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Published: Sunday, 9/22/2013

Lourdes president projects more students, keeps core values

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lourdes president David Livingston plans to increase full-time and graduate students. Lourdes president David Livingston plans to increase full-time and graduate students.
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Lourdes University, known for its serene, tree-lined campus and a center for broad-based education, is plotting a new future.

Changes in recent years have resulted in a boost in student enrollment, the start of campus housing, and the addition of athletics. David Livingston, to be installed as the ninth president of the Sylvania private university on Sunday, recently assured a group of the Sisters of St. Francis that the institution remains dedicated to the values of service and community.

Enrollment this fall dropped to 2,343 from 2,621 a year ago, but he said if were to drop further, “it would not bother me at all.” He has lowered a one-time forecast of 3,000 students by 2015 to be 2,500. 

But Mr. Livingston pointed out that the number of full-time students seeking resident housing has increased substantially, rising from 95 in 2010 to 310 this year. He anticipates that number to climb to 400 next year and to be at 800 -- the capacity at Lourdes Commons -- in four years. One way to increase those numbers is to draw more students from outside the area to the university's sports programs, he said.

The number of graduate students has risen to 380, and Mr. Livingston expects it to grow to about 500 in the next four years. As for full-time students, he expects the 1,515 now will grow to 1,800, or by 19 percent, in four years. Mr. Livingston said they are using social media and out-of state recruitment efforts to attract students. He said he personally is pushing positive images about Lourdes in marketing efforts.

Mr. Livingston's emphasis on snaring more full-time students points to the bottom line. A part-time student generates about $3,000 a year in revenue for the university, a full-time student $13,000, and a full-time student living in Lourdes Commons $19,000.

In an interview with The Blade, Mr. Livingston, 48, displayed a passion for numbers, producing a binder of charts on enrollment.

“Too many people focus on enrollment growth. The most important thing is the success of the student,” he said If a part-time student wants to work toward a degree in five years or a full-time student wants to achieve a bachelor's degree in four years, helping them do that is success, he said. 

As Mr. Livingston pushes for more residential students, he said there is room to accommodate them at Lourdes Commons, a former private apartment complex at Brint and McCord roads that was bought by the university. Right now, 500 of the 800 units there are not used by students. While he said he would not harm the green space on the Lourdes main campus, building housing on campus is a possibility.

There are no plans to buy property near the campus for housing, he said, but at times residents nearby offer to sell their homes to the university, and those prospects will be reviewed case-by-case. Lourdes owns 113 acres.

Part of creating the full college experience, he said, is connecting the housing area with the main campus a half mile to the north on Convent Boulevard.

In between, Lourdes has 11 acres on which last year it proposed to add a sports facility and a classroom building, along with parking. He declined to say where those plans stand now, but implied changes have been made that will be brought to the university board this week. 

Adding a sports facility was considered important, the university said last year, to accommodate basketball, volleyball and other teams to have a home building site. Now, those sports play off campus. Such a facility was considered key to attract students who want to play sports. However, no time frame was placed on the development, nor was a price tag or fund-raising time line disclosed.

This year, Lourdes added five sports teams -- men's and women's lacrosse and cross country as well as competitive cheer and dance. No new sports will be added in the next two years, Mr. Livingston said, to ensure existing programs run smoothly. Lourdes has 13 sports teams in softball, baseball, and men and women's basketball and volleyball.

Before taking the helm at Lourdes, Mr. Livingston was vice president of advancement at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa.. In the past months at Lourdes, he has made an effort to be in touch with the faculty, staff, and the Sisters of St. Francis.

“He has a wonderful sense of who we are and understands our values,” said Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski, professor of leadership studies.

He invites students, teachers, and the Sisters to join him for tea in the cafeteria at 2 p.m. every Wednesday. He holds monthly one-on-one meetings with a faculty. In September, he met with Dane Copti, faculty athletics representative, to discuss the status of the sports programs.

Mr. Livingston asked about staff complaints or concerns. If something perceived as wrong, his approach is "let's fix it."

A key goal of his is to ramp up marketing of the university outside of the area. Part of a marketing campaign will use social media to entice prospective students to go to Lourdes’ Web site. 

“It is the front door of any institution,” he said. Once people view the site, they will want to visit the “inspirational” campus. Recruiters and coaches are also sent to out of state functions to attract students.

Lourdes was established as a college in 1958 offers 30 academic majors, an offers graduate degrees in business, education, leadership, liberal arts, nursing, and theology. Mr. Livingston said there are no plans to add more degrees, but there will be emphasis on expanding study abroad programs, which includes experiences in Ireland, Africa, and London.

Fund raising is key component of the president's job. Mr. Livingston plans to raise $2 million dollars, a standard fundraising goal for the university, half for capital improvement projects for the cafeteria, and Russell J. Ebeid Hall, and the other for student scholarship.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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