Dr. Carey speaks about role as president, connecting with students

Alison Robles, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Seamus Carey is the ninth president of Iona College and the second lay [non-brother] president of Iona College, succeeding Dr. Joseph E. Nyre.

Carey has worked in higher education for several years, serving most recently as president of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Before, Carey served as dean of arts and science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut and as chairman of the philosophy department at Manhattan College.

The Ionian’s Alison Robles sat down with Dr. Carey to discuss his goals for his role as president, how he’s getting in touch with the Iona community and his vision for his time here.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity.


AR: What drew you to apply to the position of president at Iona College?

SC: There were a few things that really interested me in the position, one is the tradition of the Christian Brothers. Their approach to Catholicism and the practice of the faith is one with which I resonate with pretty deeply. Another factor was the student body here.It is the type that I think I’ll enjoy working with the most. Finally, a big factor was that this is home for me. I was born and raised in the Bronx and lived a few miles from here for about 15 years before going to Lexington, Kentucky.


AR: How do you feel your position as the second lay [non-brother] president impacts your role here at the College?

SC: I have a tremendous respect for the Christian Brothers, and I am humbled to be the president at one of their schools. I think the way in which the Brothers practice faith and influence the community will be a source of strength for me, and I really look forward to drawing on their insight, inspiration and their support.


AR: How do you plan to approach the position of president?

SC: I look at one of my primary roles as finding a way to create the conditions that people can do their best. There are great ideas on any college campus, so the challenge is how can you get those ideas to come to the top, and how do you find the way to make sure those ideas are implemented? So in order to do that, I’ve spent a lot of time conversing and listening to people and giving them an opportunity to have their say and here what’s on people’s minds, and then try to translate that into ideas that can help move the school forward. But I am very student focused. We are a school, and schools exist for students to learn and become educated and so that is my primary point of focus.


AR: How do you want the students at Iona to know you?

SC: I think I would love for students to have 100 percent confidence in the idea that I am on their side to help them be successful as students and beyond. And hopefully they feel that about all of the staff and all of the faculty. And they would come to know that, hopefully, by seeing that I am open and receptive to who they are and what they have to say, and that I am pretty informal and relaxed, and I like to look at students as young adults whom I deeply respect.


AR: Have you had any memorable experiences so far with students?

SC: Move-in Day was pretty memorable. It was a beautiful day to begin with, but to see all of the athletes helping first-year students and their families moving into the dorms, and the staff participating in that, and I got to meet families moving in and I got to have conversations with the parents and the students. It just really encapsulated what I think is typical of the Iona community, which is that we support each other, and we help each other and we kind of have fun doing it. And I love the bag pipes.


AR: Now that the school year has started, how would you describe your experience on campus?

SC: The energy is really palpable on campus. That is exciting to me – the beginning of every school year has a whole bunch of optimism and hope about it and excitement, but this is the most energy I have felt in a school in a really long time. I’m really excited to be a part of that.


AR: What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year here at Iona?

SC: I would like to have gotten to know as many people as possible on campus, to learn their stories and to figure out what they’re about and just sort of create those kinds of relationships. Out of those conversations I would like to have identified top priorities that we need to work hard on to move the school forward. There has already been a fair amount of work done in that regard with the strategic plan that has been developed prior to me. I also think I have a unique perspective in this role to understand that challenges that schools like Iona face and to share those challenges with the community and to talk about the ways we can overcome and meet those challenges.


AR: Could you describe some of those challenges and how you aim to tackle them?

SC:. A specific challenge is making sure the school remains affordable to as many students as possible, so they have access to this education. That’s a big challenge: finding the resources to implement the priorities…to make sure the College is doing the best it can for its students. I am optimistic about Iona’s ability to overcome such challenges. I believe Iona is uniquely situated with a really bright future, provided we evolve and grow as a school and keep up with the ways that students need to be educated.