John Carroll University (JCU), founded in 1886, is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. The midsize institution, located in University Heights, has a total of about 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Nothing quite out of the ordinary there, but consider this impressive fact: About 500 of the school’s Boler College of Business graduates either own or lead for-profit businesses or nonprofit organizations in Northeast Ohio
Look at a Cleveland CEO’s resume, and there is a good chance JCU is noted as an educational experience. Talk with the head of a well-run nonprofit, and that JCU scholastic connection also will be apparent.
“It’s amazing,” says Michael D. Johnson, Ph.D., who became JCU’s 25th president in 2018.
JCU graduates find success not only through Boler, but because of JCU’s respected College of Arts and Sciences, which contributes to the school’s almost 40 major fields. The university received the No. 2 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges Ranking among Best Regional Universities in the Midwest.
But, Johnson and other JCU leaders know that only bold change and innovation in all aspects will keep the university on top of its game. That is why the JCU 2020-2025 Strategic Plan is in the process of being rolled out. It may not have an official “fancy name” yet, according to Johnson, but the new plan, a part of a series of the school’s ongoing five-year plans, is one of JCU’s most ambitious yet.
“We spent the previous year working with our stakeholders, faculty, staff and the board on where John Carroll is going in the future,” Johnson says. “The key is to make sure we are distinctive. We know people say we are a nice Jesuit school on the East Side of Cleveland, but we also want them to know it’s well-known for particular academic programs.”
The school has developed impressive undergraduate STEM programs and will continue to expand in that direction. The new strategic plan also has helped identify that both health care career education in general and the business of health management have strong predecessors and potential at JCU. Biology is the school’s largest major. Additional opportunities for graduate students include participating in cutting-edge research at the area’s world-class medical facilities, including Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth System.
According to Johnson, the business majors of finance, marketing and accounting follow biology majors in student enrollment. JCU just launched the flexible, part-time Online Boler MBA program without any meeting time or location restrictions. The degree can be completed in one academic year or a longer two- to three-year term.
In addition, a new master’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship was created to prepare and assist a range of business and social interests. Analytic data and cross-disciplinary programs also are available. Enrollment in the school’s graduate programs has increased 10 percent.
“You just don’t send an accountant into a warehouse anymore,” Johnson says. “Things are changing quickly with technology and ideas like blockchains.”
The degrees are now a part of JCU’s new graduate school, another facet of the institution’s most recent strategic plan. Although JCU has had a 60-year tradition of graduate education, the graduate school will serve as a hub for students’ emerging needs and enhanced collaborations. Rebecca Drenovsky, Ph.D., was named the new dean of graduate studies.
In an attempt to best protect the entire JCU community from the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to maintain remote learning and off-campus living through the end of this year’s fall semester. Efforts are now focused on returning students to campus in January for the start of the spring semester. JCU’s comprehensive online classes, available even before the pandemic, have helped to lessen any related off-site learning concerns.
“We know experiential learning is a big part of what we do here,” says Johnson, noting there are 44,000 JCU alumni in all 50 states and 48 countries. “Ultimately, even this experience of COVID-19 has taught us the value of being in and learning in the same physical place, of networking and providing relationships for the students with prospective employers. Those are all very important things. In-person learning is not going to go away.
“But, online education, especially in the business programs, will continue to grow. However, even all-online students want some sort of on-campus experience, even if it’s being on campus twice a year to interact with their classmates, professors or speakers. You will see a movement toward hybrid programs,” Johnson predicts.
JCU’s exciting new academic challenges and practical responses to the pandemic are balanced by two of Jesuit school’s greatest contributions to a student’s education — building character and service. During the 2018-2019 school year, JCU undergraduates contributed 140,000 community service hours to a variety of causes and organizations. The amount “vies for the lead among Ohio’s two Jesuit schools in terms of participation,” according to Johnson.
Ninety percent of students have done at least one service activity before graduation, according to the school.
“We know that no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, the world needs more Jesuit-trained leaders who are going to work toward the common good and take care of each other and our communities,” Johnson says. “It’s a great time for any student who is concerned about the directions we are going in as a community, country or world to come to John Carroll. We can put you in a position to help make a change. People who know John Carroll love John Carroll. Our task is to get more people to know us.”