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Q and A with Antoinette Hays, new president of Regis College

Posted by Sarah Thomas  May 5, 2011 09:05 AM

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Regis College in Weston has chosen as its next president Antoinette "Toni" Hays, currently dean of the School of Nursing, Science, and Health Professions. She will assume her new post on July 1. Your Town Weston spoke this week with Hays about her vision for the school.

What are your goals for the college in the next five years?

Well, Regis has been around for 84 years, and recently it has been well recognized for its programs focusing on the health professions. But the historical heart of Regis is its liberal arts and science background. I really want to work on growing enrollment in the liberal arts - to make sure the program is recognized and brought to a higher level. At the same time, we want to continue to develop our programs in the health professions at the graduate level, and develop more doctoral programs.

What are some of the challenges you see with a small school trying to thrive in today's economy?

I have great confidence in the future of our school. We've grown into one of the largest nursing and health profession schools in the Commonwealth, and just recently approved a new masters program in biomedical science and an undergraduate program in public health. Regis has been innovative and we have thrived on our innovation.

At the same time, we do have some challenges. Our goal is not to grow so fast we can't continue our mission, which emphasizes small classes and lots of interaction with our excellent faculty. We are also nearing capacity for our on-campus housing for undergraduates, and there has been a lot of interest in grad student housing as well.

Ultimately, I would like to see us having around 1200 undergrads. we have around 800 now. We're well on our way to achieving that - our current freshman and sophomore classes are the largest we've ever had.

What are some of the accomplishments from your term as Dean of the School of Nursing you'd like to add to as President?

I worked with Mary Jane England (current president of Regis who is retiring) and Partners in Health to assess the needs of nursing education in Haiti. I visited for the first time in 2007. Together, we established an education program with the Ministry of Health for Haitian nursing faculty, and the first group of students will arrive in June. After three years of education provided in partnership with Regis professors in Haiti and intensive summer training here, the nurses will graduate with a masters degree. I would love to expand to do more of these kids of programs in other countries.

Will the school continue pressing to build a retirement facility?

This is something that is very important to me both because I was the Dean of Nursing and because my own academic background is in gerontology. Right now, the priority is working on the appeal of the ruling in the Supreme Judicial Court that the land would not have been used for predominantly educational purposes - a dormitory could be looked at as a building that isn't used for predominantly educational purposes, so we need to have clarity around that ruling. I'm energized by the educational possibilities the facility could offer, such as opportunities for research and internships for students. We're expecting an outcome on the appeal within six months, and I'm looking forward to working with the town of Weston and building relationships as we go forward.

What makes Regis unique?

I think it's our essence of being founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, which gives us our values of the pursuit of truth, service to others, valuing social justice, outreach to the marginalized, commitment to excellence with gentleness, hospitality, and inclusivity, and responsiveness to the needs of all. That's the fabric of this institution, and those values have been my theme throughout my professional career. They will continue to inform my leadership.

This school has an incredible faculty and very talented students with wonderful stories to tell. I will make sure everyone knows about them. For me, July 1 can't come fast enough.

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

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