Dan Mahony, Winthrop University’s new president, pledged to campus employees Monday that he’ll be accessible, collaborative and transparent as he leads the school’s effort to increase enrollment and build donor support.
Mahony’s opening address to faculty and staff members marks the ceremonial start of the academic year at Winthrop. Freshmen will move into campus residence halls Friday; classes start next week.
Mahony moved into his new office in Winthrop’s Tillman Hall last month. Before coming to Rock Hill, he served as a dean at Kent State University in Ohio.
At Winthrop, Mahony says, he’ll have an action-oriented first year as president. He outlined several top priorities Monday, including:
▪ Improving the university’s marketing and branding techniques to attract more students.
▪ Strengthening connections with alumni and other donors.
▪ Devising a plan to correct pay inequalities for campus employees and find other nonfinancial ways to boost worker morale.
During his address, Mahony highlighted many points of pride for the university, including standout student and alumni achievements, consistently being ranked as one of the best public schools in the Southeast and the success of student-athletes in the classroom.
“Despite the challenges, you’ve had successes as well,” he said, noting several years of down economic times that have affected budgets at public schools through South Carolina. Apparently referring to the tumultuous departure of his predecessor, Mahony also recognized Monday that “other issues” at Winthrop could have served as a distraction over the past couple of years.
But, Mahony says, “Team Winthrop” hasn’t faltered.
Over the past two years, university leaders have rolled out modest tuition increases for students – a sharp turnaround from several years of steady tuition-rate hikes while Winthrop and other public schools faced steep cuts in tax-dollar support from the state.
This fall, Mahony said, freshman student enrollment is up compared to last year.
Recruiting and retaining more students at Winthrop has been university officials’ top stated goal in recent years. While most other schools in South Carolina have enjoyed enrollment growth over the past decade, Winthrop has struggled to increase the number of students on campus.
Revenue from tuition and student fees is the university’s source of income.
Still, even with the enrollment challenges, Mahony said, “Winthrop University is fiscally strong.” He pledged Monday to organize groups on campus to study particular issues, such as enrollment and employee satisfaction, as well as financial and budget decisions.
Educating students, he said, has been and will be Winthrop’s core mission. To improve campus life, Mahony said he’ll be paying attention to the needs of the people on the front line at the university: faculty and staff members.
“You’re committed to Winthrop and its students – we need to be committed to you.”
He said a proposal for addressing salary and compensation issues will move to the Winthrop Board of Trustees soon for consideration.
The new president said the start of a new academic year gives a college campus a rejuvenated feeling: “I love when the students arrive.”
Anna Douglas: 803-329-4068, @ADouglasHerald