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A Bold Step Forward

Bay Path University President Sandy Doran

Bay Path University President Sandy Doran


As she talked about how Bay Path University’s acquisition of Cambridge College came about — and, more importantly, why — Sandy Doran, Bay Path’s president, turned the clock back almost a year to when the university undertook a ‘strengths and opportunities’ analysis to understand where its growth opportunities might lie.

This led to creation of a cross-disciplinary leadership task force to conduct an analysis of strategic growth opportunities, building on the things the school does well while also focusing on ways to amplify those traits.

This task force eventually identified five opportunities for growth — everything from graduate programs to business-to-business corporate sponsorships; from expansion of its online American Women’s College to growth in enrollment among Latino populations.

As it considered these opportunities and how to seize them, Doran said Bay Path, its leadership, and its board could “do some things around the edges” with all or several of them, as she put it, or “do something bold and think about our future in a transformational way.”

Given Bay Path’s recent history — one that has seen it achieve dramatic growth and rise from a two-year college to a four-year university with a growing slate of degree options and national recognition in fields like cybersecurity — the latter course was essentially a given, said Doran, now in her fifth year as president of the college, adding quickly that the question became what this bold move would be.

“Outside of Puerto Rico and New York City, Western Massachusetts has the largest Hispanic population in the United States. We knew that, in order to meet the needs of that population, we needed to grow our student services, we knew we needed additional support, and we identified it as a potential growth opportunity.”

As different opportunities were considered, the answer became an acquisition of Cambridge College, a Boston-based, private, nonprofit institution established in 1971, a move that should enable Bay Path to double its overall enrollment; gain a presence in other markets, including Boston and Puerto Rico, which Cambridge as a campus; and, overall, achieve growth in all those areas identified by the task force.

This includes enrollment among Hispanic populations, she said, noting that this is one of the fastest-growing constituencies in this region.

“Outside of Puerto Rico and New York City, Western Massachusetts has the largest Hispanic population in the United States,” Doran told BusinessWest. “We knew that, in order to meet the needs of that population, we needed to grow our student services, we knew we needed additional support, and we identified it as a potential growth opportunity.

“We wanted a partner that had experience serving this Hispanic market,” she went on, adding that Cambridge College, which is a designated Hispanic-serving institution, has this experience, among many other qualities.

Indeed, overall, Bay Path and Cambridge share a number of other strengths — everything from online programs (locally, Cambridge, which had a location in Springfield’s Tower Square, now offers programs only online) to meeting the needs of first-generation college students, said Doran, adding that the schools also share missions and values.

Longmeadow campus

Much of Bay Path’s growth is taking place beyond the borders of its Longmeadow campus.

“Those cultural aspects — of serving the same student populations, of thinking about our values and joining together with another organization and making sure that their values were compatible and strengthened ours — are key; we just knew that, without that shared mission, those shared values, we wouldn’t be able to move forward,” she said, adding that this merger represents the latest in a series of bold moves for Bay Path.

The ones to come before have taken it to levels that might not have been imagined 25 years ago. This latest one will build on those efforts and take the university to different places — quite literally, in the case of Puerto Rico and the Boston market — and figuratively when it comes to needed size and higher status among the region’s and country’s higher-ed institutions.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at this intriguing merger — how it came about and what it means for Bay Path as it continues its recent history of taking bold steps.


Course of Action

Sounding much like area bank presidents, which have been harping on the need for size in a changing financial-services environment for years now, Doran said growth is perhaps more important than ever for institutions of higher education.

Given the spiraling costs of doing business and the many challenges facing colleges and universities, including demographics in the form of smaller high-school graduating classes, growth in overall enrollment is critical.

“To be a financially sustainable institution, it’s important to have 5,000 students or more,” she said, adding that Bay Path now surpasses that number. “Five thousand students gives you the resources, it gives you the financial strength, the revenue streams — all those things that are essential to a sustainable institution.”

And, as in the banking industry, there are different ways to achieve growth in higher education. One method is organic growth, through everything from more aggressive marketing to creation of new degree programs, especially at the graduate level, a course taken by many schools locally, including Bay Path.

But there are also opportunities to partner with other schools and, increasingly, to acquire them, especially as more struggle with enrollment, face uncertain futures, and, in some cases, even close their doors.

Doran said Bay Path has been looking at many growth strategies, including acquisition, and had looked at several different institutions.

“We talked to some colleges in the Southeast, we talked to some in the Southwest, we talked to some in the middle of the country, and ultimately, we were very fortunate to find a partner here in Massachusetts,” she said, adding that Cambridge College emerged as the option that made the most sense, for many reasons, especially those shared traits and values, as well as areas of focus — particularly online programs and service to Hispanic students — that would provide Bay Path with avenues for growth. “They had so much of what we were looking for in a partnership. What they have to offer lines up beautifully with what we were looking for.”

Doran said she didn’t know if Cambridge was looking to be acquired, but did know that it was looking to partner, as many schools are in these challenging times. Elaborating, she said Cambridge certainly suffered during the pandemic — again, as many schools did — but coming out of COVID, its enrollment has been increasing over the past few years, with much of that growth coming in online programs.

“It’s not a just a checklist of how you communicate with students and families whose first language is Spanish. Are we offering all the right supports? Do we understand the cultural nuances of how to serve the Hispanic market, which is very much growing in Western Mass.?”

And while talks with other potential acquisition candidates progressed to different degrees, Bay Path eventually crossed the finish line with Cambridge College because the ‘fit’ — the word you hear so often in these transactions — was right for both sides, and especially Bay Path.

“It’s one thing to read about mission and culture and values on a website and talk about it with people inside an organization,” Doran said. “But it’s really when the boards sit down, the leaders sit down, and you have a chance to meet with students that you get a true picture. I had the chance to meet with students at Cambridge College, and that is really what convinced me, the board, and others that this is really the right fit.

“And that’s because their students are our students,” she went on. “Half are students of color, half are first-generation students, 60% of their students are in graduate programs, and 60% are online.”


Class Acts

Getting back to the growth-strategy exercises of a year ago and the establishment of a matrix to determine whether a potential partner might be right for Bay Path, Doran said several necessary common threads were identified, with shared mission and values being just one.

Others include everything from a strong culture of innovation to an opportunity to “expand our reach,” as she put it; from a commitment to workforce development to strong business-to-business partnerships.

When it comes to expanding reach, this is a broad term that covers considerable ground, said Doran, encompassing everything from expansion into new geographic regions to reaching new populations to expansion of online and graduate programs.

Merging with Cambridge College allows the university to do all of that, she said, adding that the acquisition brings with it a number of huge growth opportunities.

As one example, she returned to the Hispanic population and Bay Path’s desire to better serve — and, yes, capture more of — that market, explaining why this acquisition makes sense for the institution.

“We have here a limited experience in terms of fully serving the Hispanic market,” she explained. “We’ve developed some student supports; we’ve given them some academic supports. If you peruse our website, you’ll see that many of our web pages are now in Spanish, so we can speak directly to students whose native language is Spanish and to their parents.

“But we knew that we didn’t know enough because there’s a huge cultural component,” she went on. “It’s not a just a checklist of how you communicate with students and families whose first language is Spanish. Are we offering all the right supports? Do we understand the cultural nuances of how to serve the Hispanic market, which is very much growing in Western Mass.?

“We really wanted to reach into that marketplace because we knew how important it was for Western Mass., and for the nation, for that matter,” she continued. “This is the fastest-growing population in the country, and as an institution, our job, our mission, is to serve those students with equally robust and dedicated resources.

There are other benefits to be gained from this acquisition, obviously, said Doran, who listed Cambridge College’s portfolio of graduate programs as another of them.

Elaborating, she explained that developing new graduate programs and bringing them to market is a costly, very involved process that can take years, when time is a luxury few institutions have.

