Education

New Friends president wants university to return to Christian principles

The Wichita Eagle

The new president at Friends University hopes to change a few things. What she does won’t be a mystery, she said.

Amy Bragg Carey took her new job on July 1 and wants to do a lot of talking and listening before announcing details of what might come next at Friends. Many members of the faculty and staff there have worked for years and made it a good school, she said.

None of what she has in mind will surprise anyone who knows Friends history: She wants to re-emphasize the Christian principles on which the 117-year-old school was founded, she said.

“Friends was founded as a Christian university of Quaker heritage, established with the goal that we are equipping students to honor God and serve others,” she said.

She is not a Quaker by background, but much of what she believes lines up with Quaker beliefs, she said.

Re-emphasizing Christian roots isn’t only about preference, she said. Among private schools, it’s a good business formula for growth in a time when most institutions are navigating financial turbulence.

Her 2013 doctoral thesis concerned turning around private universities.

She researched how two other private “and struggling” Christian universities turned their finances around.

They better defined and branded who they are and underscored why they believe in their values. Students were better served, she found. Donors, inspired by what they saw, gave those universities more help, which in turn created more energy and power to get things done.

Change won’t be easy, she said, and won’t happen fast. “Higher education has changed quickly over the last few years. We have to embrace it, or we will be left behind.”

The university board wants change, she said.

Donors have not asked for change, she said; but philanthropic donations to the university have declined in recent years.

“So we need to work on building bridges, and building bridges in the community,” she said. “We will be looking to increase philanthropic donations, and how to do that is part of my background.”

None of this means that Friends drifted too far off mission before she came here from Minnesota, she said.

But re-emphasizing the Christian roots will help strengthen another layer of education that Friends can do better than most, she said. She believes graduates should leave Friends not only with knowledge but with strong character.

“Who you become is as important as what you learn – maybe more important,” she said.

Friends hands out what the school calls “robust” scholarships and grants to help students pay the way. But students coming to Friends, if they choose to take up the full tuition, fees and resident program, will be charged about $25,900 a year for tuition and fees and another $7,000 if they choose to live on campus.

“Families are very concerned about cost of private education,” she said.

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

Amy Bragg Carey

Age: 52

Previous job: Vice president for institutional advancement, University of Northwestern, St. Paul, Minn.

Doctoral degree: 2014, Azusa Pacific University

Friends University

Fall 2014 student enrollment: 1,933

Faculty: 77

Majors with largest enrollment:

Art

Business Administration

Elementary Education

Health Sciences

Human Services–Psychology

Religion and Philosophy

Zoo Science

Financial aid:

99 percent of fall 2014 full-time traditional undergraduates students received financial aid including scholarships.

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