Persico reflects on first two semesters as Marywood president

Rachael Eyler and Manfid Duran


Jessica Bonacci, News Editor

“Adventuresome” is the word Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., used to describe her first two semesters as president.

“It’s been an exciting year and it flew by, that’s for sure… and I can’t wait for the future of Marywood because I sense that we’re turning a corner that’s going to make us greater than ever,” Persico said.

Now that Persico has held office at Marywood for two full semesters, The Wood Word sat down with her to discuss her thoughts on the past two semesters and where she sees Marywood in the future.

Persico talks about changing conversations
“When I first came here I thought I was comfortable and at home, and I find out now in retrospect…I think I wasn’t as comfortable and at home as I thought I was, because now I feel like everything seems to be falling into place,” Persico shared.

She said that after getting to know the students, staff and faculty at Marywood, the conversations with them have changed.

“Now that I do know [faculty, students and staff] I feel we can be honest with each other, and sometimes we have difficult conversations that we weren’t having before,” Persico said. “Now that we’re having those more difficult but more authentic conversations, I think we’re really making progress as a university to help us move forward.”

Persico discusses the college restructuring, accreditation
One change happening this year will be the condensing of the current college structure from five colleges to three, a change that will take effect on July 1. Persico said the university waited until a new provost was hired to begin the process, and she praised current Provost Dr. Susan Turell for her work.

“She [Turell] just really vetted it with everyone here on campus and aligned the programs up in a way that, to me, makes more sense,” Persico said. “I think, in the future, it’ll be better educationally for us.”

The restructuring is expected to save the university $450,000, some of which will come within the first year.

Persico said the money the university will save is a positive outcome, but it was not the main motive for the restructuring.

“I hope people who aren’t [excited] will come to see that it’s really a good thing,” Persico explained.

As a result of the restructuring, Turell appointed three current deans to head the three restructured colleges. Dr. Mark Rodgers will lead the College of Health and Human Services, Dr. Fran Zauhar will lead the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and James Sullivan will head the new College of Professional Studies.

Current dean of the Insalaco College of Creative and Performing Arts Collier Parker will be returning in the fall as a member of the art department’s faculty, according to Turell.

Persico said she hopes the three deans will “really work together” in their new roles.

“We are definitely encouraging those three deans to take initiatives, to take responsibility, to work collaboratively and most of all to be part of the public face of Marywood so that when they’re out and about in the community, people will see them as academic leaders at Marywood University,” Persico said.

This past March, the university received notice that it had been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education for the next eight years. Persico said that she’s happy about the results, but there is still more that needs to be done.

“When something like that is over you just breathe a sigh of relief…but we have reports due on the first of December to follow up on our study, and they want to know how we are advancing in doing what we said we would do so we have to make sure those reports get completed,” Persico said.

Persico reflects on achieving goals
One goal Persico shared with The Wood Word earlier this semester was that of increasing enrollment at the university. Persico said that over the past semester, recruitment efforts have increased with positive results.

“I’m happy to say that on this day [May 2] last year we had at least 40 fewer students signed up to come to Marywood than we do on this day this year,” Persico said. “So enrollment appears to be on the uptick and, for sure, students staying in our dorms appears to be on the uptick.”

Persico added that she thinks the increase in resident students is “a good thing because it forms community here on campus and students become more closely knit with one another.”

Another previous goal set by Persico was to increase community involvement on campus. One facet of that goal was the building of the amphitheatre in the place of the Learning Resource Center.

Persico said that the first step in that process, the demolition of the Learning Resource Center, will take place on May 22.

“We’re waiting until after graduation because parents and families will be on campus during graduation,” Persico said.

Persico said the university will work on landscaping the area, but expressed uncertainty about the start date of the amphitheatre construction.

According to Patrick Castellani, controller and assistant treasurer, the university is actively pursuing funding for the construction of the amphitheatre, which is estimated to cost $300,000.

Persico prepares for graduation
On May 20, Persico will preside over her first graduation ceremony as Marywood President. She said that although this is not her first graduation ceremony, she believes that it will be a “bittersweet” but nonetheless an “exhilarating day.”

“It’s just the culmination of lots of hard work and fun and community-building and so forth and then [the graduating students] all go away…but I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to it,” Persico said.

Persico said that she wants graduating students to hold onto that “something special” about Marywood.

“All year long I’ve spoken with the Board of Trustees and with the other administrators and others about that whole concept of branding,” Persico said. “Marywood is very special. I have found in speaking with the [alumni] that they love Marywood and they love something intangible about it.”

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Twitter: @JBonacciTWW