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May 05. 2013 10:11PM

Incoming St. Anselm College president prepares to take office

GOFFSTOWN - The newly appointed president of St. Anselm College said fundraising and addressing a potential decline in enrollment will be among his early priorities when he starts the job on July 1.

Steven DiSalvo, Ph.D., current president of Marian University in Wisconsin, said the number of 17-and 18-year-olds is shrinking, and he expects it to decline further in the next eight to 10 years.

"The demographic shift is big for everybody," he said. "You've got to broaden your reach and branch beyond your 100-mile radius (of recruitment)."

DiSalvo said he will continue to develop St. Anselm's brand recognition, as well as launch a fundraising campaign just in time for the college's 125 th anniversary.

"You've got to get out and raise money," he said. "You've got to get tuition rates down."

Affordability and value of a college education are also subjects of interest for DiSalvo.

"We need to show the value of a liberal arts education," he said. "People need to know that there is value in that critical thinking."

In Wisconsin, he is working with lawmakers on legislation that would allow for income-contingent student loan programs, with payments based on earnings after college.

DiSalvo said the salary range between an investment banker and a teacher is vast, yet student loan repayment terms are the same for each.

"The service professions - nursing, teaching - we need to support them, not penalize them," he said.

DiSalvo said he heard about the opening at St. Anselm through its current president, Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, with whom he serves on a national board. DeFelice will retire in June after 24 years of leadership at the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college.

"He gave a talk in February about the impact of Catholic higher education and the importance of keeping mission," DiSalvo said. "I felt like he was talking directly to me. It was providential that this came up at this time, because I was thinking of heading back East."

DiSalvo said he has a passion for Catholic higher education, and said the position is a good fit for him.

His visit to the St. Anselm campus reinforced that.

"The people were good, authentic, genuine people, who believe in the college's mission and live it," DiSalvo said. "And my experience seemed to mirror the needs of the institution."

The best part of his visit was time spent with Abbot Mark Cooper and the college's monastic community, DiSalvo said.

"But the group that asked me the toughest questions was the students," he said. "They were very well-prepared."

At Marian, DiSalvo said he often joins students in the dining hall and attends sporting events in order to keep a pulse on their opinions.

He plans to keep that level of accessibility with students at St. Anselm.

DiSalvo said that from the welcome from the St. Anselm community right up to the call he received from Gov. Maggie Hassan, he's had an incredible reception.

"The early stages have been smooth," he said.

DiSalvo and his family will move to New Hampshire this summer, and his first priority upon his arrival at St. Anselm is simple.

"My first order of business will be to listen," he said, "to the internal constituents, and to the community."

kremillard@newstote.com


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