“To bring a new program to market can take two to five years,” she explained. “So the opportunity to grow graduate programs by acquiring another college was absolutely essential to what we were thinking about, and with Cambridge, we’re acquiring about 30 new graduate programs.

“So if you think about it, even taking two years to bring a program to market, it would have taken 60 years,” she went on. “That’s a long time, even for me.”


Grade Expectations

Doran said full integration of Cambridge College into Bay Path will take 18 to 24 months, and over that time, several issues will be settled, including whether — and in what ways — the Cambridge College name will live on.

That name has some value in various markets, she said, adding that she hopes the brand lives on in some form.

Meanwhile, she’s more certain about other aspects of this acquisition, especially the part about it being a bold, decisive step at a time when such actions are required of higher-ed institutions looking to fully emerge from the challenging pandemic and post-pandemic periods in a position to not merely survive, but grow and thrive.

“I will credit our board with being such strong partners,” he said. “They’ve always been bold, they’ve always been strategic — we were the first in the region to have online education — and that kind of support is very critical.”

And it’s yet another example of how a school with a rich past is focused, as Doran put it, on thinking about the future in a transformational way.




As you likely know, BusinessWest marked its 40th anniversary this month.

Over that time, the magazine has told many intriguing stories involving entrepreneurship, innovation, risk taking, and pioneering.

And one of the best — one that involves all those qualities and more — has been the meteoric rise of the institution now known as Bay Path University.

Roughly 30 years ago, this was a small — make that tiny — two-year school with a reach that barely extended beyond its campus in Longmeadow. Over the course of the past three decades, under the leadership of two presidents, first Carol Leary and now Sandra Doran, the school has taken dramatic strides, adding four-year and then graduate programs, creating new degree programs in areas ranging from cybersecurity to healthcare, launching the annual Women’s Leadership Conference, taking dramatic steps in online education, including creation of the American Women’s College, and much more.

The university now has a reach that is national and even global, and it has achieved this status by being what it encourages its students to be — innovative, bold, and entrepreneurial.

The latest example of all these traits coming together in a powerful way is the school’s recently announced acquisition of Cambridge College (see story on page 26). This bold move speaks not only to Bay Path’s intention to continue its efforts to grow enrollment and expand its reach, but to the trends and challenges in higher education today as well.

Indeed, due to a series of factors, especially heightened competition for enrollment and the rising costs of doing business, many schools have found it difficult to continue their missions. Many, in fact, have looked to merge or partner with other schools.

Meanwhile, Bay Path was developing a growth strategy, one that called for everything from new graduate programs to a broadening of its healthcare offerings; from geographic expansion to profound growth in enrollment among the Hispanic population — the fastest-growing population in the region.

As Doran told BusinessWest, there were several options for achieving these various goals, and one alternative was to nibble at the corners, as she put it. Another was to take a bold step, which was far more likely given the school’s recent track record.

Several acquisition options were considered in several different parts of the country, before Bay Path’s leadership eventually set its sights on Cambridge College, the Boston-based institution created a half-century ago.

This acquisition will essentially double Bay Path’s enrollment and take the institution (and probably the Bay Path name itself, although the specifics still must be worked out) to different markets, including Boston and Puerto Rico, where Cambridge has a campus in San Juan that provides graduate programs in business and technology as well as education and counseling to working professionals.

It will also allow the school to add another 30 graduate programs to its existing portfolio and better serve the growing Hispanic population — Cambridge is ranked among the best colleges and universities for Latinos.

Full integration of Cambridge College into Bay Path will take 18 to 24 months, and it will be interesting to see what the combined schools will look like then.

But we expect that this will be another success story for an institution that has written several of them over the past 30 years.

Special Coverage Workforce Development

Fired Up

By Elizabeth Sears


Betsy Allen-Manning

Betsy Allen-Manning

Tunde Oyeneyin

Tunde Oyeneyin

Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts

The Women’s Leadership Conference is turning up the heat this year.

When Bay Path University’s signature annual conference returns to the MassMutual Center on Thursday, April 6, the theme will be “Ignite” — an extension of last year’s theme of “Reimagine.” The goal, simply put, is to ignite the post-pandemic professional plans of conference attendees and help turn them into reality.

“Last year, it felt important to bring the community back together to reimagine what may come next that may have shifted over COVID and from being away from the office place,” said Melissa Welch, Communications and Content director at Bay Path and co-chair of this year’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC). “That went so beautifully last year, with people in the community coming together to reimagine what came next for them. So this year, how do we build on that? How do we bring that same excitement and motivation back to the community?”

Bay Path President Sandra Doran echoed this sentiment.

“We want them to reignite their passion,” she said. “They’re professional women looking to further their career, looking to further their own professional journey, whether it’s in their existing career or looking outside of that. And this is the place to do it.”

The university’s 26th annual conference will feature TV host Robin Roberts and several other speakers (more on them later). The conference typically draws attendees not only from the Pioneer Valley, but from Eastern Mass., Connecticut, New York — anywhere within driving distance, due to the power of the speakers and the power of community.

“This is a new group, a new community … they’ve got their work community, they’ve got their family community, but now maybe they have a professional-development community. That is incredibly powerful,” Doran said. “If you are a mid-level manager or somebody who’s looking to executive leadership, or somebody who’s just entering into your career, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘what are those skills? What are those attitudes? What’s that growth mindset that is going to propel me to success in the workforce?’ Those are the professionals that you will find in the audience.”

“It’s very much experiential. Some people describe it as transformative. Some people describe it as the only conference they go to in any year because of the value that it brings to them personally as well as professionally. “

She explained that people keep coming back year after year because they’ve experienced growth, and they want to share that growth with others in the room. The conference provides a unique environment — a sort of support system — where professionals can share how they’ve grown in their career, and what comes next on that journey.

And this isn’t a conference where people just come and sit in rows to listen to speakers, Doran continued.

“It’s very much experiential. Some people describe it as transformative. Some people describe it as the only conference they go to in any year because of the value that it brings to them personally as well as professionally. I can’t emphasize enough how this is not a conference where we’ve just got 1,400 chairs lined up in a room. It is not that — everybody sits at a table. Every table is a conversation topic around something to do with personal or professional growth.”


Face Value

This is the second year WLC has returned since a two-year absence during the pandemic. With such a deep focus on the experiential quality of the conference, a virtual alternative was simply not an option, so no conference at all was held in 2020 or 2021.

“I think what was telling in the pandemic is a lot of things stopped, so in our case, our conference stopped for two years — and to come back last year and have 1,400 people come … people missed it so much over those two years,” said Karen Woods, Bay Path’s assistant vice president of Brand Strategy, Marketing, and Integrated Communications and WLC co-chair.

In addition to individuals who buy tickets to attend, Woods noted that companies call in inquiring about the upcoming conference far in advance. Businesses eagerly await to hear who the speakers each year will be and buy tables for their employees, knowing the professional-development value the conference holds.

Sandra Doran emphasizes the interactive nature of the conference, which is not a place to sit in rows and just listen.

Sandra Doran emphasizes the interactive nature of the conference, which is not a place to sit in rows and just listen.

Indeed, this year’s keynote speakers come from vastly different backgrounds and careers, but share something in common: the ability to ignite motivation in others.

The conference will begin with a motivational and humorous talk from author and speaker Betsy Allen-Manning that will guide attendees through exercises that aim to set the tone of the conference and ignite a day of learning. The founder of Corporate Culture Training Solutions, a leadership-training company, she specializes in creating positive employee experiences as well as developing leaders who are equipped to handle a hyper-competitive marketplace.

“Success doesn’t necessarily mean the top person in the company,” Woods said of the first keynote session. “Every single one of us needs that secret sauce to our own success, and how do we get there?”

The luncheon keynote talk will be given by Tunde Oyeneyin, a cycling and bike boot-camp instructor from Peloton who has become known for her empowering and motivational cycling sessions.

