President James McCarthy confirmed his commitment to the University’s historical mission of access, and he addressed the need to keep tuition increases to a minimum while expanding resources during a campus wide meeting marked by both humor and frank discussion.
The new president was met with warm applause as he strode onto the stage at the C. Walsh Theatre for the first of what will be a series of “town hall” meetings with students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
McCarthy said that the University’s mission, history and location make him “proud and pleased to be here.”
“Access and excellence go hand in hand,” he said of the University’s mission. “It’s easier to do one or the other, but Suffolk has always done both and will continue to do so.”
Speaking without notes, the new president recalled Gleason Archer’s “noble purpose” in founding the University. He said it was a delight to weave around the Statehouse on his way from his office to the theater, but even more so because the University takes full advantage of its location in the political, business, and legal hub of the region.
“The combination of the University’s history, mission, and location are what attracts students and faculty who are fantastic,” he said.
McCarthy originally pursued his doctoral studies with an eye toward working on policy issues, but an offer to work as an economic analyst in Geneva was delayed for months while he awaited a visa. In the meantime, he was offered a position teaching and conducting research in a school of public health.
“I was an accidental academic,” said McCarthy. But when he discovered the world of professional schools, he realized that he could not only do research that would affect policy decisions, but also train students who would eventually work in policy settings. His affinity for professional education is one of the reasons he was drawn to Suffolk University.
Going forward, McCarthy said he will be guided by the Latin phrase primum non nocere, which, translated in the sense of the Hippocratic Oath means: “First, do no harm.” McCarthy said his take on it is: “Don’t mess with a good thing.”
The coming weeks and months will see a focus on engaging in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges self study, with a particular focus on the mission statement. McCarthy also aims to launch a strategic planning process by March 1, to be concluded by the end of the semester with the full engagement of the campus community.
Scholarships & fund-raising
Acknowledging that keeping tuition low, providing resources, and balancing institutional budgets is a national and global challenge for higher education entities, McCarthy said: “It is important in everything that we do that we are cognizant of the sacrifices that students and families make to be here.”
He said that there will be an increased focus on raising money for scholarships and facilities, as well as cost cutting where feasible.
“We have to examine everything we do with an eye to achieving maximum possible efficiency,” he said.
The president, who has been engaged in a national study of online education, said he plans to enhance the University’s efforts to use technology in education.
He also emphasized that he wants to hear from members of the University community.
In answering questions from faculty, students, and staff, McCarthy told an anecdote of his first day on campus after he was named to the presidency by the Board of Trustees.
“I got out of the cab, and a student walked up and asked: ‘Are you the new president?’ – it was wonderful,” said McCarthy.
Just then, his narrative was interrupted when that student, the first to welcome him to the University, was pointed out in the balcony.
“I was going to say that I never had a chance to ask for your name,” McCarthy called up to him. “E-mail me with your name and what’s going on.”