April 17, 2019 1 COMMENTS

Assumption president: plans go beyond reorganization, university name

Photo | Grant Welker
“We already are a comprehensive university,” Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo said. “We're just not calling ourselves that.”

Assumption College administrators met at a retreat in the summer of 2017 to sketch out a course for the school in the coming years.

Discussion quickly revolved around the Worcester school's academic programs and how Assumption could make offerings both consistent with its liberal arts mission and applicable to where students are most likely going to find work today.

That talk evolved into an effort still taking place today. Assumption College said in February it would restructure its academic departments and change its name, substituting "university" for "college."

It's part of a broader effort, President Francesco Cesareo said in an interview with WBJ in April, to make sure the typically more traditionally minded college – with Catholicism and liberal arts as its foundation – keeps up with changes in higher education.

Assumption is also starting club sports for women's hockey, men's swimming and esports – online video game competitions becoming a huge industry in their own right. A $35-million capital campaign that's 90% complete will, among other things, add a new academic building and synthetic turf athletic fields.

The college is putting more resources into scholarships, including one paying $25,000 a year for students based on community service in high school. That would make a significant difference when Assumption estimated cost of attendance this year at $56,000.

As has been reported, Assumption is adding new majors including cybersecurity and nursing to offer students degrees in more in-demand fields. Other programs are being downgraded from majors to minors, including art history, geography and foreign languages like French and Italian.

It's not exactly a sea change but still an a new direction for Assumption under Cesareo, its president since 2007.

Illustrating how the college's focus isn't changing too much, Cesareo spends the better part of an hour-long interview explaining the academic restructuring, which will mean departments moving both physically and psychologically to where they're better situated.

"As an institution, we would be better served if our structure reflected our reality, and the students would be better served because in bringing together [similar] disciplines, we'd create an environment where there'd be much better synergy," he said.

Photo | Grant Welker
Assumption College is looking to change its name to a university in part to better attract overseas students that think of the word college as referring to a high school. The new name would better reflect the schools offerings, president Francesco Cesareo said.

Assumption will group all of its majors into five departments: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Professions and the School of Graduate & Professional Studies.

If it sounds like the type of move that appeals more to administrators and faculty than to students, that's not what Assumption has in mind. Cesareo said he expects new collaborations to lead to new courses or majors.

"We're seeing collaboration taking place already between economics and the business program as they prepare for this new configuration, collaboration that we never saw before," Cesareo said.

New academic offerings, including a nursing major, are being credited with what the school says is a 7% year-to-year increase in applications.

"We know the needs are going to grow," Cesareo said of healthcare jobs like physician assistants and nurses. "And as the healthcare system changes, we know there's going to be more of a need for both [physician assistants] and nurses, and in particular nurse practitioners."

For sure, more visible than an academic restructuring will be a name change from Assumption College to Assumption University, a move potentially coming with a broader rebranding for the 115-year-old school.

Combined, the name change and academic restructuring has been found to work well elsewhere, Assumption found in working with consultants. In other cases, recruitment and philanthropy rose, and pride improved.

Bentley University dropped college from its name in 2008, and two years later, Worcester State University and others in the state school system did the same.

The change requires state Board of Higher Education approval, but the new name could be in place as soon as the fall 2019 semester. The university name is expected to help with recruitment overseas, where college more often refers to high school.

"We already are a comprehensive university," Cesareo said. "We're just not calling ourselves that."


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04/18/19 AT 12:04 PM
Will this change enhance services to students that need addition help? Students with disabilities, counseling services, etc..
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