Coach Mike Vendetti and His Lasting Impact on the College

I recently saw Nichols Hall of Famer football coach Michael Vendetti at the Alumni Golf Tournament. As I have learned since I came here, “Coach” is one of the most well-liked former faculty/staff members ever at this College. He is a superstar everywhere he goes.  And he’s always going places for Nichols – from golf outings in Dudley to alumni breakfasts in Worcester.

To say that Coach has had a lasting impact on the College’s athletics program would be an understatement.  Vendetti Field is named in honor of him, and as head coach he led the football team to five New England Football Conference Championships in the 1970s. He also coached track and football from 1962 to 1985. As Athletic Director from 1980 to 1985, Coach was instrumental in adding women’s basketball, field hockey and women’s softball to the Nichols athletics program.

When Nichols hosted Coach’s 80th birthday party last year, his former players traveled from as far as Texas to be with him. Most of them consider him to be the best coach they ever had and an even better person.  Marty Power and Bill Fraser, 1978 classmates, remember Coach’s “incredible energy” and a smile that would “overwhelm you.”  Marty Power comments that “For most students, he was Coach, confidant, protector and father figure.”  Bill Fraser says that “To Coach Mike, winning was not the ultimate goal; the effort to win was the ultimate goal.” Many football players fondly remember Coach’s late wife, Joan, who would cook an after-season spaghetti and meatball dinner for the seniors.  To this day, Coach still regularly attends home football games and sits in his place of honor on the Vendetti View bench overlooking Vendetti Field.

Nichols College is honored to have Coach Mike as part of our community, to which he has brought so much for over 50 years.  Bill Fraser thinks we should rename the College to “Coach Mike’s Place for Immature Boys who Graduated as Men.”  While it might be an exaggeration, it clearly conveys the admiration of Coach Vendetti’s former players!

Does Female Leadership Make a Difference?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal mentioned a trend that is occurring at some business schools across the country: giving preference to women over men to fill college dean slots.

The question asked in the article is: Does hiring women in these positions introduce more diverse opinions into the high-level decision-making process?

In my opinion, diversity – whether it’s gender, color, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. – enhances decision-making and often allows a broad range of perspectives to be considered.

Let’s face the facts. There is a dearth of women (and people of color) in many senior leadership positions across the board.  Recent statistics released by Catalyst in October 2011 “U.S. Women in Business,” found that the percentage of female Fortune 500 board seats is 14.8%; the percentage of female Fortune 500 CEOs is 2.4%.

So, comparatively, the article on women business school deans paints a somewhat rosier picture, with women at 18% in 2011-12!  At a very basic level, having women or people of color in leadership positions provides examples for others, who can then tell themselves, “If she did it, so can I.”  Other advantages include different leadership and decision-making styles.

Not surprisingly, the most common path to a college presidency is a previous dean position. As a former dean at two different colleges, this was true in my case.  For both of the dean positions that I held, I found that to move into leadership, I needed to focus on data and information that demonstrated positive trends on student enrollment growth, curricular innovation examples, and student retention results.

No matter what the field of endeavor, ultimately, women who hope to succeed in leadership positions need to be willing to take risks, focus on results, and prove they can do the job successfully all while bringing their unique perspective to the position.

In order for us to see future business leaders in positions of power, it is important for students to see qualified women in positions of leadership in all areas of their lives – from K-12 principals, to college-level administrators, to women in positions of authority in their organizations. If this happens, then the leadership opportunities for women should improve.

The Fischer Institute: Bringing International and Cultural Learning to the Campus and Beyond

Every year, Nichols students are exposed to a variety of cultural events through The Fischer Institute. The Institute provides events and activities that enable students to expand their cultural horizons and examine important events and issues from a different perspective.

For example, last spring offerings ranged from a film screening and discussion about the war in Uganda, a Poetry Showcase featuring guest poets, a performance by Tibetan monks, and an outdoor acoustic guitar concert that showcased Nichols students.

This past spring, we looked at the program and discussed the ways we could benefit our students and also offer a quality program. We used to require 28 cultural credits for students to graduate. Given that high number, it meant that it was difficult to offer significant, in-depth opportunities for students. With the reduction in number of cultural credits to 16, the change should provide a rebirth of the Institute while maintaining its core values, mission, and purpose, i.e., to enhance the business curriculum by broadening student awareness of public policy and other issues.

Another benefit of the program is its ability to focus on current issues and link to class curriculum. The on-campus CCCI (Cross Campus Critical Issues) program and a number of classes will focus on the theme of Income Disparity and Social Mobility. Given that this is an election year, later this fall the Institute and several faculty members will be organizing activities with the goal of encouraging students to engage in the political process.

I believe it is imperative that all students attain some degree of cultural sensitivity. Fortunately, here at Nichols this can be achieved through study abroad or on-campus activities that provide insights into different cultures. The Fischer Institute’s approach to critical issues such as business practices, diversity and equal opportunity, access to education for all citizens, and key economic and social issues in geographic regions around the world benefit our students immeasurably.

Welcome to New Faculty

This fall, we will welcome a number of new faculty to the College, many of whom have taught for us as adjuncts. Since coming here to Nichols, I have been impressed by how our faculty embodies the concept of a student-centered culture. They share a love for teaching and many come to us after successful “other” careers, ranging from a Marketing Executive for a Fortune 500 corporation, to a Superintendent of a public school system, to Vice President at a major sports organization.

A good example of this is Len Samborowski.  Len has been teaching here as an adjunct professor and recently joined the Sport Management program as the Visiting Professor of Sport Management. With more than 30 years of leadership and management experience in the United States Army, a doctorate in management and experience coaching at the college and high school levels, Len brings a unique combination of passion, management experience and coaching to the Sport Management program.

In addition to Len, I am happy to welcome other new Assistant Visiting Professors, who include Jean Beaupre, Boyd Brown III, Maryann Conrad, Melanie Fleming, Megan Nocivelli, and Dr. Chrystel Pit.

Here at Nichols, excellent teaching is the primary criteria for success for our faculty.  But in addition to that, a number of our faculty become involved in curricular innovation projects and student events.

Faculty members are important not only to a student’s success but the success of the College as well. When I visit alumni – whether they are from the Class of 1950 or 2010 – they share stories about beloved faculty members who made a difference in their lives.  Whether it was a faculty member who provided career guidance or extra help with a difficult subject, those memories are reminders of why those individuals succeeded while at Nichols or later in life.

Our faculty’s love of teaching, combined with years of experience and the “war stories” that accompany that, make for a great classroom experience for students.  The College tagline Your Success Is Our Business is actualized every day by the dedication and commitment of our remarkable faculty.