Aquinas plans business and STEM schools

Aquinas plans business and STEM schools

Spring break was extended one week at Aquinas College. Courtesy Aquinas

As part of its next 10-year strategic plan, Aquinas College is planning to launch a school of business and a school for STEM and health sciences.

Kevin Quinn, Aquinas president, said the plans are part of a focus on how Aquinas can meet the needs of students to be prepared in a continuously changing business climate.

In planning for the business school, he said Aquinas staff is speaking with business leaders about how they think Aquinas is best suited in this field.

“We have had a long tradition of business education in this community, both undergraduate and graduate. We want to make sure that we are resourcing those things as we should and that we're giving them the high profile in the community that they deserve,” Quinn said.

While there are other business schools around, Quinn said he believes Aquinas can offer a different focus, driven by its Dominican Catholic identity.

“We don't have to be afraid of making sure that we think about ethics in business and also making sure that the people we graduate understand their business careers in the context of what their contribution is to the community,” Quinn said.

Officials will discuss whether the business school should be in existing space or something additional.

With Aquinas working on a privately funded $30 million STEM building set to be finished next year, Quinn said he wants to ensure it’s put to good use, preparing students for the future of the field and ensuring they are “tremendous contributors to this community.”

“We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make the folks who have supported us with that feel really good about the contribution that they made,” Quinn said.

The plans to add the schools are part of 16 tasks Aquinas hopes to achieve by 2023. Others include improving employee engagement, creating a risk management plan, creating a student retention and success plan, and completion of science project funding.

These tasks are the first steps toward achieving the overall strategic plan that has been in the works for about two years, Quinn said.

There are three driving themes of the plan.

Quinn said it starts with defining the school’s purpose and identity as an “inclusive and diverse” Dominican Catholic institution in the 21st century.

The second theme focuses on the student experience, he said.

“It's important that they learn all this stuff that they're supposed to learn, but we are emphasizing the development of the whole person,” Quinn said.

He said current undergraduate students likely will be working professionally for 50-60 years.

“We have to prepare people not just for their first job, although that's important, but we have to prepare people to run with how things are going to change in the next five or six decades,” Quinn said.

While he said he wants to ensure students graduate with the expertise they need, he also wants to highlight the importance Aquinas places on a liberal arts education, ensuring all students graduate with the ability to think critically and communicate.

“We think that really is the secret sauce in what we do,” Quinn said.

Thirdly, he wants to lay out plans to ensure the college runs most efficiently.

He said he wants to show Aquinas is a steward of its resources and is perceived as being a smart investment.

He referred to a talk by Ford Motor Company President and CEO Jim Hackett on “organizational fitness,” which he said especially resonated with him during a time when many people question the high costs of higher education.

“I think it's essential, every day as we focus on students, that we make sure the organization we have to do that work is running like it should,” Quinn said.

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