Assumption College Upgrading to University Status

By Katelynn Rosa:

Assumption College is known as a small liberal arts college with a close-knit community, but what could happen to this community if the school changes to a university? The president of the college, Francesco Cesareo, hosted a student forum on March 28 in Tsotsis Family Academic Building to answer questions current students have about the change.

In the last five years, 17 colleges in Massachusetts closed, and now three New Hampshire schools will be closing at the end of this spring semester. Assumption felt they needed to take action to prevent the possibility from turning into a reality. So in the summer of 2017, the Assumption Cabinet had a retreat to discuss the school’s future. With the current challenges higher education is facing, the committee came to one key idea: “That we [Assumption] should look at programs that are consistent with our liberal arts programs, but also meet the market needs of the time,” said President Cesareo.

So, from then on until early 2019, Assumption gathered faculty, staff, and administrators to develop a plan as to what the school would like with the status of university. The committee agreed there should be a division of schools: the college of liberal arts and science, the school of business, the school of health professions, the school of graduate studies, and the school of nursing to name a few.

But, President Cesareo wanted to make sure Assumption’s reputation of focusing on the liberal arts was still intact, and to do that all students will have the same core curriculum. “Every student [should have] the same experience of an Assumption education regardless of whatever school they ended up being a part of,” said President Cesareo. “The college [of liberals arts and sciences] is the nucleus of the restructuring. Every student will go through [it] on their pathway to these other schools.”

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President Franceso Cesareo speaking at the student forum

According to the restructuring committee, Assumption College already met the requirements to officially become a university.

“We saw that were already a comprehensive institution,” President Cesareo said. “Our structure didn’t reflect it. Our name didn’t reflect it.”

So, what can the Assumption community expect from the change? First, becoming a university changes the marketing tactics to prospective students, especially international students. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that uses the words “college” and “university” interchangeably. With this change, international students may be more likely consider Assumption because the phrase “college” is most closely associated with high school.
Other things to consider would be the gathering of faculty by disciplinary expertise and the changes in recruiting opportunities. With faculty placed in their appropriate schools, for example business faculty placed in the school of business, there are more opportunities to create new majors. Assumption is currently considering the creation of a finance major with the collaboration of business and economics when the school of business is developed. This also can increase recruiting opportunities, in that a prospective student who might want to major in finance would more likely go to a school that offers a financing major than just a business one.

This might sound like a lot of changes, but this isn’t the first time Assumption has adapted to the times. “It’s been a part of our history to be a resilient and adaptable institution.” President Cesareo said.

In the past, Assumption has changed massively. Below is a short timeline of some of the changes that the school has gone through since its inception.

1904: Assumption Preparatory School was founded as a 6-year program (4 years of high school and 2 years of college), where French Canadian male students were taught in French
1940’s: Assumption accepted returning veterans to increase enrollment
1950’s-1960’s: Assumption transitioned from teaching classes in French to teaching classes in English
1953: Assumption’s campus was hit by a tornado and the school decided to move the campus and separate from the high school to pursue higher education, becoming Assumption College
1960’s: Assumption opened its door to women and became co-ed

To summarize, it is part of Assumption’s core values to accept change and adapt for its future community.

Students have a lot of questions on how this kind of change would affect them as a part of the community.

Mark SanClemente ‘19 asked how the status change would affect alumni and graduates. According to President Cesareo, the current graduates will receive a diploma that reads Assumption College, but will be given the opportunity to reprint their diploma once the change has been completed.

Alumni in the distant future will have the ability to have an affinity with the school they were associated with by donating to specific schools (e.g. a business graduate can donate specifically to the school of business).

Currently, President Cesareo is working with an unnamed donor on a seven-figure donation for a specific school. He refused to comment further.

Molly Berrigan ‘21 was interested in the collaboration of professors from different disciplines, and if the change would affect that in any way. According to Cesareo, there is be even more opportunities for classes with professors co-teaching from different departments. “We want to encourage interdisciplinary and inter-school collaborations.” President Cesareo said.

Sean Kennedy 22’ wanted to know how Assumption was different from the other schools that have closed in the last few years. Unlike the other schools, whose populations were smaller and ranging from 1200-2000 student, Assumption isn’t in a place of weakness. These other schools are closing for two reasons: because they are merging with larger schools or because their financial situation is dire.

“We are in a position of strength [and] that’s when you make these kinds of changes,” said President Cesareo. “Because if you wait to when you are in a position of weakness, you can’t make these changes, and that’s when it becomes too late.”

So, when can we see this change occur? According to President Cesareo, when the state grants the charter for the change, the school can officially change the name. The Telegram Gazette also spoke with Cesareo and wrote the change would occur in the next decade or so.

What are your thoughts on the restructuring of Assumption College? Comment below or tweet me at @KRosa_AC301.

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