Oyeneyin was a professional makeup artist for 15 years, but after lifting the confidence of her clients through her beauty skills for so long, she realized that her true calling was in motivating others. She became a cycling instructor in Los Angeles and ended up being hired onto Peloton’s instructor team. She trains up to 20,000 riders per day through her live motivational classes. Now, she’s taking to the WLC stage to spark the energy of attendees and bring forward their inner passions.

“When you’re going to ignite new business plans, and you’re going to bring those forward, whether it’s personal or professional goals, you really need to have that ability to trust your gut — to find your voice, to be able to advocate for what’s next in your career,” Woods said.

The day will end with a keynote talk from Roberts, well-known as a Good Morning America co-anchor, Emmy Award and People’s Choice Award winner, author, entrepreneur, and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, among other achievements. She’s going from the screen to the stage for a moderated Q&A session with Doran.

“We are so excited to introduce Robin Roberts to our WLC audience,” Woods said. “Everything she has done has been a way to ignite what’s next. From the court, when she played basketball, through all of her interviews, those that she’s spoken with and worked with over the years, to writing books — award winners — she’s the perfect person to end our day.”


Breaking Out

The conference will also feature four breakout sessions offering lessons and activities designed to give attendees valuable takeaways that can be applied to their professional lives.

Session A, titled “Forging and Managing the Hybrid Workspace” and led by Alexandra Samuel, will address how attendees can better navigate the hybrid workspace culture that emerged post-COVID. Samuel is an author and digital-workplace expert who seeks to help her audience solve the puzzle of balancing in-person and remote work in hopes of making the now-popular hybrid format a more viable piece of their workday.

Session B is called “Igniting Your Innovation and Understanding Your Onlyness” and will be presented by author and speaker Nilofer Merchant. She will discuss the concept of ‘onlyness’ — identifying what you alone bring to the table that somebody else can’t, what makes you stand out in the workplace, and how to find power in this self-knowledge. Merchant will help attendees discover their ‘onlyness’ and teach them how to socialize it to create real change.

Session C is titled “You’ve Got the Seat at the Table, Now What?” and will be led by Pirie Jones Grossman, a TedX speaker, author, and life-empowerment coach. She will offer an extension to the common conversation of how to reach corporate positions as a woman — and what to do once there. Sharing her research, she will challenge the idea that successful women in the corporate world need to show up like men, instead offering information on the unique leadership instincts and strengths of women’s brains.

Session D is called “The Power of Inclusive Leadership,” and will be led by Juliet Hall, an advisor, leadership consultant, speaker, and author. Objectives of this session include how workplaces can transform their leadership teams to build a strong foundation and promote equity, how workplaces can adjust their internal work teams to create a more inclusive environment for their employees, understanding unconscious bias and microaggressions, and how leaders can remodel internal culture.

For more information on the 2023 Women’s Leadership Conference, visit www.baypath.edu/events-calendar/womens-leadership-conference.

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University will stage its 125th Commencement on May 15, at 4 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.  Approximately 800 students, including members from the classes of 2020 and 2021 who have elected to participate in the in-person ceremony, will be honored before more than 4,000 family and friends. 

Bay Path announced that the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees for 2022 will be granted to three individuals who through their efforts and dedication have had significant impact in the areas of education, the arts, and community service:  U.S. Representative Richard Neal, Ruth Carter, and Lynn Pasquerella. 

Since 1989, Neal has represented the state’s First Congressional District.  The chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Neal is the dean of both the Massachusetts delegation and the New England Congressional delegation, as well as the at-large whip for the House Democrats and the Democratic Leader of the Friends of Ireland Caucus. 

Ruth Carter, a Springfield (MA) native, is the 2019 Academy Award winner in Costume Design for Marvel’s Black Panther, making history as the first African-American to win in the category. With a career spanning more than three decades in theater, cinema, and television, Carter has teamed up with some of the most prolific directors from Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Ava Duvernay, to Ryan Coogler. Her extensive body of work includes over forty film credits, two Academy Award nominations for Malcolm X (1993) and Amistad (1998), and an Emmy nomination for the reboot of the television mini-series Roots (2016).  Carter is a member of the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation and co-founder of the Mildred Blount Scholarship Fund created to assist BIPOC costume designers. 

Lynn Pasquerella has served as president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities since July 2016. A philosopher whose career has combined teaching and scholarship with local and global engagement, she has continuously demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to ensuring that all students have access to excellence in liberal education, regardless of their socioeconomic background. For nearly four decades, Pasquerella has held leadership positions in higher education administration, including the presidency of Mt. Holyoke College.  Pasquerella has written extensively on medical ethics, metaphysics, public policy, and the philosophy of law. She serves as senator and vice president of Phi Beta Kappa, and as host of Northeast Public Radio’s The Academic Minute. 

Also to be acknowledged is Noel R. Leary, who was officially presented with an honorary degree by the Board of Trustees in 2020 but was unable to accept it in person due to pandemic restrictions. For more than 25 years he provided unwavering support to Carol Leary, president emerita of Bay Path University. Leary is a consultant concentrating on market research, organizational planning, and project management, primarily for not-for-profit organizations and has served on the boards of numerous organizations, and is currently a member of the board of directors for the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Me. 

In honor of Bay Path University’s 125th anniversary of its founding in 1897, Jonathan Besse, chair of the Board of Trustees, will give the commencement address to the 2022 graduating class. Besse joined the board in 2010, and is in the third and final year of his term as chair.  He is the managing director at Slalom Consulting, LLC, a global consulting firm.    

For more information and details on Bay Path’s 125th Commencement click here. 

Special Coverage Women in Businesss

Reimagine the Possibilities


In many respects, the Bay Path University Women’s Leadership Conference that will unfold on April 1 at the MassMutual Center is the same one that was put together for early spring 2020 and then canceled by COVID-19 — and then canceled again amid a surge in early 2021.

Indeed, most all the speakers, including keynoter Tyra Banks, the model and media maven, are the same as those originally scheduled probably 30 months ago.

But the day-long event, expected to bring more than 1,300 people to downtown Springfield, simply can’t be the same as the one blueprinted back in 2019, said Sandra Doran, the school’s sixth president, who took the helm just a few months after the 2020 event was canceled.

And that’s because the world has changed so much in the interim, she told BusinessWest, and the conference needs to reflect that.

“Before the pandemic, people talked about being adaptive, they talked about thinking outside the box; the pandemic has changed the way people think about all those things,” said Doran, adding that the changed landscape, and the response to it, is reflected in the new theme for the conference: Reimagine. “What was considered adaptive two years ago is now considered routine today. This concept of really being prepared, with a plan A and a plan B … in the past, we might have had a couple of different strategies; now we have 10 different strategies because we know people’s needs are changing, the needs of employers are changing.”

“Before the pandemic, people talked about being adaptive, they talked about thinking outside the box; the pandemic has changed the way people think about all those things.”

Karen Woods, assistant vice president of Brand Strategy, Marketing, and Integrated Communications at Bay Path, agreed.

The original theme was ‘Own Your Now,’ she explained. “The idea was, ‘wherever you are in your life … own it, move forward, make decisions, and decide what’s next.’ But the pandemic changed a lot for people, so to ask people to ‘own their now’ seemed trite; the past two years not only affected the Women’s Leadership Conference, they affected women.

“And so this year, we have the theme of ‘Reimagine,’ and reimagine is really a gift,” she went on. “Because no matter where you are and what you’ve been through, you have this opportunity to come together, to network, to connect, to be with other women, and really start to think about what is the future, not just for you as an individual, but for our community.”

Sandra Doran, president of Bay Path University

Sandra Doran, president of Bay Path University

That theme, ‘Reimagine,’ will be threaded through a full day of programming that will include Banks’s keynote address at 3:15 p.m.; a luncheon talk featuring Patrice Banks, founder of Girls Auto Clinic; and the morning keynote, featuring Suzy Batiz, founder of Poo~Pourri and supernatural (more on them later). And it will also be incorporated into a series of break-in sessions, with titles ranging from “The Misfit’s Guide to Managing, Surviving, and Thriving at Work” to “Staying Sane with Disruptive Personalities in the Workplace.”


