As Dr. Norman C. Francis announced his retirement after 47 years of service, the future of Xavier is in question. However, with a new strategic plan being implemented, Xavier is undergoing changes to ensure its relevancy for years to come.
Dr. Loren Blanchard, provost, and senior vice president of academic affairs, is part of the new strategic plan and notes several changes Xavier should undergo to increase student enrollment and retention. He also considers what the future president may consider when tackling these issues at Xavier.
Views on President
When asked what attributes he would like to see in the new president, he replied, “A real love and passion for higher education in students, and having his or her finger on the pulse of the workforce in relation with the experience we’re providing students, and a person that sees the importance in relationships. It’s someone who is not about self, but about students and this university.”
Blanchard said he has no plans to apply for Xavier’s president position. He said he is “content in the role that I am in now.”
State of Xavier
Blanchard believes the state of Xavier today is promising. The success rates of students who graduate from Xavier and are prepared for graduate or professional school or the workforce has been positive.
“We are not an institution that is focused on only putting a degree in somebody’s hand,”
Blanchard said. “We are a university that provides a quality educational experience, including research, internships and extracurricular experiences.”
Blanchard said Xavier, much like higher education institutions nationally, needs to remain focused on issues pertaining to student recruitment, retention and success.
“Really, the heart of the issue for Xavier has been affordability,” Blanchard said. He also mentions there needs to be an emphasis on supplying more scholarship fundraising for students. “We live by the mantra: If you’re good enough to be accepted into Xavier, then we have a responsibility to make sure we enable you to graduate and that you graduate career ready,” he said.
However, Blanchard notes that there is a shrinking pool of high school graduates nationally. “You have fewer fish, and lots of fishermen. We and the new president will have to be looking at new strategies to attract as many of those fish as we possibly can… that helps us to stand out at a university,” he said.
Blanchard suggests ways Xavier can address the issue of shrinking enrollments by reaching out to non-traditional students.
“We need to focus more on not being recognized as a 9-3 university; that the bulk of the classes we offer typically revolve around the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Blanchard said. “We have to become more valuable in terms of understanding how to reach students in different populations who have to work, or cannot structure an educational program around the traditional hours of nine-three.” Blanchard believes that focusing on recruiting adult learner populations can increase enrollment at Xavier.
Blanchard also believes that Greek life is critical to student enrollment at Xavier. “We know that Greek life is really important to student recruitment and retention. There is a direct linkage there. And as a result of that, we can’t afford to not pay attention to it,” Blanchard said. “Every single and fraternity and sorority on this campus needs to be active.”