On July 1, 2019, Seamus Carey became the ninth president of New Rochelle’s Iona College.
A Bronx native, Carey earned a bachelor’s degree at Vassar College and both a master’s degree and a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University. Before arriving at Iona, he was president of Transylvania University in Kentucky and dean of Arts & Sciences at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall speaks with Carey regarding Iona’s role in the regional educational and business environments and the challenges facing higher education institutions.
There are many people who believe college education is failing to provide young people with the skills and knowledge to succeed in today’s economy. What is Iona College doing to ensure its students are getting the fullest return on investment for their education?
“The concerns about the effectiveness of college education are justified. It is a major investment for families and students. One of the strengths of higher education in the U.S. is that we have a variety of colleges and universities from the private liberal arts schools to the large state universities, from community colleges to research-intensive schools. So, there is a school for everyone who wants one.
“It is also important that schools pay attention to what they teach, how they teach and why they teach what they teach. It is easy for schools to forget the purpose for which they exist. We exist to promote student learning that prepares graduates for personal and professional success with a deep concern for contributing to the common good. We must be attentive to the ways in which our courses and curricula are engaging students, fueling their curiosity and making course content relevant to the world into which they will graduate.
“We are investing time and resources into our faculty so that they have the resources they need to create innovative courses that are engaging to students and relevant to their lives and careers. Our curriculum is designed to take advantage of our location by integrating our courses and learning experiences into the community, giving our students real-world learning experiences.
“We are also investing in our campus so that students have the most modern learning spaces and up-to-date technology. During this academic year we opened new spaces for the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and a state-of-the-art building to house the LaPenta School of Business.
“There are no shortcuts to becoming well-educated. It takes hard work on the part of students to master the courses they are required to study.”
How is Iona College approaching the STEM curriculum?
“Iona is recognized nationally for our science program. This past year, 10 of our chemistry and biochemistry students won top honors in a national competition of the American Chemical Society. They were invited to San Diego to present their research with students from around the world. Our science and technology curriculum emphasize hands-on research for all of our students. They work closely with our faculty to craft and execute research projects that have an impact beyond our campus walls.
“We recently received a National Science Foundation grant to support our students studying and doing research in biochemistry, chemistry and computer science. The grant provides scholarship money to students looking to major in STEM fields at Iona.”
How does Iona maintain its Catholic principles while pursuing cutting-edge educational outreach?
“Iona students performed almost 90,000 hours of service last year. These service projects range from building houses and organizing day camps for children in Peru to raising money for a local children’s hospital in Westchester County. In each of these projects our students are using and developing skills that will be required in the workforce when they graduate.”
And what do you see as the overall state of Catholic colleges and universities in today’s American educational landscape?
“All private colleges that depend upon tuition to meet their expenses are facing stiff challenges in the years ahead. The public is questioning the value and relevance of a liberal arts education while tuition prices are beyond the reach of many families. It is essential to focus on the primary purpose for being in business and not get lost in focusing only on how to pay bills or to address crises.
“Traditional modes of planning and teaching are outdated. They must be jettisoned in order to allow planning that starts with the end-users, the students, to drive institutional priorities.”
How is Iona College working with the Westchester business community to ensure that its graduating students stay in the region and not migrate to either Manhattan or other major job markets around the country?
“We have a robust internship program for students. We work with multiple not-for-profit organizations throughout the community to support their work.”
How is Iona College marketing itself to attract the next wave of college students?
“Anyone interested in an affordable, private education grounded in authentic Catholic values with a proven record of elevating graduates to successful lives should be considering Iona. We have an established, generous and committed alumni network.
“We are currently updating our brand and website to make it more user-friendly. We are implementing cutting-edge enrollment strategies that rely on personal relationships with applicants.”
This year’s presidential election has included a lot of talk about methods to erase student loan debt. What is Iona College doing to ensure its students are not suffocated by student loan debt?
“Iona works hard to keep our costs down by maximizing the efficiency of our operations. We provide robust financial aid to students based on both need and on merit.
“We were recently ranked No. 13 in the country by Money Magazine as the most transformative school and in the top 6% of all colleges in the U.S. for ROI by Georgetown’s Center on Education and Workforce.”