Matt Rogers, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Born and raised in West Utica, Laura Casamento pledged to students that she would use her Mohawk Valley roots to her advantage if selected as president of Utica College.
“I have a real passion for what this institution means to the region,” she said. “We are an anchor institution and we need to make sure we stay that way.”
Casamento, executive vice president and chief advancement officer at UC, spoke for about 50 minutes on Monday in front of a dozen students and answered questions ranging from her favorite activities to her thoughts on Greek life.
She opened the talk by sharing her story. Casamento is the youngest of six siblings and became the first in her family to receive a college degree when she graduated from SUNY Canton.
“In a lot of ways, my story is like that of UC students,” she said.
In her current role, Casamento spends a lot of time behind the scenes working on advancement, financial and enrollment planning. She hasn’t had a chance to interact with students and faculty on a regular basis, but said that will change if selected as president.
Like fellow presidential candidate Laura Niesen de Abruna, Casamento proposed office hours so students can stop by her office to talk.
“I’m going to spend a lot of time listening,” Casamento said. “It’s a major priority to get to know students and their needs.”
Senior Colleen Clyne asked multiple questions and thought Casamento handled the interview process well.
“I really like her,” she said. “I think she did a really good job of answering the questions.”
Casamento also addressed topics surrounding the college’s growth. The tuition reset and the building of the Todd and Jen Hutton Sports and Recreation Center have helped transform UC and have led to an increase in applications.
But she also noted that with these improvements the academic and residential hall space is quickly filling to capacity.
“Besides building new dorms, we can work on selectivity,” Casamento said. “Right now we are at 83 percent [acceptance rate]. Until we can build, maybe we accept 75 or 76 percent. These are things we can work on until we grow our capacity.”
Senior Mike Defone thought Casamento did a good job defending her positions.
“I liked how she answered how we’re going to get more students and how she addressed it,” he said. “She sounds like she has a good plan.”
In May, Casamento anticipates earning her executive doctorate degree in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. She started that program with the understanding it would improve her strength as a candidate if she were to ever apply for the presidency. It has been a tiring process, but one that has provided her with a great deal of valuable information.
“The program has been fantastic,” she said. “I’ve had my mind expanded by some of the greatest minds in education.”
A former bank president, Casamento said her mix of business and corporate experience combined with her career in higher education differentiates her from the other candidates.
Clyne liked the fact that Casamento is already entrenched in the UC community.
“Compared to the other candidates, I like that she has that insight into what the college needs,” she said.
Just before wrapping up her talk, Casamento explained that under her leadership the school would not become stagnant and would live by its motto of never standing still.
“There’s no place for complacency here at UC,” she said. “That would be the worst thing we could do.”
Featured Image: Presidential finalist Laura Casamento answers a question while students look on. Photo by Matt Rogers.