IONA’s Flexibility Attracts Students And Boosts Rating

“How can you be a well-educated person and not know about religion?� asks Thomas Weede, director of admissions.

Fifteen years ago, Iona College made the decision that it wanted to be known for more than basketball. “We wanted to be known as a legitimate, rigorous academic institution,� said Dr. Warren Rosenberg, vice president for academic affairs, in a recent interview with The Black Star. This year the school was ranked as one of the best northeastern colleges by The Princeton Review and one of America’s best colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Combined focus on the school’s mission statement, remaining true to its religious roots and revising the Evening and Weekend Program has led to the college’s success, officials said.

As a Catholic liberal arts school, Iona believes its role is to help students develop intellectually, culturally, spiritually and physically according to school officials. There is a curriculum requirement of all students to complete at least two religion courses out of a total 120 credits. “How can you be a well-educated person and not know about religion?â€? asks Thomas Weede, director of admissions. Founded by the Christian Brothers in 1940, the classrooms with their reddish-brown painted brick walls and crosses hanging over the door are reminiscent of a religious institution. “It is a very big part of who we are,â€? Weede continued, referring to the Christian Brother order. The order, which began in Ireland for the purpose of educating the underserved population still tries to reach out to people who may not have traditionally gone to college.  At 45 years old, student Trina Drakeford had never gone to college. She recognized the need for more education when she had difficulty composing letters at work.  A senior at Iona, Drakeford credits the “familyâ€?-like support at the school and says that the college’s Evening/Weekend Program is one of the reasons for choosing the school, noting that it provided “a working mother, which I am, a single parent, the opportunity to go to school and work.â€? Drakeford will receive a Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) degree in Health Care Administration this year. She has been taking one or two classes consistently over the past five years.

Iona’s Evening/Weekend program began 25 years ago and was the first of its kind according to Weede. “We were one of the first in the country to have a program specifically for evening/weekend students now there are many, many programs like that,� he said. The program is focused on returning adults, offering conveniently scheduled four-credit classes in the evenings and on weekends. Recent changes, like switching from a semester to trimester curriculum, allow students to complete more credits a year and qualify for financial aid. Going to college is an investment, Weede noted. “The US Department of Labor says that the average college graduate will earn a million more dollars in their lifetime per college graduate,� he said. With only a small percentage of Americans, 30 percent of women and 27 percent of men, completing their college education, according to the U.S Census Bureau, graduates make up an elite group as far as employers are concerned.

Another component of the college’s success is the school’s mission statement, school officials said. A walk around the campus shows the mission statement hanging in every single building, reinforcing the point. “What it says is that at the center of what we do is our students and as long as we keep that in mind we will have success,� Weede said.

Dr. Jeanne Matich-Maroney is chairperson of the social work department. She came to Iona as an adjunct professor two years ago before recently being named chairperson of the department.  Although she received all of her degrees from New York University, she says she has an affinity for the school because her dad and very best friend are alumnae. She described the culture of the college as very intimate. “There is a very strong sense of community and I think that students that come through the college feel very supported,â€? she said.  “It is made very clear by our mission statement that we are a student centered campus, that we exist because there are students seeking undergraduate and graduate education and that is what we are committed to.â€? Three of the major stock exchanges including, New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ and the Pacific Exchange, are led by Iona graduates, he said, noting that people recognize that Iona graduates receive a quality education and have the skills to get the job done.

A survey completed by the college this year found that 45 percent of graduates were planning to go directly into the work force—85 percent already had job offers in hand several months before graduation, school officials said. While Iona College may not be right for everyone, there are certain students who may derive more benefit from the experience. The school  is probably preferable for first-generation college students who may lack self-confidence and aggressiveness.  “I think that they would be swallowed up in a university setting and a small college setting is the ideal place for them to be,â€? added Dr. Rosenberg, the vp for academic affairs.

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