Face to Face

The return of the Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC), especially in its in-person format, is an important development for the region, said Doran, noting that, during its 25-year history, it has not only brought provocative speakers and historic figures to Springfield — a list that includes Margaret Thatcher, Madeline Albright, Rita Moreno, and many others — it has given attendees invaluable insight to bring back to their homes and offices.

Doran told BusinessWest that, while some thought had been given over the past two years to staging a WLC remotely, it was quickly determined that such a presentation would simply not be in keeping with the many goals — and expectations — for this conference, which has become a tradition in Western Mass.

“We made the decision that this was an event that was really focused on professional development, networking, and helping senior leaders in the grow,” she explained. “And the real power of this particular conference is in the face-to-face component of it.”

As organizers of the event saw COVID easing, with cases declining across the country, the decision was made to move forward with a live event, one that will have some restrictions, including proof of vaccine or a negative test to enter the MassMutual Center, as well as masking up when not eating or drinking.

Woods said ticket sales have been brisk, and a turnout similar to what has been the norm over the past several years is expected.

“We’ve been following the trends and the local, state, and federal guidelines,” she said. “Normally, we would start our advertising in the fall, and we were really looking at this spring. In speaking with our sponsors, exhibitors, and those buying tickets, we sense that people are feeling comfortable and ready to come back out for a gathering like this.”

As noted earlier, the overall lineup of speakers for the 25th WLC hasn’t changed since that event was originally blueprinted in 2019. But what has changed are the times, and some of the challenges being faced by women — and all those in the workforce.

And the speakers have been asked to reflect on what has transpired and incorporate these changes and mounting challenges into their presentations, said Doran, noting that the 25th WLC, like those before it, will leave attendees with plenty to think about as they consider how to reimagine their own lives and careers.

Indeed, the three keynoters are all successful entrepreneurs and innovators, who took decidedly different paths to success.

“Before the pandemic, people talked about being adaptive, they talked about thinking outside the box; the pandemic has changed the way people think about all those things.”

The day will start with what promises to be an inspirational, and entertaining talk by Batiz, founder of Poo~Pourri and supernatural, brands she has transformed into a more than $500 million business empire.

Featured in Forbes, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur, Batiz has been named one of Forbes’s “Richest Self Made Women in America” (2019) and EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year (2017). But to get there, she had to overcome some of life’s lowest lows — poverty, sexual abuse, depression, two bankruptcies, and a suicide attempt — which led to what she calls “the luxury of losing everything.”

The luncheon keynote speaker, Patrice Banks, is credited with opening up the male-dominated automotive industry and bringing a fresh perspective to that business. Girls Auto Clinic offers automotive buying and repair resources, services, and products by women to women. Prior to establishing GAC, she worked for more than 12 years as an engineer, manager, and leader at DuPont, a science and technology company.

Karen Woods

Karen Woods says the conference was rethemed from the one canceled two years ago to better reflect pandemic realities.

Frustrated with the lack of resources educating women on car care and her inability to find a female mechanic in the Philadelphia area, Banks enrolled in automotive- technology school to learn how to work on cars. Her mission with Girls Auto Clinic was to create a place she wanted to bring her car for repair and maintenance. She has since made it her mission to educate and empower women through their cars.

By telling her story, she continues to make history, through engaging talks, interactive workshops, authoring an informative car-care guide, and the successful running of a repair garage with female mechanics and a nail salon.

The day’s programing will conclude with a keynote talk by Tyra Banks, the supermodel who has become a serial entrepreneur as well. She created and executive produces America’s Next Top Model, has an Emmy Award-winning talk show (The Tyra Banks Show), hosted America’s Got Talent, and is consistently ranked by Time magazine as one of the world’s most influential people.

Banks is CEO of the Tyra Banks Company, a multi-faceted corporation focused on beauty and entertainment. In 2012, she graduated from the Owner/President Management program at Harvard Business School, from which she created her one-of-a-kind cosmetics experience, TYRA Beauty. She recently developed Fierce Capital, the investment arm of the Tyra Banks Company, which invests in early-stage companies, including firms that are female-led or female-focused.

Her passion is the TZONE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in young women to help them realize their ambitions and approach life’s challenges with fierce determination. The TZONE now takes residence at the Lower Eastside Girls Club Center for Community in New York City and focuses on five core pillars: entrepreneurship; financial literacy; elocution and self-presentation; health and wellness; and self-esteem, beauty, and body image.


Breaking Out

As noted earlier, the conference will also feature a number of breakout sessions designed to both inform and inspire.

Session 1 takes the title “The Misfit’s Guide to Managing, Surviving, and Thriving at Work,” and will be led by Jennifer Romolini, a writer, speaker, senior digital-media strategist, and author of the book Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits.”

She will essentially debunk the theory that office-politicking extroverts are best set up for success. The session will help attendees understand, among other things, how to stop feeling like a freak at work, how to start using one’s misfit nature as a strength in the workplace, and how one’s sensitivity and empathy can make her a boss who not only succeeds, but effects real change.

Session 2 is called “The Power of Meaning: Making Your Life, Work, and Relationships Matter,” and will be led by Emily Esfahani-Smith, author of the book The Power of Meaning, which outlines four pillars essential to living a life that matters: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling.

In this breakout session, Smith will present the latest in psychology and neuroscience (as well as the wisdom of great philosophers) to help attendees live more satisfying lives, and focus in on those four pillars.

“We made the decision that this was an event that was really focused on professional development, networking, and helping senior leaders in the grow. And the real power of this particular conference is in the face-to-face component of it.”

Session 3, titled “The Real Role of Gut Instinct in Managing Complexity and Extreme Risk,” will be led by Laura Huang, a professor at the Harvard Business School and author of the book EDGE.

In her talk, Huang will discuss her research on decision-making in organizations and why the question shouldn’t be about data-driven decisions versus gut-feel-based decisions. Instead, effective organizational outcomes are the result of understanding the set of rules that are inherent in any complex decision, which dictates whether more data actually helps us make better decisions. Bringing her diverse work and research background (having conducted dozens of interviews with investors and observing pitch meetings with entrepreneurs) to analyzing the role of gut instinct in making choices, Huang developed an in-depth understanding vital role that gut feel plays in managing complexity and risk — and the difference between big wins and playing it safe.

Session 4 is titled “Staying Sane with Disruptive Personalities in the Workplace,” and will be presented by Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. In 2019, her book, titled Don’t You Know Who I Am: How to Stay Sane in the Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility, was released. She is also the author of the modern relationship survival manual Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life.

Session objectives include understanding what a disruptive personality style looks like and how it may affect oneself; learning how to manage disruptive personalities in the workplace, and what works (and doesn’t work); understanding how systems and people enable disruptive personalities in the workplace, and becoming familiar with a 10-step plan designed to provide the tools to manage disruptive personalities.

For more information on the conference, visit www.baypath.edu/events-calendar/womens-leadership-conference.


George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

EAST LONGMEADOW — Congressman Richard Neal announced Tuesday that Bay Path University will receive $2.9 million in federal grants for two health programs at the school.

At a well-attended gathering at the school’s Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center, Neal announced that Bay path will receive two federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants.

The graduate program in Physician Assistant Studies will receive a grant totaling $1.5 million over five years through the Primary Care Training and Enhancement — PA Program, while the graduate program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling received a grant from the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program totaling $1.43 million over four years through the American Rescue Plan.

With students enrolled in the Physician Assistant program standing at the front of the room, a number of speakers, including Neal, Bay Path President Sandra Doran, Bay Path Trustee Brian Tuohey, and others, said the grants will support and bolster the school’s efforts to bring more needed health professionals into the field.

