University of the Future

A blue, green and white illustration of a male figure caught in a blizzard

T

he tall banners emblazoned with the distinctive “Q,” the palpable energy, the full complement of academic fanfare and regalia, all of it welcomed a historic moment and a great day May 1 as Judy D. Olian was inaugurated as Quinnipiac University’s 9th president.

“It may seem odd to anyone not from academia to hold an inauguration at the end of both a semester and the school year,” Olian told more than 1,000 people at the People’s United Center, including some of her family members who came from as far away as Australia and France.

“Yet as I finish my first year as president of Quinnipiac and begin my official term, it strikes me that this is the perfect metaphor for Quinnipiac. This is a university defined by constant beginnings.”

Moments earlier, as she made her entrance, Olian waved to faculty, students, staff, family and friends. She wore a navy and light blue gown with school seals on the front and four stripes on each sleeve to signify her office. Her hood was cardinal to reflect the cardinal and white school colors of the University of Wisconsin, where Olian earned her master of science and PhD in industrial relations.

The president was introduced by Board of Trustees chairman William Weldon ’71, the retired chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. During her speech, Olian announced that Weldon and his wife, Barbara ’71, have made a $15 million gift — the largest in Quinnipiac’s nearly 90-year history — to support a new strategic plan: The University of the Future.

Olian explained that the strategic plan was developed with the collective input of all of the university’s stakeholders. It includes four pillars: preparing graduates for 21st-century careers and citizenship, building inclusive excellence, driving positive change in our local and global communities, and fostering lifelong connections and learning.

Among the transformative initiatives proposed in the strategic plan is the construction of a comprehensive academic and classroom facility, as well as a state-of-the-art health and wellness center with activities and programming that will support physical fitness, medical needs, mental health counseling and ongoing wellness and prevention education such as nutrition, mindfulness, family and addiction management programs.

To support Quinnipiac’s vibrant intellectual community of faculty and staff, the strategic plan calls for the investment in their scholarship and lifelong learning needs. Included in this is the investment in innovative capacity, in the form of new faculty, added research infrastructure and educational experiments. Facilities for classrooms, labs and faculty offices are vital to enable Quinnipiac’s thriving intellectual community.

The plan also calls for the creation of an integrated advising center that will cater to the lifespan of students and alumni, from academic advising for traditional students, professional advising in preparation for a graduate’s first job, to lifelong career advising and credentialing for the duration of a graduate’s professional and personal life.

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Quinnipiac President Judy Olian pictured smiling with hands folded in her lap during her inauguration ceremony.

Looking toward the future

Judy D. Olian was inaugurated as Quinnipiac’s 9th president on May 1. The university community celebrated with a week-long series of events that showcased the University of the Future.

“As the director of alumni relations and an alumnus myself, I’m truly energized by President Olian’s strategic vision for the university,” said John Arcangelo ’02. “Inspiring meaningful, lifelong engagement opportunities with our alumni will support the growth of our students, alumni community and Quinnipiac University as a whole.”

Weldon is also energized.

“Judy is an extraordinary visionary and a dynamic, collaborative leader. The team concept is very important to her and has really been a hallmark of her success,” Weldon said.

“The vision she has put together for Quinnipiac will take us into the future and help us not only identify the needs of our students, but help us meet those needs with a college education that is meaningful and hopeful,” he said.

“Lots of institutions are ambitious,” Olian said, “but Quinnipiac’s ambition is infused with dedication to our students’ emotional, spiritual and intellectual development, a drive to be relevant in our research and societal questions, a level of caring for others, and deep interest in where the puck is headed, to use an analogy we all understand here.”

University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill, who delivered the keynote address, told those assembled that “at no time in our history has a college education been so vital and so important as today. Yet, at no time in my memory has there been more doubt or dissension among the public concerning our institutions of higher learning.”

This contradiction, Schill explained, puts a premium on the leadership, fundraising and decision-making skills of college presidents. Before Schill and Olian were named to the top positions at their respective universities, they were friends at UCLA, when he was dean of the School of Law and she was dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“The seminal text on higher education leadership was written by Michael Cohen and James March in 1975,” Schill said. “It characterizes American universities as ‘organized anarchy’ characterized by ‘problematic goals, unclear technology and fluid participation.’ I’m not sure how that sounds to you, but I think Judy Olian is ideally suited to run ‘organized anarchy.’”

It is this bold, gutsy approach to leadership — Olian is decisive and deliberate as much as she is thoughtful and innovative — that will write the next chapter of Quinnipiac’s story.

“Judy Olian has a strong, moral compass. She is steadfast. She is loyal. She has an excellent sense of academic judgment,” Schill said. “She’s exceptionally ambitious — not for herself, but for the institution that she serves.”

Olian said at each juncture in Quinnipiac’s history, those who came before made “daring choices” backed by action, the pathway to a global, 21st-century vision of the future.

