COLLEGE PRESIDENTS’ SERIES
President Kimberly Cline, Mercy College
Recently completing her first year as the 10th president of Mercy College—an approximately 9,000-student, private, nonprofit liberal arts college with a main campus in Dobbs Ferry and four campuses in metropolitan New York—Dr. Kimberly R. Cline reports no surprises, only delights. Her initial sense of Mercy College as a “student centered” institution has proved true in ways that have encouraged her to forge ahead, particularly in an area she strongly believes will put Mercy College on the academic map as a national leader: a revolutionary mentoring program called PACT (Personalized Achievement ContracT). Of course, she is proud of other innovative programs, but it is PACT, which she calls “revolutionary,” that she sees as the cornerstone of Mercy College’s national reputation.
An independent, co-educational college since 1968, Mercy College was founded in 1950 by the Sisters of Mercy, and has remained focused on the transformational power of higher education by consistently providing quality career preparation for in-demand professions. Certainly, to judge from the college’s growing emphasis on the health professions—and a 100 percent success rate in placing graduates in this area—it could be said that history still informs Mercy College’s development and sense of higher education as a “mission.” The word comes naturally to the president, and she comes back to it often, giving it extended reference. She wants to position Mercy College as a significant player in restoring America’s position as a leader in higher education. Recent data show that the U.S. has fallen to seventh place in producing college graduates ready to compete in the global economy, particularly in the sciences. She points with pride to Mercy College faculty members who have risen to this larger mission. Among them are a Fulbright professor, Dr. Hind Culhane, who went to Iraq to coordinate and implement the training of 32,000 secondary school teachers and administrators, Dr. Nagaraj Rao, who won an NSF grant to mentor high school students in mathematics and science, and Dr. Fredrick Shiels, who worked on a model UN project.
Mercy College PACT mentors “engage” students starting in the freshman year. When she was at Hofstra University, serving as attorney, assistant treasurer and assistant vice president for business affairs, the president says she implemented a then newly instituted program called “one-stop enrollment services” and was impressed. PACT draws on that program, informing it with the Mercy College “mission” to make life easier for entering students, many of whom are attending college as the first ones in their family. PACT may also owe its development to President Cline’s memories of her own college days, when she recalls going to different offices for different needs. Having a one-stop integrated “customized” center for each student appealed to her sense of wanting to bring a “small town” feel to college life. Assigning students a personal mentor who stays with them for four years was a natural development. A pilot program begun this past January will embrace 500 freshmen this fall, and the entire freshman class next fall.
A soft spoken woman with just a touch of accent from her native N.C., President Cline cites her mother, who taught math, and her husband and three children as important influences on her professional development, inspiring her to create a sense of family on campus. A former vice chancellor and CFO at SUNY, with a Juris Doctor from Hofstra and a master’s in business administration and a doctorate in education administration (she also taught business law), Dr. Cline also was VP for finance and administration at Seton Hall and earlier worked in the pharmaceutical industry. But it was the academic world that finally won her heart: “I fell in love with higher education.” Of course, love alone could not prepare her for the administrative rigors of a 64-institution university like SUNY. For that experience, she credits important mentors along the way, including John Ryan, former SUNY chancellor, and Mary Lai, former CFO at Long Island University who always made time to mentor women. And Mercy College got a president with wide and deep experience.
In addition to its regular undergraduate curriculum, which includes a new program in corporate and homeland security, Mercy College offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs in its School of Business, School of Education, School of Health and Natural Sciences, School of Liberal Arts, and School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. And with one of the lowest tuition bases for a not-for-profit private college in New York state, the president points out, Mercy College offers a truly “affordable” education, with ample financial aid. They must be doing something right. Applications this year were “significantly up,” enrollment exceeded target and the college’s physician assistant program received 800 applications for 45 openings! Mercy College also boasts being the fourth largest supplier of assistant principals and sixth largest supplier of principals for New York City. For further information, readers should go to http://www.mercy.edu, or call 877-MERCY-GO.#