Retiring at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year
Interview conducted by Alaina Dopico
Written by Joelle Swyka
This past year has brought along many new challenges that we as a world, nation, and university have had to adjust to. President of Carlow University, Dr. Suzanne Mellon, has led the campus through the COVID-19 pandemic and other chaotic moments through 2020. Now Dr. Mellon will be making a major adjustment of her own, as she has announced her retirement at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Dr. Mellon, the 10th president of Carlow, has led the university for the past eight years, and she is credited with overseeing the development of the University Commons building and doubling the university’s endowment, according to the Carlow University Press Release on her retirement. She also oversaw the creation of a new simulation laboratory space for the College of Health and Wellness and the transformation of St. Joseph’s Hall into an updated fitness center for students, especially Carlow’s athletic teams.
Dr. Mellon has made many hard decisions for the university, some of which occurred just in the last year. One extremely difficult decision was changing the graduation of the 2020 class to a pre-recorded viewing. Even though the graduating class had to shift to a different format, the ceremony was still a great way to highlight the ways in which the students had to adapt and find the strength to finish their degrees during the pandemic. Mellon said that the students were “Carlow graduates of courage,” and she thinks in many ways that the 2021 graduates are going to be in the same vein because they were courageous and stuck through the hardships of the past year. According to an email announcement sent from the President’s Office to the Carlow community, Dr. Mellon has made the difficult decision to make the 2021 Commencement Ceremony a virtual one as well, along with cancelling the Honors Convocation.
Coming up with alternative ways to help Carlow students continue with their classes in a virtual setting has been a great challenge that Mellon, the faculty, and the staff have worked as a team to overcome. “As a leader you never do anything solely by yourself; it takes a whole effort and team of the university to do that,” said Mellon.
Mellon states that our mission does not stop at Carlow but continues with the ways students help each other along with their community at large. “I think what’s symbolic to me about Carlow is the fact of it being completely student-centered because everyone’s focus is on the student and caring for the student,” she said. She also values “the sense of social justice and making a difference in the world, which is really our purpose and not only our mission but our vision to create a just and merciful world.” Mellon hopes that the next president will continue to showcase the Carlow mission, continue to help students maintain and obtain a solid educational foundation, while also taking time to stop to connect with students in the cafeteria or at Carlow events.
On a lighter note, Dr. Mellon’s most memorable moments included having lunch with students which helped her understand what was on their minds and what they were enjoying at Carlow, along with going to events and seeing students there. Not only did Mellon strive to engage with the students on campus, she also made it a point to represent them in various ways. She connected students with the Board of Trustees and allowed students to assist in critical areas of the university such as committee work, strategic planning, and the institutional master plan.
Dr. Mellon’s time at the university is ending, but she says that she still has roots in the Pittsburgh area on various committees and is willing to assist the new president in their transition to Carlow University. During her upcoming retirement, she plans to travel back to her home state of Michigan. She hopes to spend time with her family and be a grandmother to her 11 grandchildren, along with taking some time to travel when it is safe to do so. Mellon is pleased with what has been accomplished during her time at Carlow and is excited to see what’s next in store for Carlow’s future.
The poem mentioned by Dr. Mellon in this interview, “Sea Change” by Jan Beatty, can be read by clicking on the pdf download below.
Jan Beatty‘s sixth book, The Body Wars, was published in 2020 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is the winner of the Red Hen Nonfiction Award for her memoir, American Bastard, forthcoming, 2021. For many years, Beatty worked as a waitress, an abortion counselor, and in maximum security prisons. She directs creative writing at Carlow University where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and is Distinguished Writer in Residence of the MFA program.