New president addresses faculty at annual retreat


Photo credit/ Katlynn Whitaker

Jessica Bonacci, News Editor

Marywood’s new President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed. D. held the annual faculty retreat on Aug. 22 to prepare for the fall semester.

This was the first faculty retreat held under the new president after Sr. Anne Munley, IHM, Ph.D., retired on June 30 of this year.

After the retreat, faculty and administration spoke to The Wood Word about the outlook for the new academic year.

In an interview regarding the retreat, Sr. Mary explained that her speech included her philosophy and goals for the upcoming year.

“It’s a new day here at Marywood,” Sr. Mary said. “I find [the faculty here] are very warm and welcoming. They’re really committed to Marywood.”

Faculty and administration at the retreat praised Sr. Mary’s address and shared similar outlooks for the new year.

Dr. Helen Bittel, associate professor of English, said Sr. Mary’s address “invited conversation.”

“It was great,” said Bittel. “I thought it was a really masterful address.”

Sr. Mary also explained that she wanted to invite the faculty to a partnership and called for a mutual agreement of support after events that took place last year.

These events include a semester of disagreement between faculty and the previous administration, protests over the finances of the university, the decision to cut ten first-year faculty members and the faculty’s interest in unionizing.

“I promised them that I would support them and I promised them that I would advocate for them to the board and wherever else I need to advocate for them,” Sr. Mary said. “I asked them in return to support me and to support the administration.”

Sr. Mary shared a similar message in a letter to faculty members during the spring 2016 semester regarding the formation of a union, saying she hopes faculty and administration can “have access to one another and a free-flowing relationship that will allow everyone to grow personally and professionally.”

Sr. Mary also addressed her commitment to enrollment and fundraising in her speech at the faculty retreat and asked attendees to “concentrate on promoting and championing Marywood” on and off campus.

Sr. Mary said that she talked about Marywood needing a “transformation of culture,” which includes promoting social justice and diversity to the community.

“We should be the university that we claim to be,” Sr. Mary said.

Sr. Mary also addressed the MPK&D report, which was commissioned by the Board of Trustees last spring to speed up the analysis of Marywood’s finances, during her speech.

According to Sr. Mary, the MPK&D report may “have some hard things in it and might even suggest cutting personnel.”

Sr. Mary said that increasing funding for Marywood would result in less cuts that may have to be made.

“If we work together to increase enrollment and to expand our funding base, we can offset that. And we could really avoid having to [cut personnel],” Sr. Mary said.

Dr. Renee Zehel, vice president of University Advancement, agreed with Sr. Mary’s commitment to increase funding.

“I think the entire university has a role with respect to recruitment and with respect to fundraising,” said Zehel

Sr. Mary talked during the interview about the Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) task force reports, and although she has seen the original task force reports, she has not seen the Coordinating Committee’s final report, which will be released on September 6.

“I read [the recommendations from the task force reports] and I thought that some of them were probably worthwhile and we should take a look at it…I wasn’t sure that we really needed to phase out all of the programs that they suggested,” Sr. Mary said.

The Coordinating Committee’s report will include adjustments based on faculty comments to the original document.

Bittel expressed her thoughts on the financial reports released to the community.

“There’s no doubt we’re on the right track,” said Bittel. “Radical changes won’t happen [immediately]…It’s not going to be an easy process.”

Additionally, Dr. Samantha Christiansen, assistant professor of Social Science, shared her thoughts on the SRA documents.

“I think it’s going to be affecting us less than some might expect,” said Christiansen. “Maybe there will be a sense of relief on campus [since the SRA is completed].”

Dr. Craig Johnson, professor of Mathematics and Computer Science and previous Faculty Senate President, said he thinks Marywood is going to have a great year.

“I’m positive. I feel good about it,” said Johnson. “The president gives us tremendous hope for the future.”

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Twitter: @JBonacciTWW