While Wilkes University and King‚??s College are very competitive on the athletic fields and in the student recruiting process, the two have collaborated on joint ventures and have started preliminary discussions about ways to expand that partnership.
During a sit down interview Tuesday, new Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy said he‚??s looking forward to bringing the two downtown Wilkes-Barre schools closer together for the good of the city and for the good of the two school‚??s bank accounts. He said while there is a rivalry and the two compete on many levels, there is a history of cooperation that could help make it easier to agreements for more joint ventures.
In 2006 the two schools joined forces to partner with Barnes & Noble to lure the national book store and coffee house to open a Downtown Joint Student Book Store, on Public Square. The two, plus Misericordia University in Dallas Township, have a cross registration agreement in place so students interested in taking a course at another school can do so and still get the credit at no extra charge.
John McAndrew, a King‚??s College spokesman, said in Spring 2011, the most recent year data was readily available, 25 King‚??s students attended other schools for classes and a total of 90 Wilkes or Misericordia students attended King‚??s for a class, mostly a foreign language offering.
Vicki Mayk, a Wilkes spokeswoman, said the agreement between Wilkes and Kings has been in effect since 1980 and Misericordia joined the mix in 1996.
She noted that students can register for any undergraduate courses, with the exception of pharmacy courses at Wilkes, physician assistant courses at King‚??s and occupational therapy courses at Misericordia. Graduate courses are also excluded.
With budget concerns an issue for most institutions of higher education, Leahy said it only makes sense for schools in close proximity to each other to look at ways to stretch their dollars without shortchanging students. He said he met recently with King‚??s College President John Ryan and in their chat the issue of collaboration came up and ideas were bounced around such as maybe joint purchasing agreements, shared services like IT, facilities maintenance and more. Ryan himself has only been at the helm at King‚??s for a more than a year.
Leahy said he and Ryan agreed to form task forces up their respective school‚??s staff to look into the possibilities, though he cautioned there was no agreement to do anything by a certain time. He is hopeful the task force finds ways that make sense and the two schools can come to an agreement or two.
‚??I would argue start with anything that‚??s not academic then wade into academics,‚?Ě Leahy, who lives in Bear Creek Village, noted.
Ryan, in a statement relayed through McAndrew, said the conversation did occur and he supports the premise. He said to date it has not moved past that initial discussion phase.
‚??We‚??re open to anything that allows us to offer the same high quality of education that would mean more efficient use of tuition dollars,‚?Ě McAndrew said
The father of four, who started July 1 after eight years at the University of Scranton, said he hopes to grow Wilkes‚?? enrollment but he has no set ceiling in mind and no concrete plans to build any dormitories or apartment complexes to handle student body growth. He said on the graduate level, online courses and off-campus sites such as the one the university opened in the Poconos recently are ways to accomplish growth without impacting current on-campus infrastructure.
He said with no buildings in the planning stages for campus, the school will have to look at how it can ‚??grow enrollment within our existing infrastructure.‚?Ě How or where that will occur is not something he has even looked into yet, he added.
When the subject of the no confidence vote the faculty gave to his predecessor, Tim Gilmour, just a few months before his 11th and final year at the school ended, Leahy said he believes the style between himself and Gilmour is so different that he doesn‚??t envision that problem occurring between him and the faculty.
He has already implemented changes to make sure college deans and faculty and staff members have more input in top level decisions including the budget.
‚??I‚??m very intentional about the relationships I‚??m establishing both on campus and off,‚?Ě Leahy noted, though he had praise for a lot of the work Gilmour was able to accomplish at the school. But he said in academics, some people‚??s time at a school just run their course.
‚??I think every 10 to 12 years a university is ripe for a new style. I think that‚??s what I bring,‚?Ě Leahy said.
He also touched on a variety of other topics during his hour-long sit down visit at The Times Leader offices. Among them:
‚?Ę The school‚??s $35 million science center is on schedule to be complete and open in time for the 2013 fall semester. He said the $20 million capital campaign the school kicked off for the project has raised $11 million to date.
‚?Ę He will become the first president since the school‚??s first president to not reside in the on-campus president‚??s house on West River Drive. He said with a wife and four young children, their home in Bear Creek is better suited for the family, though he will still host functions at the president‚??s house and could stay there if necessary.