Brother President Ronald Gallagher attended the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, met with Congressional staffers and the editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education and hosted a gathering for Washington D.C.-area alumni during a productive trip to the nation's capital from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.
Brother Ronald met with Jeffrey Selingo, the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, who regularly meets with presidents of colleges and universities when they visit Washington, where the Chronicle is based.
During the half-hour discussion, Selingo expressed interest in Saint Mary's unique January Term course offerings, its diverse student population, how the College maintains its Catholic identity while serving a growing population of non-Catholics and in the Mission and Ministry Center's immersion programs for students.
Brother Ronald told Selingo about the challenges facing institutions of Catholic higher education. Among them is the "new normal," which he described as the economic reality of colleges navigating prolonged recessionary times and coping with more students and families in need of greater financial aid. "The business model of higher education may need to be retooled by developing partnerships between institutions and across departments within individual schools," he said.
He also spoke with Selingo about a growing sensibility within the religious higher-ed group that it should be more proactive in reaching out to the media, and the public, to emphasize the mission of service and inclusivity that attracts many students to Catholic colleges. "The Catholic higher education tradition has a much broader agenda than the single-issue voices that get attention in today's media. Our emphasis on Catholic social teachings and faith-based mission are important value points for today's students," said Brother Ronald.
Brother Ronald provided Selingo with informational materials about the College's academic offerings, including a Saint Mary's magazine, admissions brochures and a T-shirt from last year's 50th anniversary phone booth cram, which the Chronicle marked with a cartoon on 50 years of college trends.
"We had a very productive meeting with the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education. I think Jeff Selingo appreciates the distinctiveness of Saint Mary's College. And, hopefully, as a result of our discussion, more people will hear about the great things that are happening at Saint Mary's," said Brother Ronald.
The Saint Mary's president also went to Capitol Hill to meet with several senior legislative staff members from the College's local Congressional delegation, including Julie Radocchia, senior education policy advisor for the House Committee on Education and Labor. Radocchia shared the highlights of President Barack Obama's newly released proposed budget as it pertains to higher ed. Brother Ronald explained how important federal financial aid is to the students at Saint Mary's. "Pell Grants and student loans have helped keep Saint Mary's affordable," he told the committee staff. Some 80 percent of SMC students receive financial aid.
Later, nearly 40 Saint Mary's alumni and friends from the Washington, D.C., area gathered in the banquet room of the Rayburn House office building to hear Brother Ronald give a State of the College report. More than 40 years of alumni were represented, from Jim Guyette '67 to Laura Manewtiz '08.
Introduced by D.C. alumni chapter president Frank Howard '79, Brother Ronald discussed the progress the College has made over the past few years, including renovations to student residence halls and the campus cafeteria, Oliver Hall. Alumni collectively cheered when Brother Ronald announced the popularity of the renovated Oliver Hall, which now features food stations and more choices from gourmet fare to vegetarian offerings.
"The Lasallian tradition is very much alive at Saint Mary's," Brother Ronald said. He emphasized that SMC's current students are very interested in living out this tradition. Acknowledging a decade of service through CILSA (Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action) program, he said SMC students are committed to social justice, adding, "And they are pushing us to go further."
Brother Ronald also spoke about the impact the recession is having on the College, the steps the College is taking to keep Saint Mary's affordable and how alumni can help the College reach that goal.
"I know this is not news to you," he said, "but the College has been impacted by the national recession. We are managing well thanks to the generosity from our alumni and friends. Your continued support helps keep Saint Mary's affordable."
He also mentioned the success the Gael athletic teams are having; noting the current success of the men's and women's basketball teams and the outstanding efforts by the men's soccer team and the women's volleyball team. However, what brought the most noise from the crowd were loud cheers from a few former rugby players who were pleased to hear about the club's record from last season.
For some, the gathering provided an opportunity to reconnect with old friends from the campus. For others, it was the first alumni event they attended.
"I was thrilled to get the invitation and have been looking forward to coming for weeks," said Laura Clarke EMBA '95.
-- Mike McAlpin and Tim Farley
Office of College Communications