2014-12-31 / Front Page

Sister Jane Reflects on her Five Years at the Helm

By James Merolla


Jane Gerety, RSM Jane Gerety, RSM Jane Gerety, RSM, became the seventh president of Salve Regina University in July 2009, with a strong commitment to the Sisters of Mercy. This past fall semester marked the beginning of the sixth year of her academic leadership.

Prior to her arrival, Sister Jane, as she is called (she eschews the “President” appellation), was the academic dean at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, where she also served as an associate professor of English. She has taught at every level, from middle school through college. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in French and a Ph.D. in English.

With five-plus years at the helm, Newport This Week asked Sister Jane if her mid-decade goals have been met and if her tenure is what she expected.

Sister Jane, was Salve what you expected when you arrived? What surprised you? What didn't surprise you?


Ochre Court, the former mansion that now serves as administrative offices, including the office of Salve Regina University President, Sister Jane Gerety overlooking Cliff Walk on the spectacular oceanfront campus. Ochre Court, the former mansion that now serves as administrative offices, including the office of Salve Regina University President, Sister Jane Gerety overlooking Cliff Walk on the spectacular oceanfront campus. Having been a trustee of Salve Regina University, I was familiar with the academic programs, the distinct nature of the campus and, of course, the beauty of its location in Newport. I also knew that I liked the people I had already met through my role as a trustee. I cannot say I was surprised, but I certainly did not anticipate how welcoming and caring everyone would be or realize just how hard members of the university community work to ensure that our students are well provided for educationally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It truly is a very special place.

When you arrived what were your goals or even a five-year plan of where you wanted the school to be? Have you achieved your goals?

Salve Regina was a strong institution when I arrived. My primary goal was to work with cabinet members and the university community to continue to ensure that a Salve Regina education would prepare students to enter an ever changing world of work and an increasingly global community. In a shrinking pool of traditional 18-year-olds, I wanted to attract top caliber students, no matter their ability to pay the full tuition.

I am pleased to say that our institution has responded to the needs not only of our students but also to new needs in terms of skills and academic preparation. We have launched a doctorate program in nursing, expanded our programs and experiential learning opportunities in business, engaged in ground-breaking research in the sciences and endowed programs in cultural and historic preservation and history. We have also established a campus in Warwick to serve the academic needs of working adults in graduate and continuing education programs.

What are your plans for the next five years? Ten?

The university will continue to address best practices in contemporary learning, while still maintaining the quality and values that are the hallmarks of a Salve Regina education. This includes enhancing space for laboratories and hands-on learning as well as collaborative space for students and faculty to engage in more advanced outreach initiatives within their fields of study.

Has the school been able to keep to its Catholic roots in these everchanging, ever-challenging, times?

Yes. The mission of Salve Regina University is fully grounded in the values and traditions of the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic intellectual tradition. Students, faculty and staff embrace the mission to "work for a world that is harmonious, just and merciful" regardless of their own religious affiliations or beliefs. The need for greater justice and mercy in our world has not changed over the course of time. Mercy pervades all we do at Salve, from the academic program and service to spiritual life.

What's your best student recruiting tool beyond the unbelievable beauty of the campus?

Beyond our academic offerings, current students and graduates have told us that what they treasure most about their Salve Regina experience is the level of caring and attention they receive within the community, particularly when times may be tough for whatever reason. They know we take them seriously and that we are there for them throughout the transformative experience that is college. We truly are a family on this campus.

What, if anything, would you have done differently since 2009?

That is difficult to answer because I truly believe that every experience teaches you something new or provides you with greater insight for the future. One thing I have learned is that the busier you become, the more important it is to find simple moments of pleasure, peace or solitude. Even a moment to just stop and breathe in the fresh air is important for my mind and soul.

What has your staff helped you to accomplish?

The success of Salve Regina really is a community-wide accomplishment. The university would not be what it is without everyone in the family – our grounds, facilities, safety and security departments to campus life staff, faculty and those who handle our business and administrative operations. I depend greatly on my senior cabinet members and they truly deserve much of the credit for the accomplishments that have been made during my tenure thus far.

If you could describe your presidency in a few words or a phrase, what would it be?

Never, ever, a dull moment. Or, a joyful adventure in the service of students.

If you could describe Salve Regina in a few words or a phrase, what would it be?

Salve Regina is a mercy-centered community where our students are challenged to learn, live and then make a difference in the world.

What has been the most unexpected off-the-cuff remark from a student that made you see that you are making a difference?

What strikes me most is not so much a remark, but a remembrance of a particular student who entered as a boyish freshman and graduated as a mature, professional young man. The evolution did not happen overnight, but as I watched this individual walk across the stage to accept his diploma I was struck by how much he had changed not only physically, but also in terms of his confidence. I was also pleased when he said, "These past four years were the best of my life."

Looking at Salve by the Numbers

Students:
2,121 undergraduate
618 graduate
32 percent male, 68 percent
female
Students hail from 34 states
and 25 nations

Faculty and staff:
119 full-time faculty
1:13 faculty to student ratio
402 full-time staff

Degrees:
44 undergraduate majors
11 master’s degree programs
14 certificate programs
Ph.D. in humanities and
Doctor of Nursing Practice

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