Taylor vows ‘quantum leap’ for UDM

In the coming months, Detroit Mercy President Donald Taylor plans to finalize a location for a second dental clinic and add a new school in a health-related field to the Novi campus as part of a broader push to emphasize UDM’s healthcare programs.

Taylor, who was formally installed as president in an inauguration ceremony last week, sat down for an exclusive interview with The Varsity News to discuss his priorities. Beyond the healthcare programs, they include: catering to nontraditional students by boosting online education and adding certification programs; getting more local high-schoolers interested in UDM by expanding the school’s dual-enrollment programs; growing the university’s alumni network; and improving campus life with a redesign of Shiple Hall and addition of a new black box theater in the basement of the Student Union.

As he adjusts to the Detroit area after living in Pennsylvania for the last eight years, Taylor sees this not as a time to settle in, but as an opportunity to begin expanding university influence and boosting enrollment. He’s relying on some of his experiences as president of Cabrini University, where he also focused on improving online learning and dual enrollment programs, to achieve success at Detroit Mercy.

“My approach is, if you’re not moving ahead…you’re sliding back,” Taylor said. “This is not the time for us to just sit back and say we’re going to stay in the status quo.”

The second dental clinic is among his key initiatives.

He said the university is considering three potential locations for the clinic, all within about 30 minutes of its current campuses and in “areas of need.”

If things go according to plan, Taylor said it could open in August.

He noted that UDM’s current dental clinic provided around $6 million in free dental care to the community even as state funding for such operations has dwindled.

While the clinic takes pride in serving its community, Taylor said it cannot continue to absorb all of that money itself. In efforts to expand and continue addressing healthcare needs in underserved areas within the region, Taylor says Detroit Mercy will continue lobbying the state legislature for more funding.

However, he said the second clinic will open with or without additional money from the state.

“We need to do it, so we’re going to move ahead,” Taylor said. “I’m always hearing footsteps behind me looking in the mirror. Lawrence Tech isn’t going to sit on the sidelines and wait until they get the money.”

The second dental clinic is among a number of ways Taylor wants to grow UDM’s healthcare programs.

He said it’s more important than ever to have a strong program in those fields because the need for doctors, nurses, dentists and other such jobs is so great following the pandemic.

“I think we’re positioned really well,” Taylor said.

Taylor is also looking to attract a larger population of nontraditional students to the university by focusing on an overall online learning expansion.

“We’ve got to grow our online education to serve adult learners because most adult learners don’t want to come to a campus,” he said. “Because many of them are still working; they’ve got families.”

He notes that there is a pool of 39 million adults within the United States that have obtained college credits but are yet to hold a degree or credential that goes with it. Accessible online learning could give these adults a chance to finish school and obtain a degree.

Taylor also plans to pay particular attention to adult learners that are looking for a career change. A wider variety of access to badges and credentials through online learning would get adults kickstarted on their newly desired career path. He also said that the Detroit Mercy law school may even be looking to add an online degree as well.

He also finds significant importance in getting high schoolers kickstarted on their higher education earlier, through the expansion of dual enrollment programs. He said UDM
is seeking a $2 million grant that would allow it to essentially double its capacity for dual enrollment credits.

“That’s (dual enrollment) something I’ve used in the past as a way really to also help brand the school at the high schools and let them know that we are here as a partner, a neighbor institution. We want to collaborate,” said Taylor. “Let us help remove some of the barriers that your students and even your teachers have to be able to build different pipelines or pathway programs directly from high school programs to here.”

Ultimately Taylor hopes to increase enrollment, although he declined to provide a specific target.

“We’ve got to grow,” he said.

Taylor also plans to improve the McNichols campus to try and attract more residential students.

He said the university will redesign Shiple Hall, its freshman dorm, and will add a black box theatre in the basement of the Student Union for plays and other productions. He also floated the possibility of having an outdoor spaces for concerts or other things near the union as well.

“There’s no lack of needs to be served, there’s no lack of major strategic things to do,” he said. “We’ve just got to prioritize them and then…we’ve just got to roll up our sleeves and get busy.”