Welcome Address

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Welcome Address August 21, 2012

Welcome! Thank you Sister Rosita for that generous introduction. Thank you all for being present today – faculty, staff, Sister Aquinas Szott - the Chair of our Board of Trustees, many of our Trustees, and invited guests.

It is with humility and honor that I stand before this community as the President of Felician College.

I have great respect for the mission and legacy of Felician College. The enduring purpose of the College is

  • to promote a love for learning,
  • a desire for God,
  • self- knowledge,
  • service to others, and
  • respect for all.

As a Catholic who has served at a number of institutions, I am deeply committed to Catholic higher education and aspire to act as a servant leader.

So, why Felician College?  The Catholic/Felician/Franciscan mission, the context and the people.

During my first day of campus interviews, a lunch was scheduled with Felician students. This was a group that represented the rich cultural diversity of the student body. During the conversation, I asked the students about their backgrounds and why they chose to attend Felician. One of the students­—Antoine—said he was on the basketball team. I took this opportunity to speak about my youngest son Louis.

Louis learned how to play basketball on the streets and courts of Manhattan. He attributes this experience to not only becoming a better basketball player, but also to becoming acquainted with people from all different backgrounds, where the common denominator was always the game. 

Antoine turned to me, beaming, and launched into a story about one of his first experiences at Felician College. He walked into his freshman dorm to find that his roommate was from Japan—a fact that was quite a culture shock to Antoine, a New Jersey native.

He immediately thought, “This isn’t going to work.”

However, as Antoine and his roommate began interacting, they realized how much they had to potentially learn from one another. Antoine had his very first enriching, broadening college experience. From this short conversation with him and the rest of the students, I understood that Felician was the right place for me.

Felician does not feel like culture shock to me—it is a place I know I have much in common with, much to learn from, and much to share with.

This is a place I can confidently champion.

The question I am being asked the most is “What is my vision for Felician College?”

It’s a challenging question to answer as a new president.

I am looking at things with a fresh eye, new energy and high hopes. I am also keenly aware that you all have great ideas and an eagerness to shape Felician’s future. So during my first year, I will be on a listening tour—to engage with you about your thoughts, ideas, and hopes for our college.

What I would like to talk to you about today are some of the things that attracted me to Felician College, highlight some of your recent accomplishments, and discuss some areas that can utilize Felician’s strengths to build our future.

I see Felician College at a tipping point in its history, with a rich legacy of success and possibilities for a vibrant future.

Felician College, a college that leads and serves, is to be commended for all that has been achieved with the leadership of Sister Theresa Mary Martin. What a legacy!

The rich array of programs that serve traditional and adult populations, the Rutherford campus, the alliances formed with other institutions—these all represent strategic advantages that places Felician College in a very strong position.

The College’s academic program offerings reflect a dynamism that recognizes and addresses the needs of our local, national, and global communities.

You, the faculty, are committed to making sure that the students have an engaging academic education, informed by your research and enriched by your commitment to teaching excellence.

This is the heart of a liberal arts education.

What animates this educational experience and makes it particular to Felician College is the following phrase in the College’s vision statement:

Where scholarship and the practice of teaching and learning place students first in the enduring quest for truth and persistent pursuit of competence, character, and compassion.

This commitment to education that aspires to a community of informed minds and understanding hearts” is why Felician is not only a liberal arts college. Rather, it is this vision that makes Felician College… The Franciscan College of New Jersey.

The college’s academic structure of a liberal arts education coupled with pre-professional and professional programs is integral to the College’s mission.

As a ministry sponsored by the Felician Sisters, our choice of program offerings should meet the needs of those we serve.

As a Catholic college, we are guided by the Catholic intellectual tradition that calls us to be committed to both the integrity of individual disciplines as well as intellectual integration among disciplines.

It is this tradition that compels us to strengthen the liberal arts and majors across disciplines. In our quest for truth, there is something to be learned from each, and from integrating that knowledge across disciplines. In this way, our programs offer depth and breadth, while also creating linkages amongst and between theoretical frameworks.

Now we must ask ourselves:

  • What does a Felician Franciscan liberal arts education look like in this 21st century?
  • Why do I serve here?
  • And how is what you do different because you are at Felician College?

Guided by the enduring quest for truth and for transformation and in thinking about what we mean by transformation, I am informed by the description, Transformation is the process that encourages an open mind and heart, leading to continuous improvement of the person and ministry.

Transformation is taking place through efforts and initiatives across the college.

In Arts and Sciences, there were a number of transformational programs this past year such as

  • the 6th annual ethics conference sponsored by the philosophy department,
  • the 3 faculty development days focused on teaching and learning strategies, and
  • the progress that has been made as the faculty reconsider the core curriculum.

Examples in the pre-professional and professional programs include

  • the division of Nursing’s new doctoral program that will begin its first cohort this fall,
  • the completion of the curriculum model for the proposed doctoral program in Business Administration, and
  • the revitalization of our Teacher Education programs.

Across both academic and administrative departments, transformation is also occurring through the frame of assessment.

As we know, assessment has become a part of everyone’s work. I appreciate the efforts that each department has made. For the academic departments, the use of assessment processes to inform curriculum revisions is well underway.

In the administrative areas of the college, they are to be commended for ensuring that the college revises its policies and practices to meet the ever mounting number of compliance requirements ranging from athletics and student financial aid to emergency preparedness and facilities.

