Zac Vierra – Co-Editor-in-Chief
Most Lasell students know him as the man who sends emails to the community, but Jim Ostrow’s job involves more than sitting behind a computer. In his 12 years as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lasell, Ostrow has seen the college double in size and has been part of improvements that never seem to stop.
Recently, Ostrow sat down for a question and answer session with staff members of “The 1851 Chronicle” and the hour-long discussion gave students an inside look of all things Lasell.
Over the past few years, new buildings such as East, West, and North Halls, and the Donahue Center for Creative and Applied Arts have offered students more space for living and learning. According to Ostrow, Lasell has no plans to expand the footprint of the campus, which also means little room to grow the undergraduate residential population.
Instead of continuing to add new buildings, Lasell’s future plan is to renovate current buildings such as Woodland Hall, which will be improved this summer.
One exception is the fundraising for a new athletic center, which is stated in the Vision 2017 strategic plan. The current athletic center was built for a student population of 700, said Ostrow, not the current population of about 1,600.
Ostrow spoke about other facility improvements the college hopes to undertake in the future, such as the library, Wolfe and Wass Halls, as well as renovating the auditorium at the Yamawaki Art and Cultural Center into a state of the art theater, and adding a working TV studio on campus.
“But these are just thoughts and we haven’t committed to doing any of these yet but they are on the list as possibilities,” said Ostrow. “There are a lot of projects that have been talked about that would be great for the college but you have to prioritize and these projects are expensive. We have always operated as innovative risk-takers, but also as a fiscally careful institution.”
One initiative in the near future is hiring more full-time faculty. Ostrow said the college is currently searching for 11 new full-time faculty, which would bring the total number of full time professors to more than 80.
But with the hiring of these professors brings greater costs and the growing concern about a hike in the cost of tuition.
“One of the things that is a priority for the college is controlling the cost of education for the students,” said Ostrow, adding that the college must prioritize its most important needs.
“That’s why we are cautious. We can’t embark on initiatives that would increase the cost of education for students or compromise other things we have to do like hiring faculty,” said Ostrow.
Although the tuition has increased in the past few years, Ostrow said Lasell has an excellent financial aid program and that nearly one-fourth of the operating budget is dedicated to financial aid. He said Lasell remains a good value among its competitors.
Ostrow said Lasell has also been looking at adding new academic programs such as graduate programs in allied health, fashion, and hospitality. There has also been talk about splitting hospitality into three majors: hospitality management, event management, and casino and resort management. Consideration is also being given to a new minor in Spanish, going more deeply into political science, and offering prep courses for GRE’s and LSAT’s, Ostrow said.
Ostrow said Lasell’s Connected Learning philosophy is one of the most special aspects about the college. He said this helps students when applying for jobs after graduation by including Connected Learning projects on resumes and in cover letters.
“The more you highlight our idea that education should be doing the work of the field rather than sucking in information and spitting it back out is to your advantage,” he said.
Ostrow also said Lasell faculty can be a huge help to students, not just in the classroom.
“You are insane to come to a place like this and not capitalize on forming very close relationships with the faculty. Not just to deepen your educational experience, but these are the people who are on the phone for you and writing letters for you,” he said.
Like most colleges, Lasell has a number of students who transfer after their first year. For Ostrow the question is not why students leave, but how to improve Lasell so they don’t.
“Frankly, if you suddenly discover a passion for a program and there is just no way we have it here or that you can craft it through our individualized major, then you should look at another institution and we should help you to do so. We want students to succeed.”
“My interest is in making this place better and better. Making it more engaging and challenging for students. Regardless of the reasons for student attrition, we just need to be getting better. We have to keep making it worthwhile for people to come here and to stay,” said Ostrow.