Matt Rogers, Co-Editor-in-Chief
“What’s going right?”
“What can be improved?”
“What do you want to do about that?”
Those are the questions Laura Niesen de Abruna, the current provost at Sacred Heart University and one of the three finalists for president at Utica College, repeatedly asked and vowed to continue to ask if she is named the college’s next president.
About 20 people, including a strong international student presence, attended Niesen de Abruna’s meeting with students on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Niesen de Abruna spoke on a range of issues over the course of her hour-long talk, but focused heavily on how she would interact with students if chosen as president.
She proposed starting what she referred to as a “series of listening sessions.” This would allow her to meet with the different constituencies of campus for lunch on a regular basis, where she would make herself available to students, faculty and staff.
“I really like her,” junior UC student Cynthia Sainvil said. “She was comfortable, laid back, and humorous, as well.”
Sainvil also made note of Niesen de Abruna’s plan for open office hours once a week, which she said would most likely take place on Friday afternoons.
“Most presidents have a high ego,” Sainvil said. “But she’s going to make students feel comfortable going to her directly.”
Niesen de Abruna also spent a great deal of time addressing the concerns of international students, who made up nearly half of the crowd. As a student who spent a semester abroad in France, she emphasized the importance of the international community on campus.
“We learn from each other,” she said. “Students coming here from abroad must feel comfortable. We need to talk to them and see what we need to do.”
Her responses to the questions of international students pleased Bilal Khan, a student from Pakistan. Not only was he impressed with Niesen de Abruna’s presentation, but he was pleased with the way the search committee has handled the entire process.
“It was an awesome presentation,” he said. “Back home, we don’t have these types of opportunities. It’s like a dictatorship. I can sense democracy at UC.”
Niesen de Abruna opened up the session speaking about what drew her to UC. She noted that the college is innovative, always moving forward, and “an institution on the move.”
She said she was impressed with the balance of traditional and modern major programs, and applauded UC’s strong community spirit.
Niesen de Abruna made it clear she would keep UC’s unique student-teacher relationship intact if selected as president. She cited UC’s current 11:1 faculty to student ratio and expressed a desire to keep that ratio as low as possible.
As UC’s enrollment is expected to grow, Niesen de Abruna said that for quality instruction, class sizes should not exceed 20 students. If, as the college grows, more students need to take certain classes, new sections should be opened.
Most students who attended the talk left impressed with what they saw and heard.
“I think she did well to answer student questions and answer their concerns,” sophomore Sean Drzewiecki said. “Given her prior experience and the fact she seems to know what she’s talking about, she’d do just fine.”
Niesen de Abruna ended the session by thanking the students who attended and reiterated the fact that if selected, she will serve with the best interest of the students in mind.
“I thought she was very down-to-earth,” senior Pierrot Senat said. “She’ll do whatever she can to help students out.”
Featured Image: Laura Niesen de Abruna, one of the three finalist presidential candidates, answers a question at her meeting with students. Photo by Matt Rogers.