Presidential candidate Dr. Donald Taylor was on the Cabrini College campus last Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with students, staff and faculty as the search for Cabrini’s next president continues. During his time, he spoke to about 100 of Cabrini’s staff, faculty and students in a town hall style meeting.
“Parents, grandparents, etc. are really asking that question – what’s the return on investment? Millennial generations, those students don’t want to take on the debt the way the previous generation did,” Taylor said. According to Taylor, there are changing demographics that the college needs to address, citing that the percentage of high school graduates for Hispanic and Latino, Asian and first generation students has increased. These increasing demographics are the groups that Cabrini should be focusing on.
Along with the fiscal challenges, Taylor also spoke of the role that technology has played in the students’ lives and the struggles that it brings with it.
“This generation of students have grown up where technology is a part of their DNA – they think differently…they’re used to instantaneous information, so the sheer volume of transactions that occur on a daily basis in our lives is astronomical,” Taylor said. “And everybody expects and instantaneous response to that, because that’s the generation that they grew up in.” This technology and social media boom has changed the mindset and way business is transacted along with changing the conversation around teaching and learning. Faculty and staff are teaching for jobs that have yet to be created.
One of the main points that Taylor made was the importance of partnerships and program creation, these could be “4+1” or “3+2” programs, dual enrollment with community colleges or dual credit with high schools. He also stated that there are important opportunities that are inherently present, and advantageous, on our campus because of the location, adding that when students graduate from Cabrini, they will not only be competing against students from similar schools but on a global scale.
While there were challenges and problems that Taylor spoke of, he also emphasized the importance of the value of the college experience.
“At institutions like Benedictine and Cabrini, we have to recapture the narrative about the value of college education; it’s probably the single greatest investment we will ever make. And somehow along the line in the last five years, as a sidebar conversation with the recession, we’ve lost that narrative in higher ed.”
He went on to talk about the higher earning potential and employment rates of college graduates but also of the intangibles – the courses and experiences that expand passion as well as knowledge.
“The biggest value of a liberal arts education is that it teaches one how to enjoy life,” Taylor said. “Liberal arts really prepares you, not only for personal, but for professional success.”
When asked specifically about the problems that Cabrini faces he spoke of general problems that he has noticed in his readings and visit. He pointed out that he doesn’t know the campus well enough to find out all the answers. The first problem area that he would work on is enrollment
“First and foremost is enrollment, you’re tuition dependent which means you’re enrollment dependent.”
To do this, Taylor spoke of branching out and recruiting students in the changing demographics (Hispanic, first generation, etc.) and take advantage of Cabrini’s location by recruiting international students. To keep the finances steady, he reiterated the importance of developing, refreshing and creating new programs and projects and funding these things to grow the mission. There is strong work that needs to be done to get the retention numbers higher as well.
Taylor is currently the Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.