Talk Story: Lynn Babington

September, 2017

Lynn Babington had a career in nursing before taking on leadership roles at universities. In August, she became Chaminade University of Honolulu’s 10th president, with a vision that encompasses students of many ages.

Q: What are your plans for Chaminade?
A: We need to focus on a few areas where we’re very strong – obviously in health and STEM – and we need to build those areas further. We also have a very strong business school and meet the needs of the business community. It’s important that we get out the word about who we are so people understand our programs, the affordability and the career preparation. We also need to look at building programs that our communities need at the adult level, though not necessarily degree-granting programs.
We will be launching a certificate program in data science, data analytics, data management, certainly in nursing. We will launch certificate programs for people who have already had a successful career. We’ll start with geriatric certification but we’ll do others. We have to look at areas that leverage our expertise and where there is a demand.

Q: How is higher education changing?
A: Higher education is at a crossroads. People are asking, “What is the return on investment for sending my child to college?” Adults thinking about going back are also wondering, “What’s the value proposition for a traditional education?”
We at Chaminade are in a very good place in relationship to that. We have a traditional undergraduate program and an online program. We were sort of first to market here in providing online education. Originally that was for military personnel and their families so they could begin or complete a degree even when they got deployed and transferred somewhere else. We learned over the years what makes that successful. It’s providing support services to families, so it’s not just a random online course you’re taking, but you’ve got advisors you’ve personally met with or have a very strong relationship with online. That business continues to grow for us.

Q: Half of Chaminade’s students are local. How does Chaminade compete against Mainland schools for these students?
A: Part of my goal is to help families see their best choice might be to send their child to Chaminade for four years knowing every summer they could have a Mainland experience, high end, in many fields. We have internship opportunities all over the place, and then students can go to the Mainland, perhaps, for graduate school.
What’s the old saying about things are lost on youth? Sometimes, 18-year-olds don’t know of the opportunities they could be taking because they’re still developing and learning.
It may be appropriate for some students to go to the Mainland for college, and others might have a richer experience here that sets them up better to be successful.

Q: Chaminade prepares its students for life after college by emphasizing critical thinking and reasoning. How does Chaminade prepare students for future jobs that don’t exist yet?
A: That’s why you need to teach critical reasoning. I was talking with a person in business, a venture capitalist, and he was saying he would rather hire an art history major than an accounting major in his business because the art history majors, in his view, were much more adaptable, were able to think critically, think on their feet and reason things. I would say that’s what we do here. We have no idea what the future’s going to hold in jobs. We want to prepare lifelong learners. We want our graduates to know they always need to be learning. Like data science is a big thing now. You don’t have to get a master’s in data science; you can take some courses and achieve a certificate that can bump up your job possibilities and promotions.

Q: Before your leadership roles at Fairfield and Northeastern universities, you were in health care and nursing. Why did you switch careers?
A: Once I earned a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Washington, I remained with UW as an adjunct professor and mentored students, then I got my doctorate.
I made the switch to full-time education when I was in Boston at Northeastern University. I was very interested in nursing education, so I spent time developing doctoral programs in nursing at Northeastern. Then I was recruited to Fairfield University in Connecticut to be the dean of the school of nursing. After a couple of years, I was asked to apply for provost, which is the chief academic position. That gave me an opportunity to look at a broad perspective of an organization, which is very similar to the leader in patient care at a hospital. Then I had the good fortune of being recruited here to take a larger leadership role.
I think the skills I learned way back as a nurse … have served me very well. Nurses are all about being present with people, listening, caring about people, and I always say they’re great translators. We translate complex medical data between other providers and families and your patients, and then as a college president, you’re translating the good work of higher education to the broader community, to students, to parents. So the skill set is similar in all of those positions I’ve held.

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