Neal, Doran, and other school administrators praised Janine McVay, Bay Path’s director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for her efforts in writing the applications that eventually led to the nearly $3 million in grants.


‘This Is Our Moment’

Sandra Doran

While the pandemic presents a number of challenges, Sandra Doran says, it might also create opportunities for Bay Path University.

Sandra Doran says her family has long been attracted to careers in education and the law.

One great-grandfather traveled from New York to Colorado and set up the first one-room schoolhouse in that state, she noted, while her grandfather was superintendent of a school district in New York City, and her mother was a music teacher. And her other great-grandfather was a bankruptcy lawyer, kept especially busy during the Great Depression.

So it’s logical she would take one of those career paths. Actually, she took both.

Indeed, after serving as chief legal officer for Shaw’s supermarkets, she later served as vice president, general counsel, and chief of staff at Lesley University in Cambridge. And it was that position that eventually inspired a full shift to higher education — although she always calls on her legal background — and put her on a path to … Bay Path University and its president’s office.

“At Lesley, I came to realize that higher education was my passion, and my calling,” said Doran, who’s been handed the attractive, but perhaps also daunting, assignment of succeeding Carol Leary and building on the strong foundation she built during a 25-year tenure that saw the college become a university and expand in every way imaginable.

She arrives at Bay Path at a critical juncture, when several powerful forces are colliding — stern challenges in higher education that started emerging years ago; the COVID-19 pandemic, which is exacerbating those challenges and creating new ones; a financial crisis; and a nationwide focus on racial justice.

“This is a historical leadership opportunity for all of us — how we lead through the months and years ahead is really going to define what kind of community we are, how resilient we are, and now adaptive and nimble we are.”

This collision of crises, as Doran called them, presents a real test — actually, several of them — but also opportunities for the school, and higher education in general.

“This is a historical leadership opportunity for all of us — how we lead through the months and years ahead is really going to define what kind of community we are, how resilient we are, and now adaptive and nimble we are,” said Doran, adding that she believes Bay Path is well-positioned to be a leader during this time of crisis, introspection, and profound change, and that she is looking forward to the challenge of helping it play that role.

As she talked with BusinessWest at a small table positioned on the lawn behind the college’s administration building, Deepwood Hall — a nod to social distancing and keeping safe during the pandemic — Doran talked about the college’s plans for reopening this fall. It will embrace what many are calling a hybrid model blending online and in-person classes, with far more of the former. The plan, overall, is to “de-densify the campus,” as she put it, with a limited number of students living on campus, all in single rooms.

But mostly, she talked about this convergence of crises and how, rather than be a roadblock or even a speed bump, it could serve to accelerate the process of Bay Path’s emergence as a leader not simply in remote learning — only she doesn’t call it that; she prefers ‘technology-assisted learning’ — but in guiding students to fulfillment of their goals and ultimate success in the workplace. And also accelerating the process of creating systemic change in how higher education carries out its mission.

For the school, this opportunity to further cement its reputation as a pioneer and frontrunner in remote learning has been confirmed by the large number of colleges and universities calling to seek assistance as they establish or build their own programs (more on that later).

And for higher education, the pandemic presents a unique if not entirely welcome (at some schools) opportunity to rethink and perhaps reinvent many aspects of a college education and put more (and much-needed) emphasis on cost, access, and pathways to success in the workplace, and less on the on-campus experience (more on that later as well).

For all of this, Bay Path is well-positioned, if not uniquely positioned, to grasp these opportunities.

“This is our moment at Bay Path,” she said with noticeable energy in her voice, “because we’ve always been that place where students come to further their career ideals, and we’re going to continue to provide that opportunity.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked at length with Doran about what she ultimately called “an exciting moment in time,” and all the reasons that make it so.

School of Thought

When asked what appealed to her about Bay Path and its presidency, Doran said, in essence, that there was little, if anything, that didn’t appeal to her.

Indeed, she said the once-struggling two-year college that was resurrected and then taken to dizzying new heights during Leary’s tenure represents an opportunity that brings together her collective passions and many of the initiatives that have marked the latter stages of her career.

These include women’s education, technology and technology-assisted learning, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Sandra Doran, seen here with a student

Sandra Doran, seen here with a student on Feb. 27, the day she was introduced to the campus community, embraces the challenge of building on the foundation built by her predecessor, Carol Leary.

“This opportunity is a perfect fit and really the culmination of all my professional work,” she explained. “I’ve had the opportunity to lead a women’s college, so I understand the value of a women’s education. But another part of my background involves adaptive learning and the power of online education to really bring out the best of everyone in terms of mastering the subject matter and ensuring that everyone has a voice. I’ve also led a software company and been an entrepreneur. This opportunity brings all that together, and that’s why it’s a perfect fit.”

A quick recap of her career to date will explain why she said that.

We start at Shaw’s, where Doran, in addition to her work as general counsel, oversaw the company’s portfolio of mergers and acquisitions, which included the acquisition of Star Market Inc.

Later, at Lesley, which she also served as general counsel, she came to that realization that higher education was a passion, one that led her to pursue and then garner the role of president of American College of Education, an online doctoral institution serving more than 3,500 students.

From there, while serving as an entrepreneur in residence at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., she served as the CEO of Castle Point Learning Systems, a Stevens Institute-supported educational technology startup that had developed an instructional framework for calculus, enabling students and teachers to develop a more robust foundation for higher-level mathematics.

Concurrently, she took a position as National Policy director for the New England Board of Higher Education, where, among other responsibilities, she created and implemented an innovative initiative for multi-state collaboration to increase educational attainment and access for students through online, hybrid, and distance education.

Her career then took another intriguing turn when she was appointed president of Salem Academy and College in North Carolina, the country’s oldest women’s college, founded in 1772. There, she put the school on firm financial footing, developed a strategic plan, and initiated several new programs, including an entrepreneurial makerspace in downtown Winston-Salem where students could work directly with the city’s innovation ecosystem.

As noted earlier, while education has become her career, she calls on her background in law on an almost daily basis, and finds that the two professions coexist effectively.

“One of the great roles of lawyers is to educate,” she explained. “It’s to educate clients, to educate themselves, to mediate, to bring people together, to critically analyze the data and synthesize the data, and communicate. Lawyers are problem solvers, except for the high-profile ones, which are litigators; most lawyers are solving problems.”

When a search firm called last year to gauge her interest in the Bay Path position, she responded enthusiastically, and for the reasons — and passions — mentioned earlier.

“I was familiar with the pioneering aspects of Bay Path — it was one of the first institutions to immerse themselves in the online education experience and understand what that could provide for our students,” she explained, adding, again, that she viewed this opportunity as the culmination of all the career work that had come before it.

Many schools don’t have an online presence at all, and so imagine their consternation when faced with this pandemic. It’s interesting that other liberal-arts colleges are reaching out to us and looking to us as being able to provide that kind of education.”

Since arriving on campus late last month, Doran, while working with staff on the reopening plan, has also been trying to meet with local leaders and the campus community alike — in COVID-mandated ways, especially phone calls and Zoom meetings.

It’s not the same as meeting people in person, but it’s been effective in that she’s getting to know and better understand the community the school serves. And this work continues with an initiative she calls “Let’s Come Together: Virtual Conversations with President Doran.”

“I’m eager to get to know my colleagues, and they’re eager to get to know me,” she said. “So these are conversations we’re conducting virtually, almost one a day — so faculty and staff have an opportunity to sit and talk and learn about each other. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn about our staff and faculty and what excites them about Bay Path, and, frankly, to learn about areas of strength and areas we need to improve.”

Course of Action

Doran was introduced to the Bay Path community on Feb. 27, just before the school sent its students home for the semester and essentially closed the campus. By the time of that announcement, it was already becoming clear that the approaching pandemic could alter the calendar and impact lives — but no one could really have predicted just how profoundly the landscape would change or how schools would be challenged by the virus.

