Sacred Heart University President Dr. John Petillo gave the annual State of the University address on Nov. 2 in the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts.
One of the first topics he covered was student data. The university now has over 10,000 students and the class of 2025 had a retention rate of 85 percent, a number that used to be in the 70s, according to Petillo.
Additionally, last year’s graduates have a 99 percent post-graduation success rate, which includes graduate school, employment, full-time volunteer work or military service.
Academic success was a highlight of the address. Average pass rates for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) were 96 percent for students in the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and 100 percent for students in the second-degree accelerated BSN.
“Last year it was closer to 98 or 99 while colleagues in the state were in the 80s,” Petillo said.
Other licensure exam pass rates, like speech-language pathology and occupational therapy, were all 90 percent or higher.
Petillo then reported that in fiscal year 2022, SHU was awarded 65 grants totaling over $6 million, including 12 federal grants and three state grants.
His next point focused on university recognition, one of which was number 11 on the list of fastest-growing doctoral universities by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Petillo also acknowledged challenges that SHU is currently facing, the first being the “growing pains” that come with expansion and the second being parking and infrastructure.
“Someone said to me, years ago, you’re a successful college if you can’t find a parking space. Well, we seem to be very successful these days,” Petillo said. “But there’s a committee now of faculty, students, etc. and we really need to take a look at it.”
He discussed issues of financial resources, employee retention, student and employee wellness and diversity and inclusion.
Petillo explained plans for the future of the university, one of which is a strategy for moving to an R2 doctoral university, meaning there is high research activity.
“Our biggest concern is, as we move into research, we do not lose the culture of engagement. Frankly, if the culture of engagement is sacrificed, R2 goes off the table,” Petillo said.
The strategy for national recognition also includes athletics, a highlight being the Martire Family Arena, set to open in January, and strengthening SHU’s brand.
Petillo discussed financial methods for accomplishing the university goals, like increasing fundraising and increasing tuition revenue through retention of students, new enrollment goals and a focus on student experience.
He explained university enhancement plans, such as the creation of more performing arts spaces in the main academic building.
“We’re talking about an 11,000 to 14,000-foot renovation. We will now have these private rehearsal rooms, dance studios, etc.,” said Petillo. “The College of Arts and Sciences has and will continue to increase performing arts degrees.”
The Center for Healthcare Education is also set to get a $51 million renovation that will add around 60,000 square feet to the facility.
Petillo then moved to a Q&A session, during which Marketing Chair and professor Dr. Enda McGovern asked if there is a cut-off for expansion of the university.
“I would think, at the undergraduate level, we’re pretty much where we’re going to be. I don’t believe we’ll be above 6,500,” Petillo said. “If there’s growth, it’s really on the graduate side, which will not require additional facilities.”
Petillo closed with a thank you to the faculty and staff for their work.
“It really has made a difference in who we are and what we’ve become,” he said.