You’re going to hear Dr. Donald Taylor talk a lot about the Cabrini promise.
“The promise is going to be, from a retention standpoint, a Cabrini student is a Cabrini student for life. So from the time that we recruit you, we’re going to recruit a very diverse student population – we’re going to mentor, retain, educate and graduate those students,” Dr. Taylor said. “And then our promise is going to be that the students – when they graduate – that their experience was so transformative in their lives that they want to be the best ambassadors for Cabrini.”
And Taylor is ready. Ready to take on a challenge, ready to move Cabrini College to the next level, and ready to do something extraordinary.
“I know where Cabrini needs to move to really reach the next level and really excel in the next 10 years, so I’m excited. I’m ready to start, July 1st,” Dr. Donald Taylor, Cabrini’s eighth and first male president, said. Taylor was on campus last week for a few days and will visit campus every month until his family moves here in mid-June and he officially starts his position July 1.
Taylor is originally from Tennessee and, along with his wife, is a first generation student. Taylor grew up in a hardworking family, however, education wasn’t something that was a priority. Part of what attracted Taylor to Cabrini was the mission of the school and the students it serves. “So institutions like Cabrini and the mission of Cabrini resonates with me because of the mission that we’re serving immigrants, first generation students, you know, middle class, broad, diverse, low-income students and to provide them those opportunities because I know the value of education and what doors education or degrees opened for both myself and my wife,” Taylor, who received his undergraduate degree in secondary education and received his PhD in cell and molecular biology/biochemistry, said.
Taylor has a great amount of experience in the education field teaching both public and private high schools and having jobs in administrative offices and admissions offices. “I always felt that if I had an opportunity at some point in a latter part of my career, I wanted to have an opportunity to kind of come full circle and lead an institution and give back the way that people made opportunities for us,” Taylor said.
This idea of coming full circle led Taylor to a very successful 22-year run at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. Throughout his time at Benedictine, Taylor was a full time professor and department chair. The school decided to reorganize and launch a college of science and Taylor was appointed by the Board of Trustees to be the initial dean of the college of science.
During the last six years, however, is where things really took off at Benedictine. “We built a major adult education college and an adult online division for working adults. And now Benedictine is one of the leading providers, along with DePaul, for adult education in all of Illinois for part time working adults in education, business, leadership [and] healthcare,” Dr. Taylor said. “Then we launched a major international program with a focus in Asia. So we have six partnering universities in China and two partnering universities in Vietnam.”
In addition, Taylor introduced two branch campuses; one in Springfield Ill., and the other in Mesa, Ariz. Dr. Taylor feels that all of his hard work at Benedictine has prepared him for his time at Cabrini. “I’ve spent 22 years are Benedictine, loved every single day, fabulous, fabulous experience. But now it’s kind of come full circle,” Dr. Taylor said. “A lot of what I’ve done in the past four years with those two branch campuses has really been the work more of a president. So I think I’ve had really good preparation.”
Not only does Taylor feel prepared for his new role as president, but he also feels at home at Cabrini. He knew a few colleagues – one of whom is Eboo Patel, the keynote speaker at Cabrini Day 2013 – who know Cabrini and they said this school would fit him perfectly. “So it’s a great fit, it feels very familiar,” Taylor said. “When I talk to people here, I walk the campus, I close my eyes, it feels like home. So it fit like a glove because I could literally see so many similarities of my own current institution for the past 22 years here. So it doesn’t feel like something new, it feels just like home.”
When asked about the plans to make Cabrini a first choice school and push it to where it needs to be, Dr. Taylor spoke about many ideas. “One, we want to try to keep it as affordable as we can, I want to increase fundraising efforts for student scholarships and for financial aid,” Dr. Taylor said. “I want 100% of all students to – when they graduate – to participate in multiple, high-impact learning practices. So learning communities, internships, practicum, undergraduate research, study abroad, study in the local service learning projects – multiple.”
Furthermore, Taylor wants to focus on retention and student engagement. “I want to significantly increase the retention rate, the graduation rate. One of the ways that you do that is you really focus on things that matter to the students that really help push the boundaries on student engagement. So the research shows that the more your students are engaged and feel that they’re a part of your community, then the more likely that they’re going to succeed,” Taylor said. “So a lot of it is focusing on the student experience, the student engagement, student immersion – you know, making sure we’re using technology effectively for learning.”
“I have tons and tons of ideas, I’m an idea-innovation person. So part of it is I have to listen to the faculty and listen to the students and do the environmental scan to see what are the right opportunities,” Taylor said. “But my record has been both as a chair, as a dean, as a provost, we’re always adding and building new programs and new partnerships every year.”
Taylor also spoke about the importance of being able to define Cabrini from the many other Catholic colleges in Pennsylvania. “What I’ve shared with the faculty and what I’ll continue to share with them is that Cabrini has to do two things; one, it has to define its values and differentiate itself from Rosemont, Immaculata – you know, we have to define who it is we are, where we’re we going, what it is that’s unique about this experience and then second, we have to constantly be architects, we have to constantly be building programs, partnerships, etc.,” Taylor said.
Although Taylor is aware of the challenge ahead, he is also aware of the excitement coming from the staff, faculty and students. When asked where he would like to see Cabrini in ten years, he answered without a moment of hesitation. “Absolutely the most entrepreneurial, innovative, affordable, assessable, offering of liberal education in the entire Philadelphia area. Period. Cabrini Promise, that’s it, that’s where we’re going to be.”