As the story on page 17 reveals, schools have been spending the past several weeks carefully putting together reopening plans for the fall that incorporate a host of different strategies.

For Bay Path, the assignment, while not easy by any stretch, was made less complicated by what could be called the school’s head start when it came to online programs. Its first fully online graduate program was the MS in Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy, launched in 2007, followed by other online graduate programs for men and women and the fully online bachelor’s-degree program offered by the American Women’s College.

Bay Path’s plan, blueprinted with the help of a 75-member task force, calls for essentially cutting the number of students living on campus by half — down to roughly 200 — and conducting most courses, except those with some lab component, online. It’s a plan the school feels comfortable with because so many of its students were already learning remotely.

“It’s an environment where we’re making decisions with imperfect information — our environment is changing on a weekly basis, if not on a daily basis,” Doran noted. “So we’re going to be ready to pivot if we need to, but we feel strongly that we’ve got the right plan in place.”

This head start with remote learning has certainly caught the attention of others in academia, she added, noting those phone calls and e-mails seeking Bay Path’s assistance with online programming and inquiring about potential partnership opportunities.

“We’ve had several schools reach out to us to ask if they can enroll their students in our courses or think about ways we can partner,” she told BusinessWest, noting that inquiries are coming from institutions across the country. “Many schools don’t have an online presence at all, and so imagine their consternation when faced with this pandemic. It’s interesting that other liberal-arts colleges are reaching out to us and looking to us as being able to provide that kind of education.

“They want to learn from what we’ve learned,” she went on. “So it’s exciting to be in that position of being able to share what we know, what we’ve learned about how to provide the best opportunities for students.”

And these phone calls represent just one of the opportunities, a strange word to use in this climate, to arise from the pandemic, said Doran, adding that she chooses to look upon them in that light.

“We have an opportunity to rethink how we meet the needs of students whose ideals and thoughts around higher education are changing in the midst of everything that we’re dealing with,” she said. “So, just as the pandemic is impacting every single person in terms of how they think about their own career and their own lives, our students are doing the same thing.”

Elaborating, she noted that fewer than 20% of those attending college today are having what would be called a traditional college experience, meaning a four-year school and living on campus.

“The other 80% attend a very different — and have a very different — college experience,” she went on. “And one’s not better than the other, but I think there’s a new reality that higher education is embracing that’s focusing on the academic part of the experience, the part of the experience that enables students to have productive careers and move forward with their life goals and their life dreams.

“And that’s what Bay Path has always been — our mission is rooted in this idea that we want to provide career paths,” she continued, noting, again, that the school is well-positioned to embrace this new reality, as she called it, and this is reflected in enrollment numbers for the fall, which are quite solid at a time when many schools are struggling.

“We have — and this is another strength of Bay Path — a very diverse set of students,” she said. “We have students who are only online students, so they were never contemplating coming to campus, so we feel secure in those enrollments; we have graduate students, many of whom are online, so we feel secure in those enrollments; and our undergraduate enrollment is up for this fall in terms of deposits and commitments. We’re feeling very confident, and we’ve had a good response to our plan.”

Overall, the school is on solid financial ground, Doran said, and in a good position to withstand the challenges created by the pandemic.

“The finances around higher education are always challenging,” she explained. “The pandemic has certainly raised another level of gauze around all this, because it’s hard to see through and see what the next steps are. But we have a number of task forces looking at the long-term aspects, and, overall, we see some opportunities.”

Bottom Line

Looking ahead … well, Doran acknowledged it’s difficult to look very far ahead in the era of COVID-19.

Her immediate goals are to continue building on the foundation that Leary has built and develop new growth opportunities for a school that has come a long way in the past quarter-century.

And rather than somehow slow or stifle those efforts, this convergence of crises that greeted her upon her arrival may, as she said, actually serve to accelerate that process.

As she noted, “this is our moment.”

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Women in Businesss

Critical Tools

As women continue to experience the devastating impact of unemployment due to COVID-19, representing close to 60% of all lost jobs this spring, the food-service, hospitality, retail, and travel industries have been some of the hardest hit.

Further delivering on its mission of empowering women, at a time when many are forced to reimagine their lives, Bay Path University is offering a free three-credit online undergraduate college course in August. The course, “Fundamentals of Digital Literacy,” will help women expand their digital technology skill set and be better prepared for the workforce of the future. The course is offered through The American Women’s College, Bay Path University’s fully online division designed to fit busy women’s lives.

“We hope this free course inspires women to look to a better future through education at a time when they are experiencing such uncertainty,” said Carol Leary before her recent retirement as Bay Path president. “This is our way to offer women an opportunity to discover the benefits of online learning. We have deep experience serving women in a proven college format resulting in a graduation rate that is 20% higher than other adult-serving online programs.”

“Fundamentals of Digital Literacy” is a six-week, three-credit course in which students will examine best practices for utilizing social-media and digital-communication tools in the workplace. In addition, they will learn practical skills for a digital world and gain an increasing awareness of the risks of digital communication essential in all fields. By mastering the fundamentals of computing technology and demonstrating digital literacy, women who complete the course will have developed the computer skills needed to thrive in a 21st-century workforce that is continually changing.

“We hope this free course inspires women to look to a better future through education at a time when they are experiencing such uncertainty. This is our way to offer women an opportunity to discover the benefits of online learning. We have deep experience serving women in a proven college format resulting in a graduation rate that is 20% higher than other adult-serving online programs.”

Leaders in the Women in Travel and Hospitality and Women in Retail Leadership Circle organizations are sharing this free course opportunity with impacted employees impacted. The course offering is not exclusive to these groups, however, and any woman in sectors affected by COVID-19 are welcome to enroll.

“At a time when the retail industry has been dramatically impacted, it is refreshing to see Bay Path University, an institution dedicated to advancing the lives of women, provide an opportunity for women in our industry to gain a valuable skillset and college credits,” said Melissa Campanelli and Jen DiPasquale, co-founders of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.

Unlike other online degree programs, students enrolled in classes through the American Women’s College at Bay Path University are able to get immediate feedback on individual academic performance. They also get the support they need to excel in the program, such as coaching, counseling, virtual learning communities, and social networking. The courses are designed to help provide the flexibility women need to engage in their studies, while still balancing their daily lives, jobs, and families.

As a result of the innovative approach to learning offered through the American Women’s College, women successfully earn degrees at higher rates than national averages, the institution notes. The model has been widely recognized by industry experts, the federal government, and granting agencies since its inception in 2013. Most recently, the American Women’s College was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Strada Education Network to use its unique model to close the digital-literacy gap for women.

Enrollment in this six-week, three-credit course is subject to availability. This offer is intended for women who are first-time attendees of Bay Path University. Active Bay Path University students and those enrolled within the past year are not eligible for this offer.

Any student enrolled in this course who wishes to officially enroll into a certificate or degree program at the American Women’s College or Bay Path University must submit the appropriate application for admission and be accepted according to standard admissions guidelines. 

To register for the course, visit bpu.tfaforms.net/41. The registration deadline is July 20, and enrollees will have course access on July 27. For more information, visit www.baypath.edu/baypathworks.


Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Carol Leary

Carol Leary

Since arriving at the campus of Bay Path College in 1994, Carol Leary has always had her focus on what the future of higher education would — or should — look like, and positioning the institution for that day. As she prepares to retire in late June, she still has her eye on the future. She predicts that careers — and college programs to prepare people for them — will look much different years down the road, and institutions must be open to changing how they do business.

Carol Leary says she found the photo as she commenced the still-ongoing task of essentially packing up after a remarkable 26-year career as the president of Bay Path University — only it wasn’t a university when she arrived, as we all know.

It’s a shot of herself with former Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole — one of the first keynoters at the school’s Women’s Leadership Conference — and Caron Hobin, an administrator at Bay Path who back then had the title of dean of Continuing Education, and is now vice president of Strategic Alliances, a role we’ll hear more about later.

