AMU President Towey: Growth Number One Challenge for University
Published on Friday, 02 September 2011 14:57
It was a whirlwind summer for new Ave Maria University president Jim Towey, settling into his new home in Ave Maria with his family, hiring key senior staff and preparing to welcome the university's largest incoming class in its history.
Now, with students settled in on campus, Mr. Towey is turning his attention to plans for the university's growth, with the overarching goal of having a balanced budget by the 2014-2015 academic year.
Mr. Towey, in an interview with The Ave Herald, said his administration is "very excited about the new academic year," which he said is not only the largest incoming class yet - more than 300 students - but also has the highest revenue per student.
"What was shaping up to be a difficult year in admissions turned out to be a surprising success," Mr. Towey said. He praised the work overall of the admissions department, now under the new leadership of VP of Enrollment and Marketing Dennis Grace, and singled out admissions counselor Mary Reed for outstanding effort in recruiting new students.
The department has begun to focus on one of the goals Mr. Towey outlined when he first assumed the presidency in March - recruiting more students from the state of Florida.
"This year, we did a better job recruiting in Florida, with 42 percent of the freshman class coming from within the state," Mr. Towey said.
"To grow where we need to be, we need more students from the five major metropolitan areas that are within three hours of the Ave Maria campus."
To increase the appeal of AMU, Mr. Towey said the school will be looking at adding new majors and said he is asking the faculty for recommendations on what to add to the 12 majors that AMU currently offers, two of which - Psychology and Business - were added In this calendar year.
He also is initiating a process to develop a strategic plan for the university that sets goals beyond financial self sufficiency. The strategic planning effort will be undertaken by a committee comprising staff, faculty and a student representative, Mr. Towey said, and will be led by the university's new budget director, Gene Munin (right), who formerly was the budget director for the City of Chicago.
Mr. Towey has also said that it is his most important priority to maintain the strong Catholic identity of Ave Maria University. Bishop Frank Dewane presided at the school's opening Mass, saying that although AMU provides many opportunities for students, it most importantly fosters a tremendous sense of spirituality in its students.
In a matter which has been pending for four years, however, Bishop Dewane, an ex-officio member of the AMU board of trustees, still does not permit Ave Maria University to bear an official designation as a "Catholic" university, a status that the local bishop alone decides. The church's main document on Catholic higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, published in 1990, sets forth the essential attributes for Catholic colleges and universities. Officials at Ave Maria University say they are fully in accord with all aspects of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and that the bishop has not mentioned any areas in which they are not in accord. When asked by the Ave Herald what remained for the fully-accredited university to do to be designated "Catholic," a spokesman for Bishop Dewane refused to answer all questions, or even to provide an explanation of what the definitive hallmarks of a "Catholic" university are.
Mr. Towey, however, has no doubts about the school's strong Catholicity, referring to the visit at the spring commencement of Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican's Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Levada, in his remarks to the school's graduation class, referred to the "vibrant Catholic identity of Ave Maria University." An analysis this year of higher education in the United States by the respected religious magazine First Things determined that Ave Maria University was "the most Catholic Catholic school" in America.
In addition to taking the reins at Ave Maria, Mr. Towey and his family also moved from the Washington, DC, area into a new home in Hampton Village.
The relocation went well, Mr. Towey said. Four of his five children are enrolled at the Donahue Academy (the other is away at college).
"My kids are loving it, particularly since this is their second major move in just a few years." Left, Mr. Towey, 2nd from left, and his wife, Mary, right, with AMU founder Tom Monaghan and AMU staff member Cathy Dailey in March
"But they're still getting used to these giant grasshoppers."
Charlotte Sawyer contributed to this article.