GALESBURG – For just over two weeks Knox College has been under the care of a new president. In a complex higher education landscape, Andy McGadney’s job won’t be easy, but he’s ready to learn.
The 20th quorum president began July 1, at the start of the quorum’s fiscal year, taking the reins from Teresa Amott, who served as quorum president for just under a decade and retired at the end of June.
He says the time since arriving has been spent in conversation, both on campus and in Galesburg.
Her first day began with a cup of coffee at the innkeeper with members of the Presidential Search Committee. Since then, he has met professors, students, staff and others.
âI’m here to learn,â McGadney said of his approach, saying he is now focused on listening to the diverse communities that are employed, served and educated by the college.
McGadney says his main conclusion right now is that the community of Knox and Galesburg is welcoming. He can’t say exactly in one direction that the conversations went beyond that.
McGadney’s hiring was announced in February after more than a year of searching for Amott’s successor.
Originally from Connecticut, McGadney received his BA from Wesleyan University, followed by an MA from Columbia University and an Ed. Doctor of Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania, writing his thesis on management. crisis in liberal arts colleges.
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He most recently served as College Vice President and Secretary at Colby College.
He says his passion for education came from his mother, who was a teacher in Hartford, Connecticut for over 30 years. He says Knox is the natural highlight of his work in higher education and liberal arts colleges, where he says students can still receive the best education for the 21st century.
âI have worked in small liberal arts colleges and have seen firsthand the impact that liberal arts training can have on students and their ability to be successful,â he said.
McGadney’s job is unlikely to be easy. Higher education is a competitive landscape, and the coming demographic changes will make what many have projected to be a difficult time for many institutions.
âEveryone is concerned about rising tuition fees. With the declining student demographics on the whole, there are huge questions surrounding return on investment. These are things that every faculty thinks about, âhe said.
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The cliff of 2025 will bring fewer students to universities as the kids of the Great Recession, a smaller generation in general, move into higher education. McGadney notes that this time will likely be the end of some schools, either by closing or merging with others. Still, he believes some schools will thrive.
âPart of what I’m hoping for Knox is that we put ourselves in a position to prosper in the short and long term,â said McGadney.
This will involve work both at the school and in the city where she lives.
“What I’ve heard over and over again is … for Galesburg to be successful, Knox has to be successful, and vice versa,” said McGadney.
The difficult years are not just to come. 2020 was a difficult and traumatic year for many, and the year forced Knox to embrace what would become a hybrid model for his education, with travel restrictions pushing some of the large international student body away from the college as well.
McGadney himself had two sons in college at the time, one on campus and the other in home schooling. He says he hopes the college takes a near-normal stance as their goal. They are asking all students who return or come to school in the fall to be fully immunized, subject to medical and religious exemptions.
He also acknowledges that everything is being done within state and federal COVID guidelines, as well as acknowledging that a COVID delta variant could put real pressure on the college. If so, they can still pivot to a more cautious course of action.
McGadney says Knox has a lot of things that make him unique, and he hopes to help market the college, by raising awareness not only regionally but nationally. With 1,200 students, he says its size makes it the best way for students to engage with each other and with faculty. He says that the teachers themselves are also qualified to teach in any institution, but also amateurs of teaching.
âOur teachers care a lot about the success of our students,â he said.
Knox College has long touted its inclusion in the âColleges That Change Livesâ book and is hopeful that this message, that the college changes lives for the better, can reach a wider audience.