Since finding it on a shelf not far from her first edition of Bay Path Crossroads, the school’s admissions magazine (which also features Dole on the cover), Leary has been showing this photo to pretty much everyone who ventures into her office.

“It brings back so many memories — and it was the beginning,” she said, adding that it has become her favorite photo, not just because she and others can marvel at how much younger she and Hobin were back when it was taken, but because of the way it makes her pause and think about everything that has happened since it was snapped.

It is quite a list — from that aforementioned progression to a university to its dramatic growth; from the addition of baccalaureate, then master’s, and finally doctoral degrees to the creation of the American Women’s College, the first all-women, all-online baccalaureate program in the nation; from the opening of a new science center to national recognition is such fields as cybersecurity. And it is certainly worth dwelling on all those accomplishments.

Leary has certainly been doing some of that over the past several weeks as she winds down her tenure and anticipates the beginning of retirement in late June, especially as she finds more artifacts as she starts to pack up her belongings. But not too much, as her time has been consumed with everything from welcoming her successor — Sandra Doran was introduced to the campus community in late February — to dealing with the many effects of coronavirus, which has hit the higher-education sector extremely hard.

And while the latter is now dominating the final weeks of her tenure, with decisions to be made about events, classes, and more, Leary spent much of her time this winter not looking back, but looking ahead to the future of higher education and how schools like Bay Path can prepare for, and be on the cutting edge of, what should be profound change.

In most respects, this is merely a continuation of what she’s been doing since arrived at the Longmeadow campus in the fall of 1994.

“Colleges are facing some incredible headwinds,” she said. “And beginning a year ago, at each executive committee meeting of the board, I started sharing some of those challenges and opportunities facing not only Bay Path but all colleges and universities.”

When asked to elaborate on these headwinds, she started with demographics, especially those concerning the size of high-school graduating classes. “The number of 18-year-olds is dropping dramatically in this country, and that won’t turn around unless immigration is opened up and you get a flood of immigrants,” she explained. “All colleges are facing it, so what do you do?”

Many schools are shifting their focus to graduate degrees and adult students, and Bay Path was somewhat ahead of this curve when it started added such programs 20 years ago, Leary said, adding quickly that, while such steps have worked, schools can’t depend on them moving forward.

Carol Leary, seen here introducing poet Maya Angelou

Carol Leary, seen here introducing poet Maya Angelou at one of Bay Path’s Women’s Leadership Conferences, has led the school through a period of unprecedented growth and expansion.

“There are now many more competitors — everyone is adding new programs,” she went on, noting that this is true of both adult (non-traditional) programs and online education, another arena where Bay Path was a pioneer. “As more schools enter the marketplace, that increases your competition, and then pricing gets driven down.”

There are many other headwinds, especially the soaring cost of higher education and the ways in which students will learn, she said, adding that it is incumbent upon all schools to try to get ahead of these issues and respond proactively, rather than react when it is perhaps too late.

This is the mindset she took to Bay Path back in 1994, and it’s the one she’s leaving with the board and her staff as she packs up those photos and other memory-triggering artifacts from a career with a number of milestones.

For this issue and its focus on education, training, and employment, BusinessWest talked at length with Leary. It was supposed to be to flip through a figurative photo album assembled over a quarter-century, but, in keeping with her character, she was much more focused on the future than the past.

Developing Story

As noted, that photo of Leary with Dole and Hobin triggers a number of memories — and stories, which lead to even more stories.

One that Leary likes to tell involves how Dole’s presence at the conference helped lead to another keynoter of note — Margaret Thatcher.

“People ask how we accomplished what we did, and I always said the number-one reason was that I hired very committed, very passionate, and very smart people. And that is the secret sauce — who you hire. I give them all the credit.”

“She [Dole] had an advance person, a young man maybe 25 years old, and I’m in the wings with him listening to her speak, and he said, ‘who else would you like to have?’” she recalled. “I said, ‘we don’t have the first woman president of the United States yet, so I’d love the first woman prime minister of Great Britain.’ And he said, ‘my mother is her advance person.’”

Fast-forwarding a little, she said arrangements were made for Leary and Hobin to fly to Washington and deliver the invitation to Thatcher personally. She eventually came to downtown Springfield in the spring of 1998, thus adding her name to a lengthy list of keynoters that also includes Maya Angelou, Jane Fonda, Madeleine Albright, Rita Moreno, Queen Latifah, and many others.

There are stories — and photos — involving all those individuals, said Leary, who got to spend some time with each one of them.

But while she loves to tell those stories, an even more pleasant assignment is talking about the women, many of them first-generation college students, who have come to the Bay Path campus over the past quarter-century. Creating opportunities for them has been the most significant accomplishment of her career, she said, adding that her tenure has in many ways been defined by the small framed copy of that quote attributed to Steve Jobs — “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do” — she keeps near her desk.

“I don’t even know if he actually said that, but they say he said it,” she noted with a laugh. “Anyway, I always tell people that’s how we have to look at every issue.”

And that mindset has led to a stunning transformation of the 123-year-old school, which was a secretarial school decades ago and a sleepy two-year school when she and her husband, Noel, first visited it after she was recruited to apply to be its fifth president.

By now, most know the story. While many of their friends and family were dubious about this small school as her next career stop after working for several years at Simmons College (another women’s school), the Learys didn’t have any doubts.

But nothing about the turnaround effort — and it has to be called that — was quick or easy. And all the efforts were the result of teamwork, said Leary, who, over the years, has said repeatedly that the success of the institution is not due to one person, but rather a large and talented team.

“People ask how we accomplished what we did, and I always said the number-one reason was that I hired very committed, very passionate, and very smart people,” she said. “And that is the secret sauce — who you hire. I give them all the credit.”

While finding old photographs and items like that issue of Crossroads, Leary has also come across some of the letters (yes, she kept them) from institutions trying to recruit her and headhunters asking to apply for positions. More than the letters themselves, she remembers how she replied to them.

This copy of Bay Path College Crossroads

This copy of Bay Path College Crossroads, with Elizabeth Dole on the cover, is one of many poignant pieces of memorabilia Carol Leary has come across while packing up after her remarkable career at the school.

“I always said, ‘my work here isn’t done — I’m in the middle of this vision or that vision,’” she recalled. “I never had the yearning to go anywhere.”

The work was never done because the school was seemingly always in a state of transition — first from a two-year school to the baccalaureate level, then to the master’s level, and then online and the introduction of new healthcare programs, and then doctorate programs.

And because it needs to, the school is still transitioning.

School of Thought

As she talked with BusinessWest a few weeks ago, Leary was splitting her time a number of different ways — although coronavirus had certainly seized most of it as this article was being written, including the postponement of the annual Women’s Leadership Conference, which had been set for March 27 at the MassMutual Center. Meanwhile, there are several retirement parties scheduled, as well as the annual President’s Gala, a huge fundraiser for the university and, specifically, the President’s Scholarships established by Leary to assist first-generation students. Those are still proceeding as scheduled, although the virus and the response to it is a story that changes quickly.

What won’t be changing quickly — in speed or direction — are those headwinds facing seemingly all the most prestigious colleges and universities.

And the most pressing issue, she told BusinessWest, is doing something about the high cost of a college education.

“As higher-education professionals, we have to figure out how to deliver our model in an affordable way so that families can send their children and adults can attend as well and not have high debt,” she explained. “That’s why the American Women’s College was created in 2013, but it is not going to be unique anymore because, as the number of 18-year-olds goes down, colleges have to think about other sources of revenue.”

With this in mind, Leary said Bay Path long ago started looking at new strategies for growth and creating learning opportunities. And it has created a new division, the Office of Strategic Alliances — Hobin now leads it — which is focused on non-credit work and professional development.

