By Kelly Peckholdt
Nearly one year ago, on October 1, 2007, Fr. Kevin Mullen, O.F.M., was inaugurated as Siena College’s tenth president. In his inaugural address, Mullen touched upon his role as president and the Franciscan theme of “A time to begin again.” He also stated in his address that “Fr. Kevin Mackin passed on a good school, and because of that, I see nothing to change.” It is true that Siena has not changed too much under Fr. Mullen’s leadership, but how has Mullen allowed Siena to develop further as an academic institution and community?
At the time of his inauguration, Mullen stated that his task was to listen to those in and around the Siena College community and allow community members to voice their concerns. How has Mullen taken those ideas and concerns and turned them into a plan of action for the future of the college?
“We begin again.” Mullen once again emphasized this theme as we begin the new school year. He challenges the community to begin this year with optimism and renewed energy. “I feel more energy than last year, because I have seen what this college can do,” says Mullen. “People really cooperated and supported me by making their contributions and getting involved.”
Mullen is particularly excited about the large number of first year students. He does express that is he very concerned about tripling in the dorms, but he sees this as a challenge and not a problem, as long as the college finds a way to respond appropriately. In the past few years, Siena has become much more popular, and more students are applying and being accepted. The main issue for Mullen is to work together with Admissions and Residential Life to find the correct balance between letting students in but keeping the intimate environment of the Siena experience. “We don’t want to close doors, but we want the incoming students to be comfortable,” explains Mullen. There are no concrete plans in place to deal with this challenge yet, but new dorms are an option on the table. Although some upperclassmen are concerned about the school losing its intimacy, Mullen states that he is secure that the student population will remain around 3,000 students. There will be no significant growth, because adding even a few hundred more students would affect every aspect of campus life, from dorms to classrooms and support staff.
Overall, Mullen feels good about his accomplishments this past year and is very hopeful for the future of the college. However, there were many challenges and learning experiences as well. Mullen explains that communication was very difficult for him. He obviously knew how to communicate, but it was a matter of learning how to effectively communicate with the Siena community, the wider public, and friends of the college. He constantly looked for ways to improve communication as well, which led to the creation of the Strategic Communication and Marketing Department, with Delcy Fox as its head. Time management was also a challenge. It is part of the job to represent the school off campus and be available on campus. Any college president is on the road often to represent their school, but that also takes them away from the college community. “There were times that I left campus when I should have stayed, and there were times that I stayed when I should have left. It was a learning experience,” says Mullen.
The thing Mullen feels best and most confident about is his relationship with the Siena community. Over the past year, he got to see more of the inner workings of the college, and he was able to see how much people work for and contribute to the community. He says that the community support for him at the inaugural was very special. People told him that no other college would have such great student participation at such an event, and it was very important to him and his family on that day. Mullen also commented on the “awesome” accomplishments of the Siena Men’s Basketball team, which he hopes will be repeated many times in future seasons.
Mullen has many plans in place for the coming year, including the reorganization of the college’s administration. He also wants to prepare the college for a capital campaign, which will help create friends of the college and funds to support Siena in the future of new and developing programs. He hopes that these friends of the college will take pride in Siena and spread the word about its message and accomplishments in order to gain further support.
One of Mullen’s personal goals for this fall was to teach Catholic Social Thought, a topic he is passionate about. It’s a relatively large section, and it’s taught through lecture, discussions, and multi-media usage. He loves the subject and the environment, and he is very happy to be in the classroom teaching it.
Mullen jokes that he is back for another year, so he hasn’t been tired out yet from his role as president. He has some great plans in place to help the college grow as an institution and a community, and he is truly looking forward to great year.