well as to the traditional sons and daughters of middle and upper class families, whether at the undergraduate or the graduate level. Regis is a leader in graduate program innovation so that women and men returning to school, re-tooling, or developing a new career have options.

We must hold to this center.

When Regis College was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1927, it was a small residential women’s Catholic liberal arts college on a bucolic campus in Weston. Today, the campus is as lovely as ever, but Regis is now a small coeducational university, offering highly sought undergraduate and graduate programs, both academic and professional, to nearly 1800 students. Indeed, we have more graduate students than undergraduates.

We at Regis know that higher education can move people up to be the best they can be, and we do it in a caring, nurturing way. My favorite expression of the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph is “excellence, tempered by gentleness.”Mark

How do we help people be the best they can be? Gently.

Second, Regis is interdisciplinary. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge today, Regis undergraduates often combine two or even three minors with their major in order to capture the synergy among disciplines and put it to maximum usefulness as they strive to enter the marketplace.

Women and men in our graduate programs in nursing, science and health professions arrive at Regis with a liberal arts degree and a career or two already in their sway. They are already problem-solving across the disciplines.

Encouraging new dimensions of teamwork, transcending the methods and language of specific disciplines, leaping the boundaries that have limited people from adequately addressing problems that do not themselves recognize disciplinary boundaries -- all of this is crucial as our graduates approach a job market in which in Massachusetts labor statistics record more people than ever before who are underemployed. According to a Northeastern University study, this number has grown fourfold since 2000. These people are working part-time because they were not able to find full-time work. Their skills exceed their part-time positions, and their salaries fall short of their skills. In the first eight months of 2011, the number of so-called underemployed workers in the Bay State surged 18 per cent.Mark

Clearly, the flexibility of thought provided by informed liberal arts education is more than ever necessary so our students may have the intellectual reasoning, practical skills and creative insights to compete successfully in such a marketplace. Liberal arts are inherently interdisciplinary – cross walking the ways of knowing, the pathways of achievement – and designed to make nimble critical thinkers.

At Regis today, we want to move this tradition to an even higher level.

This leads to my third essential strength of Regis. You may ask, how does the interdisciplinary nature of liberal arts play on the larger stage of the competitive higher education environment? The answer is “Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships.” Regis is resolutely committed to partnerships. Partnerships are the wave of the future. Indeed, they are the tide on which Regis is already sailing.

Because of the rapid expansion and multiplication of knowledge – biotechnology, biochemistry, cultural anthropology, public health -

even the most eminent and comprehensive colleges and universities can no longer offer everything to everybody. Our world is changing, and its daunting challenges must become our creative opportunities together. Internally and externally, we can share our strengths, and colleges and universities are already reaching out and working together.

Regis has forged a variety of important partnerships with schools, colleges, universities and industries – working with AP students and secondary schools to encourage science and mathematics; working on specialized graduate reading programs; partnering with hospitals and biotech companies as well as other colleges and universities, especially in social work and nursing; and partnering with the non-profit world in language learning. We are excellent and innovative partners, and we must keep moving in this direction.

Finally, Regis College is committed to extending our local, regional and national impact to global arenas.

In reality, we are already there through our work with the Haitian Ministry of Health for the education of nursing faculty, through our community service trips to Villa El Salvador in Peru, through graduate education experiences in Grenada, our LMH-Regis College Collaborative nursing school in Egypt, and so on.

Our students are already multiethnic, multicultural, and global, and this extension into an international arena is today on this small planet a direct application of values received from our founders – to ask our neighbors what their needs are and to respond accordingly to “the dear neighbor.”

We live in daunting times when, at home, nearly 46 million Americans dropped beneath the poverty level in 2010, largely due to unemployment and a sluggish economy.

But we are educators, and education has always been about creating opportunities, opening doors, finding new paths to improve the human condition.

Last winter when I was considering applying for the job of Regis College president, I reflected long and hard on my dreams for this beloved institution, with which I have been affiliated for over a quarter of a century. In July, when I actually assumed the position, I noticed that the walls of its outer office were decorated with nineteenth and early twentieth century paintings of ships at sea, many of them battling storms. I asked that most of those paintings be moved and replaced with those of a bouquet of flowers, a peaceful bay under a tranquil mountain, and a portrait of families on a pier getting ready to embark on a brave voyage and a ready ship.

I have been privileged to help bring Regis to its current course. This ship has a direction, and we are taking it forward on a beneficial wind. We will not founder, however high the waves or violent the gale!

Regis is moving forward on my passion and on the energy of this community. The creative opportunities that motivate us are already embedded in our history and our practice. Regis College is:

  • Student-centered
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Partnering
  • Global.

Let us pursue this course together. Join me on a voyage of discovery and growth. For the benefit of our students, our community, our Commonwealth, and our global neighbors.

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