October 1, 2023


Three native college presidents mentioned how the business is rebounding from the pandemic years.

From left: Aisha Francis, president and CEO of Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Expertise; Paula A. Johnson, president of Wellesley Faculty; and Marisa Kelly, president of Suffolk College, with Linda Henry, CEO of Boston Globe Media, at far proper. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Employees

What does the way forward for larger schooling appear to be? That’s the query Boston Globe Media CEO Linda Henry posed to 3 Massachusetts school and college presidents Tuesday morning, asking them to forecast the business’s response to political upheavals and college students’ altering expectations as we emerge from the pandemic period.

The panel kicked off the third annual Globe Summit — a public discussion board hosted by The Boston Globe convening business and thought leaders from throughout Boston and New England, on matters from AI to city growth to youth management.

Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Expertise President and CEO Aisha Francis, Wellesley Faculty President Paula Johnson, and Suffolk College President Marisa Kelly lead markedly completely different establishments. Franklin Cummings Tech is a two-year technical and commerce school; Wellesley is a highly-selective liberal arts school; and Suffolk is a medium-sized analysis college. However the three presidents discovered widespread floor on lots of the tendencies shaping larger schooling right now. Listed here are 4 takeaways from their dialog.

Campuses are coming alive once more.

Francis, Johnson, and Kelly agreed that there’s a renewed vitality on their campuses this fall.

“Our campus is alive in a method that it hasn’t been shortly,” Johnson stated. “Final 12 months we have been form of rising from the pandemic, and this 12 months actually appears like we’re again.”

“We’re so excited to be totally again,” Kelly agreed.

That’s to not say that transitioning again to totally in-person instruction and programming has been with out its challenges.

“There was a psychological well being disaster [exacerbated by] the pandemic,” Johnson acknowledged. “College students misplaced a few of their essential social growth years.” Wellesley is dedicated to supporting college students’ growth exterior of the classroom, she stated, understanding that their schooling was disrupted for years by COVID-19.

Schools and universities are considering rigorously about how they market themselves to college students.

As schools and universities emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, they’re acutely aware of the truth that expectations of upper ed have developed. 

College students are “extra than ever in flexibility,” Francis stated. Which means new course modalities, and “shorter bursts of upper schooling” within the type of certificates packages and accelerated programs.

Potential college students need to know {that a} Franklin Cummings Tech schooling will create tangible worth of their lives, Francis stated. 

“Ensuring that folk know that we’re educating right now’s workforce is basically necessary to us,” she stated. “Inclusivity, belonging, and relevance … is what’s necessary to us.”

Wellesley, too, is reminding college students and group members alike of the sensible worth its liberal arts levels confer.

“We’re an necessary financial engine for this state,” Johnson stated — each as a job creator for 1000’s of school and employees, and by way of the 70% of graduates who select to stay and work in Massachusetts after they go away Wellesley.

The SCOTUS affirmative motion determination may have implications for larger ed establishments of all sorts.

Establishments of upper schooling are extra than simply job creators, although. They prepare college students to have interaction with their communities, discover their passions, and join throughout variations. However the Supreme Courtroom’s current determination to ban the consideration of race in school admissions will threaten some faculties’ capacity to do this, the panelists stated. 

Wellesley will doubtless really feel the affect of the SCOTUS determination essentially the most, Johnson stated, as a result of it’s a highly-selective college that beforehand used affirmative motion to diversify its scholar physique.

“Our dedication to sustaining the variety that we have now is important,” Johnson stated. “We’ve invested extra in admissions, there’s extra on-the-ground work by way of persevering with to construct relationships with excessive faculties and community-based organizations.”

Suffolk considers itself an “entry and alternative establishment,” Kelly stated, that’s been in a position to appeal to a various scholar physique with out contemplating race in admissions. However that doesn’t imply the college will probably be spared from future battles over race in larger ed.

“What’s the subsequent shoe to drop?” Kelly questioned aloud. If lawmakers limit universities from monitoring college students’ race as soon as they’ve enrolled, as an example, Suffolk would battle to observe post-graduation outcomes for its college students of colour, which might set again its profession fairness initiatives.

College students are as curious and engaged as ever.

Regardless of current upheavals within the area, all three educators stay optimistic about their work. 

Francis admires how “hyper-focused our college students” — a lot of whom hail from Boston’s Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, and Hyde Park neighborhoods — “are on their native neighborhoods and communities.” 

“On the entire, larger ed is a hopeful place to be,” Johnson agreed. “[Students’] pleasure about coming to varsity, studying, getting the abilities, occupied with the most important problems with the world they need to be part of — that’s actual, and it’s tangible. And that’s our job, to maintain that fireplace alive.”