As a defining element within Westchester County, Iona University’s Gael culture is strongly perceived. After all, the New Rochelle institution has been the home of tens of thousands of students since 1940. In 2022, amid the aftermath of a challenging global pandemic, President Seamus Carey led the charge for Iona’s transformative journey. We spoke with Carey about his experience overseeing Iona’s passage from college to university last July, the struggles involved, and what’s to come.
What are the qualities at Iona that helped the institution in its transition from college to university?
There is a commitment to faith, service, and the transformative power of education at Iona University that you can feel all across campus. Our heritage dates back centuries — from St. Columba on the Isle of Iona in 563 AD to Blessed Edmund Rice in the early 1800s through to the Christian Brothers, who founded Iona in New Rochelle in 1940. Iona has a spiritual and intellectual tradition you don’t find in many other places, and we honor it in all we do. We challenge students to apply their classroom learning in service to others and, remarkably, Iona students perform over 80,000 hours of service each year.
What was the transition process from college to university?
After the New York Board of Regents redefined its criteria for a university, we knew the move made sense for Iona. We petitioned the Board for the change and subsequently were approved, effective July 1, 2022. Becoming a university not only carries a sense of prestige, more importantly, it better reflects our growth as an institution and the academic excellence that distinguishes an Iona education. It also makes Iona more competitive both across the country and around the world.
What are you looking to implement for the future of Iona, and what initiatives have you most excited?
Expanding to a new campus in Bronxville is exciting and rewarding as we reimagine the existing spaces and reshape what’s possible. The new, cutting-edge Kelly Center for Health Sciences not only provides access to the latest laboratory and training equipment, it also gives us the room to expand our academic programs. We recently added two new Master of Science in Nursing degrees, to help address the nursing shortage while giving nurses a pathway to advance their careers. We are also excited to launch two new Division I athletics programs — men’s lacrosse and women’s acrobatics and tumbling. These two sports bring our total to 23 D1 teams.
Both Gaels’ basketball teams did very well last season. How did that success affect the Iona community?
Having both our men’s and women’s basketball teams win the MAAC championship and compete in the NCAA tournament was incredible. The Iona community shows up to rally around the players, selling out home games, traveling for the conference tournament, and throwing pep rallies to send the teams off to the NCAA tournament. Our men’s basketball program is the winningest team in the New York metropolitan area for more than a quarter-century, with a league record 14 MAAC tournament titles and 16 NCAA tournament appearances. We’re excited to keep that momentum going with our renowned head coaches for both the men’s and women’s teams, Tobin Anderson and Angelika Szumilo, respectively.