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Friday, November 25, 2011

Rivier president a vibrant leader

Telegraph Editorial

Sister Paula Marie Buley was inaugurated as Rivier College’s 12th president last week. If the city and college community are expecting a “go-slow, get-a-feel-for-the-landscape” leader, a surprise awaits.

Expect a vibrant, visionary leader who will push the 78-year-old college to achieve university status while evolving to meet a broader constituency of students, including more doctoral students.

Expect a challenged faculty and student body.

Expect an embrace of technology, particularly as it can enhance learning, but not necessarily lots of new brick buildings.

And expect her to fully drive the mission of the school, that of “transforming hearts and minds to serve the world.”

The “world” may seem lofty, but Buley comes to the campus aiming high.

“Our history will lead us ever more boldly and confidently into the future,” she said at her inauguration.

Boldness, in higher education, is good – and much needed these days. Consider the absurdly high cost of getting a private college education these days, particularly in the Northeast.

Confronting high school students – and their parents – are the stratospheric costs of more than $50,000 a year for tuition, room, board and expenses. When one considers that a four-year degree will equate to the cost of a house when it is paid off, how can anyone do anything but shudder at the prospects of gaining a college degree?

For its part, Rivier College is much less costly than many schools, with tuition of about $25,000 and room and board of $10,000, but it’s still daunting.

When Buley met with The Telegraph’s editorial board a couple of weeks ago, she acknowledged the challenge and agreed the traditional path to achieve an advanced degree is simply not realistic for many.

Distance or online learning, evening classes and other nontraditional approaches are part of what Rivier offers and will likely expand under her presidency.

It’s why adding buildings to college campuses, fancy fitness centers, elaborate student unions – all trappings of the recent competition for students at schools throughout the country – may simply be unsustainable.

Buley comes to Rivier with a diverse background, working in administrative positions at Seton Hall University in New York, Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland and Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. Most recently, she was at Anna Maria College in Massachusetts.

Buley will set about to complete a process already started at the college – to become a university. She believes much is already in place.

We like her thinking and that of the Rivier College community. It is what has led to increased prominence for Southern New Hampshire University, which changed from New Hampshire College in 2001, and for Plymouth State College, which became Plymouth State University in 2003.

We were impressed with Buley’s manner, her enthusiasm, her listening and her thoughtful responses. She displays an energy that will, we suspect, push the Rivier administration, its students and its faculty to be innovative and mindful of continuous improvement. Everyone will be busy.

Perhaps Lauren Hall, a Rivier senior and president of the Student Government Association, captured Buley best when she said at the president’s inauguration: “We are wondering if we’ll be able to keep up with her.”