“In former president Samuel Tator’s day, this might have been called moxie,” Olian said. “Today, we would describe it as nimbleness or audacity. It is the spirit of the bobcat, our mascot: fierce, always moving, and surprisingly capable of prevailing in challenges much larger than its size would suggest.”

Olian also made a point of addressing the accessibility of higher education at Quinnipiac and elsewhere. “Education is a human right — and we will do our part,” she pledged, her comments met with enthusiastic applause.

The president speaks from her own experiences as a college student seeking an opportunity to improve herself and her world. “I came to America on an immigrant visa and received a scholarship to attend graduate school at Wisconsin,” Olian said. “That’s how I was swept up in the transformative power of U.S. higher education, and in the embrace of immigrants by the U.S. And that education never ends.”

To illustrate her point, Olian referenced a four-day stretch of events this spring that captured the diversity and breadth of ideas across the university’s campuses. During that time, she sat in on a teach-in about women and empowerment, a discussion about sex trafficking that drew upon the disciplines of law and medicine, a presentation about Ireland’s Great Hunger and a symposium that considered the connection between negotiation strategies and politics.

President Judy Olian poses with 11 students in front of the bobcat statue outside of the People's United Center arena.

Shaping the future together

Students gathered for a photo with President Olian by the Bobcat sculpture outside the People’s United Center after the inauguration. From left: Vanessa Udoji ’20; Esau Greene ’21; Luke Ahearn ’20; Sean Dacey ’19; Ashley Priante ’19; President Judy Olian; Shannon Flaherty ’22; Ruby Rosenwasser ’20, Emily Roskopf ’19; Nick Jermain ’20 and Alex Whelan ’20.

Charlotte Hammond, a biology professor and chair of the faculty senate, has spent the last 24 years teaching at Quinnipiac. She said the faculty believes in the richness and quality of the education here and Olian’s commitment to the future.

“The world is rapidly changing, and we are confident that Quinnipiac University, under your leadership, will be innovative and able to embrace these changes,” Hammond said in her remarks.

The Legends, Quinnipiac’s a cappella singing group, offered two songs during the ceremony, and the platform party processed from the arena to the strains of “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, accompanied by Boomer the Bobcat and a group of students waving blue and gold pom-poms.

Members of the university community converged in the Rocky Top Student Center for a reception and to paint four murals to be installed at Yale New Haven Hospital. The art, which highlights the Hamden-New Haven area, is designed to bring comfort to patients and their families. One of the murals features a bobcat and another, a lighthouse.

Events at the student center also included three faculty-led discussions on the future of democracy, education and nutrition. At the reception, Matthew Williams, a junior biology major, said Olian has a proven record of successful fundraising at UCLA, where she raised $450 million for student and faculty support, innovative programming and capital improvements. Williams said he believes in her plan for the University of the Future.

As part of the week-long inauguration celebration, Quinnipiac showcased the work of students and their faculty advisers on April 30 at the Innovation Expo and Taste of the Arts.

At the Innovation Expo, students from the College of Arts and Sciences and the university’s eight professional schools presented projects ranging from the application of data and audience engagement to better understanding hunger in Hamden and using calculus to predict the spread of a future Ebola outbreak based on 2014 data from Sierra Leone.

“Differential equations aren’t my strong suit, so I really had to work hard,” said Abigail Long, a senior math major. “I also learned how math can be used in so many different ways.”

Talent also loomed large at Taste of the Arts as the Department of Visual and Performing Arts offered a sampling of student work at the Black Box Theatre. The enthusiastic audience enjoyed performances by the QU Chamber Orchestra, a short play starring students Paul Zopatti and Tess Adams, two numbers by the QU Jazz ensemble led by Kyle Saulnier, visiting instructor of music, and several songs by the QU Singers.

In the lobby, student artwork was on display, and visitors tried their hands at video games created by game design and development students.

Deborah Mawhirter, a member of the Parents Council, came to watch her daughter, Nicole, a junior physical therapy major who sang with the QU Singers. She also performed in “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Wild Party” the last two years.

“This program was amazing. Nicole was not a theater major, but was able to carry on her passion with the arts at Quinnipiac,” she said.

The weeklong, community-wide inaugural celebration kicked off days earlier with an engaging mentorship event that brought Hamden and North Haven high school students together with Quinnipiac students and faculty to participate in presentations and activities exploring what it means to be a good, global citizen. QU students, faculty and staff also collected nonperishable foods to donate to food pantries in the region.

“We are an institution of lifelong learning,” Olian said, “and I am lucky to be a part of it. … It’s a privilege to be among people who — in many different ways — are integral to the uplifting and noble pursuit of learning. Whether as a teacher, an administrator, a trustee, a spiritual leader, a staff member, or as a student — higher education is an experience that transforms a life.”

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