In the next five years, it will be critical that the College continue to implement the strategic plan’s goal to enhance academic and student support programs.

Our mission calls for student success.

The national dialogue is one of scrutiny for higher education and increasing accountability. Students and parents are questioning the value of higher education.

If Felician College is to meet its commitment to provide an excellent education for its students, then it must achieve excellent results as measured by student success.

Accreditation bodies, the federal and state governments, and those much-maligned rankings measure success by retention and graduation rates.

On these metrics, Felician should and can improve.

I know this is not new news to many of you. Efforts to address this are already underway, such as learning communities for underrepresented freshmen, and ongoing initiatives in remedial education.   

These are examples of programs that will likely improve our metrics. BUT… what really matters is WHO really matters—each individual student.

Our student population here at Felician College has evolved to represent the diversity of New Jersey and the US. Nationwide, 45 percent of those enrolled in postsecondary education are 25 years old and over.

President Obama has challenged us to improve our college completion rates so that we as a nation are once again the world leader in the number of adults who hold a postsecondary credential.

Felician College is meeting President Obama’s challenge by reimagining our curricular offerings and modes of delivery.

Such as

  • our Bachelor completion programs in Healthcare Administration, English and Professional Studies and
  • online Bachelor completion Program in Computer Information Systems.

INNOVATION is key to meeting our value of transformation.

INNOVATION is part of our founders’ history. Both St Francis and Blessed Mother Angela were revolutionary in their times. Each rejected the trappings of a privileged life to lead lives of  contemplation in action.” This was a paradigm shift.

For Blessed Mother Angela, a young Polish woman who lived in the mid-1800s, professing to religious life meant living a cloistered life.

Following the vision of her patrons St Francis and St Vincent - who believed in getting out among the people, compelling their followers to view the world as their cloister, Sister Angela founded a new religious congregation.

She established a new way for Polish women to lead a life in service to God by serving others.

Both St. Francis and Blessed Mother Angela were also visionary in their quest to move beyond national, cultural, and religious boundaries. Beginning in the year 1212, it took St. Francis 3 attempts and 6 years to reach foreign shores, first with the goal of traveling to Spain to seek the Moors, who were Muslims.

He finally arrived in Egypt in 1219, where he met the Sultan of Egypt, who was so impressed with Francis that he gave Francis permission to continue on to the Holy Land.

Blessed Mother Angela’s congregation expanded from Poland to Austria, survived the Russian suppression, and just 17 years after forming the congregation, they courageously sent their first group of 5 sisters to join a Polish priest in Wisconsin— knowing full well that they would likely never see each other again.

Our founders demonstrated vision and courage to move beyond borders and boundaries.

In this tradition, the College’s global initiatives represent an opportunity to more fully internationalize.

The UN Fellows Program and the work of integrating international perspectives and history across the curriculum are exemplary.

Providing our students a rich array of study abroad programs and international experiential learning opportunities are as important as having more international students and faculty in our classrooms and community.

This is a vision I hope you share with me.

The College’s global focus presents an opportunity to fully realize an engaged community of women and men of diverse backgrounds and talents who will thrive at Felician—a College that challenges them academically and provides them a campus life rich in opportunities for engagement and development of the whole person: mind, spirit, and body.

To do so requires integration of the student life experience through co-curricular programs across the two campuses.

Finally there is our value of peace and justice, which calls us to re-create a sustainable environment and be wise stewards of resources.

How is that reflected in our daily lives at Felician College?

Sustainability encompasses so much: our environment, health, and economically viable communities.

I ask you to consider how we can both model being responsible stewards of resources, and educate our students to embrace the value of peace and justice through the goal of creating sustainable lifestyles and communities.

St. Francis and Blessed Mother Angela are cheering us on!

Innovation, internationalization, integration, and sustainability—areas I am thinking about and ask you all to consider in order to inform our future, grounded in our Felician values.

The challenge is to resource Felician College so that its mission and the vision of a vibrant community of students, teachers, scholars, artists and staff will be realized.

As President, I will focus on growing resources by tirelessly committing to fundraising and advancement, and shepherding enrollment growth in alignment with institutional goals.

The 2012 theme for the Felician Sisters is “living stones.” St. Peter, in one of his letters spoke of letting ourselves become like “living stones” —solid and reliable, but flexible and adaptable to be built into a spiritual house.

We too can be living stones—solid yet willing to be flexible to deal with whatever challenges we face.

As Felician College continues to grow and change, so must we all, in our actions and in our professional collaborations, for our students’ sake.

It’s our duty as members of an educational institution to keep growing and adapting, innovating!, to meet the needs of those we serve.

When I look into this audience, I see many individuals that I have already had the pleasure of meeting. I look forward to getting to know the rest of you so we can share ideas and take bold steps.

I will count on you as we move Felician College forward, expand our academic outreach, make the College a prominent entity, and give our students the best possible learning experience.

Felician College is not about the “me” or the “I”…it is about us, all of us, working in collaboration to keep improving at all levels.

As I conclude, I would like to bring us back to that student luncheon and Antoine. As we were all sitting around the table saying our goodbyes, Antoine said, “Dr Prisco, we hope you come to Felician. And if you do, we got your back.”

So just as I am assured that some students have my back, I say to you all that I have Felician’s back…

for this is our time to move ahead, to keep making great strides, and be dynamic contributors proud to be a part of Felician College.