Mahony offers plan for Winthrop’s future

The goals outlined by Winthrop University President Dan Mahony for the future of the school all seem worthy and beneficial to the Winthrop community. But more importantly, perhaps, they seem realistic.

Mahony, in his second year as president, outlined goals in a detailed 10-year plan at his inaugural “State of the University” address last week. He promised to “live and breathe” the plan every day.

Granted, 10-year plans often have a way of being forgotten, abandoned or diverted in an entirely new direction. But Mahony’s plan has the benefit of being in line with goals that have been established and pursued at Winthrop for decades.

One good example is Mahony’s proposal to sharply increase the percentage of minority students, faculty and staff members over the next decade. The groundwork for that was laid during the tenure of former Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio, who established a program of actively recruiting high-performing African-American students from high schools throughout the state.

The result was a university with a higher percentage of minority students than any non-historically black university in the state. But Mahony would like to see the percentage of minority students rise from 39 percent to 45 percent by 2025.

Mahoney emphasized that his proposals were crafted from multiple discussions dating to his first months on campus. He talked with students, staff and faculty.

One big goal is to raise overall student enrollment to 7,500, an increase of 1,500. Unfortunately, increased enrollment is one of the few paths Winthrop and other South Carolina universities have to increase needed revenue, and while that is far from the only consideration, it is an important one.

But while Winthrop can pursue many of Mahony’s goals independently, it is uncertain what role the state will play in funding for higher education. So, in addition to boosting enrollment and increasing diversity, Mahony hopes to nearly double the school’s endowment assets – from $43.1 million to $80 million – in 10 years. Winthrop also seeks to nearly double its alumni giving rate from 8.6 percent to 15 percent.

Winthrop officials say the money raised will help pay for building repairs, upgraded technology on campus and hiring more faculty.

Part of the challenge for Winthrop today is the same one that it has faced for years: attracting students to a small-town campus and keeping them here on the weekends. That was a large part of the motivation for building the Lois Rhame West Wellness Center and the DiGiorgio Campus Center.

Fortunately, Mahony’s 10-year plan is likely to coincide with the development of the University Center/Knowledge Park area adjacent to Winthrop. That project will include a $25 million indoor sports complex that can be used by students, retail stores, apartments, student dorms and restaurants, among other amenities.

The new development also will help connect Winthrop with downtown Rock Hill, where more projects are likely to be geared to enticing students. All of this will benefit the effort to attract a larger, more diverse student body.

Winthrop, it seems, is back on course and in good hands after the brief, tumultuous tenure of Mahony’s predecessor, Jamie Williamson. Mahony has laid out a reasonable plan for Winthrop’s next decade, and we hope he is successful in reaching these sensible goals.