“We’re thinking not necessarily about a student coming to us, graduating in four years, and maybe getting a graduate degree, but more in terms of ‘what do we need to do to educate that student through her life cycle,” Leary explained, pointing, with emphasis, to a report she’s seen indicating that a child born today has the potential to live to 150 years.

“If you think about that, they may have an 80-year work life,” she went on. “And so, the college degree they earn at age 22 may not be relevant at age 60, 70, or even 80; a child today will have a longer work life, and it will be a much different work life than what people are experiencing today.

“I can’t even predict what it will be like, but colleges have to stay relevant,” she said, adding that Bay Path’s new division will handle professional development for businesses that want to retool and retrain their workforces. “That’s probably the future; that’s where we need to be — not just offering degrees but also offering lifelong learning opportunities.”

In that future, which is probably not far down the road, Leary projects that higher education will be “unbundled,” as she put it, into degrees but also short- and long-term programs, and with students not necessarily spending four years at one institution, but rather moving in and out of a school.

“This is going to shake up my colleagues in the field, but if I had a crystal ball … I don’t think students are going to come to one college and stay there for 120 credits,” she explained, summoning the acronym CLEP, or college-level examination program, which enables individuals with prior knowledge in a college course subject to earn college credits by passing an exam, thus possibly earning a degree more efficiently and inexpensively.

“I always said, ‘my work here isn’t done — I’m in the middle of this vision or that vision.’ I never had the yearning to go anywhere.”

“We already see students coming and going, bringing in community college and other college credits, CLEP, advanced placement, and more,” she went on. Meanwhile, adults don’t some in expecting to take 120 credits because somewhere in their life they may have taken a year somewhere and then life happened and they dropped out.

“Overall, colleges are going to have to reflect on what is learning, how does learning place, where does it take place, and how does it fit it into a credential like a degree; I don’t believe that degrees are going to be place-bound,” she said in conclusion, adding that such reflection must lead to often-profound change in how things are done.

And higher education is not exactly noted for its willingness to change, she said, adding that this sentiment must shift if the smaller institutions want to not only survive but thrive.

Future Course

As noted, Leary will be staying on until late June, and between now and then she has to move out of her home on campus and pack up everything in her office, including a number of awards she’s received from organizations ranging from the Girl Scouts to BusinessWest; she’s actually won two honors from this magazine — its Difference Makers award and its Women of Impact award.

She’s also planned out the first several months of retirement, with several trips scheduled — to England in July and Italy in August, if coronavirus doesn’t get in the way — and work on two boards in Ogunquit, Maine, where she will spend roughly half the year, with the other half in Fort Lauderdale. She even has a T-shirt that reads, “Yes, I have a plan for retirement.”

As for the school she’s leaving … it’s a much different, much better, and much more resilient institution than the one she found a quarter-century ago. She insists that people shouldn’t credit her for that. Instead, they should maybe credit Steve Jobs and that quote attributed to him.

Leary didn’t set out to change the world, necessarily, just that small bit of it off Longmeadow Street. To say she did so would be a huge understatement, and in the course of doing so, she changed countless lives in the process.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]


Closing the Skills Gap

Caron Hobin says Strategic Alliances can help fill skills gaps that exist in the region’s workforce.

The ever-changing workforce environment is a continuous challenge for employers seeking qualified people to fill their positions.

However, not all employers are looking for people with a college degree. In fact, the World Economic Forum reported recently that skills are in higher demand in the labor market than occupations and degrees.

This is one of the many reasons why Bay Path University started a new division on campus — Strategic Alliances, which provides customized training and learning experiences for area employees, as well as the latest online certifications and recertifications.

Caron Hobin, Bay Path’s vice president of Strategic Alliances, said the goal for this new division is a direct reflection of the overall mission of what was then Bay Path Institute when it was founded in 1897. And that is to always be attentive to the needs of the employers in the region and to make sure the university is preparing prospective employees to succeed in the workplace.

“That’s what I see our division doing here in an authentic way,” said Hobin, adding that this initiative strives to help employers target areas of recognized need through specialized training. Whether the focus is on cultivating emotional intelligence, working in teams, storytelling for success, or any other topic a company may need help with, Strategic Alliances uses carefully selected faculty from Bay Path as well as practitioners who have expertise in the topic to create programs that address these issues.

“Time is always of the essence, money is critical, so how do you provide training, and how do you help close the skills gap that employers say is definitely an issue out there?” said Hobin. “We do discovery sessions with companies and prospective clients, and we listen to what they are looking for, and then we create customized programs to meet their needs.”

She said these trainings may last anywhere from a few hours to weeks or months; however, she does her best to encourage companies to choose a lengthier program in order to get the most out of the experience, noting that, if the goal is changed behavior, employers aren’t going to get it with a one-hour training.

Longmeadow-based Glenmeadow, which provides of variety of senior-living options, is one of about a dozen clients of Strategic Alliances. It recently completed a six-month leadership academy for all its managers.

“They used a best-practice model for adult learning, which is learning something new and then putting it into practice,” said Hobin. “It’s not theory; it’s not just a couple of hours, then you’re done. You go through an intensive training.”

“We do discovery sessions with companies and prospective clients, and we listen to what they are looking for, and then we create customized programs to meet their needs.”

Anne Miller, Glenmeadow’s vice president of Operations, scheduled six training sessions with Strategic Alliances for 20 managers at the facility, with each three-hour session going into detail on specific topics, with the aim of improving overall leadership skills. After each training session, Miller put together breakout sessions held at Glenmeadow that helped her employees apply what they learned from the trainings.

“We wanted to do some things that reinforced some of the training or actually made it come to life a bit,” Miller told BusinessWest, adding that post-training sessions are important in order to help with retaining and applying what’s been learned.

These training sessions, conducted by a host of individuals from Bay Path, covered a wide array of topics ranging from how to de-stress to how to complete a good performance review, which Miller said are critically important for customer-service purposes within the many aspects of Glenmeadow’s broad business portfolio.

“I think it set a good base for us to continue the learning,” she said.

Interactive Approach

Glenmeadow’s case provides a perfect example of how Strategic Alliances works and why it was created, said Hobin, adding that, today, adult learners not only want to learn new information, but they want interactive, applied learning that goes along with it.

So, after the initial presentation session, Strategic Alliances hosts a practice session, where participants take the training they’ve received and apply it using strategies like role play in order to engage the employees.

Hobin said this training, coupled with ongoing work to determine specific needs among industry sectors and specific businesses, helps Strategic Alliances tweak its customized programs. And it also helps Bay Path when it comes to teaching students in its classrooms.

“We recognize that, with declining numbers of high-school graduates and with just a changing work environment going forward, we are going to need to find new markets,” she said, referring to the need to improve the skills of those already in the workplace and those seeking to advance within the workforce. “We can tell you very concretely that these are the skill sets that employers are looking for.”

Bay Path also partners with MindEdge, a provider of online continuing-education courses, to deliver various certifications and recertifications to any interested student or employee. When Bay Path launched its American Women’s College, its online degree program, Hobin said, she was hearing that more and more employers were not necessarily interested in people having a degree, but rather specific skill sets and certifications.

She hopes this will encourage students to get a professional certification before graduation, and she has a specific goal for the future — to have every Bay Path student complete a certification before they graduate.

For now, Hobin said Bay Path is implementing several strategies to reach out to the community, improve the visibility of Strategic Alliances, and build relationships with area business and economic-development-related agencies.

In addition to being a member of several local chambers of commerce, Strategic Alliances hosts virtual roundtables which provides viewers with a free, one-hour training course on various topics, which Hobin said have brought in many interested companies. These videos host a panel of professionals in the field and have focused on topics including using one’s power voice, having difficult conversations in the workplace, and diversity and inclusion.

Overall, Hobin wants Strategic Alliances to be a resource for the region, its business community, and individuals who want to be better-equipped to succeed in an ever-changing workplace.

“We’re here,” she said. “We’re interested in innovative approaches to professional development going forward.”

— Kayla Ebner