Q&A with the interim president
At the request of the Board of Trustees, John Pelissero, PhD, is serving as the interim president of Loyola University Chicago. Pelissero has been a member of Loyola’s political science faculty for 30 years. He joined University administration in 2003, when he served as associate provost for curriculum development until 2005. From 2005 to 2010, he held the position of vice provost, and, in 2010, he was elected as provost and chief academic officer. His deep knowledge of Loyola, his commitment, and his invaluable contributions to Loyola’s strategic efforts make him uniquely qualified to lead the University during this transition. John and his wife, Paula, a human resources consultant, have two children—Carolyn Moretti and Steven—who attended Jesuit institutions and live and work in Chicago. The Pelisseros reside in Skokie.
What are your priorities as interim president?
The University has accomplished so much under the inspirational leadership of Father Garanzini for the past 14 years. My priorities will be to maintain the University’s solid financial position, ensure a strong enrollment plan for the next academic year, attend to key University internal and external stakeholders, and communicate regularly and effectively with our University community.
Loyola has recently experienced a period of growth and expansion. How will the University continue that momentum?
The momentum of the University will continue, particularly as we open the new homes for our Quinlan School of Business and the research enterprise at the Health Sciences Campus—the Center for Translational Research and Education. As a private university, it is most important for us to continue our successful enrollment strategy that ensures we have about 10,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate and professional students while looking for new opportunities, such as the expansion of our online programs, enrollment of adult students, and recruitment of more international students.
The next five-year strategic plan is being finalized. What are the plan’s priorities and goals?
The Board of Trustees approved the new strategic plan in June. “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World” extends the goals of our former plan and situates social justice at the center of our strategy. The plan has four new institutional priorities focused on students, faculty, programs, and partnerships, which include: I) Leverage University Resources to Ensure Student Access and Success; II) Advance our Social Justice Mission through Faculty Development; III) Promote Multidisciplinary Collaboration to Address Societal Challenges; and IV) Engage Local and Global Societal Challenges through Partnerships. As part of the plan, Loyola will launch a series of major initiatives, including Arrupe College, a faculty recruitment and development program that will advance the Jesuit humanistic tradition, a health disparities program of research and action, and deeper partnership programs with our local neighborhoods.
What are the biggest challenges facing higher education right now?
First, there are fewer high school graduates and college-bound students, particularly in our region. Second, we must provide access and affordability of higher education for all, but especially for first-generation and historically underrepresented students. Third, the availability of federal and state programs of financial aid that have helped so many students achieve a college degree is decreasing.
How is Loyola tackling those challenges?
It is reflected in our strategic plan. Arrupe College is designed to provide access to college at an affordable value, especially for Chicago-area students who do not have all of the means to realize their educational goals. It is present in the development of new program—environmental science, engineering science, and specialty graduate programs that will attract new students. And Loyola is taking an active role in advocating for federal and state programs of financial aid to help students access a college degree.
How will you be working with Father Garanzini in his new role as chancellor?
I am grateful to Father Garanzini for his willingness to extend his service to Loyola in his new role of chancellor. He wants to help me and the next president with any projects for which his knowledge and experience can continue to help advance the University. We will be collaborating on alumni relations, University advancement, our partnerships in Catholic health care, the Arrupe College initiative, and some of our international projects in Rome and Vietnam—which connect well to his global role as secretary for higher education for the Society of Jesus.
Did Father Garanzini give you any advice?
Essentially, he said to listen well before making decisions, be a good communicator, and reserve time for my family. And I think he may have implied that I should be careful not to mess things up!