SBU, Hilbert College End Integration Discussions

HNP Communications Around the Province

The logos of St. Bonaventure University and Hilbert College

The information below is adapted from a news release distributed by St. Bonaventure University.

ALLEGANY N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University and Hilbert College announced on March 20 the conclusion of their integration efforts and agreed to continue to collaborate on key strategic initiatives in keeping with their 20-year partnership.

While the schools are no longer investigating direct integration, they continue to pursue opportunities that emerged over the past 18 months.

The boards of the two Franciscan schools in Western New York — one in Allegany and one in Hamburg, south of Buffalo — voted this month on the decision.

In October 2013, the boards approved a feasibility study to determine if the two institutions should expand their unique collaboration in academic programs, facilities and operational practices. St. Bonaventure has operated its Buffalo Center for graduate studies at Hilbert for two decades.

Detailed Review
A joint committee of the boards then reviewed financial, legal and demographic data, as well as independent reports on the pros and cons of a deeper integration.

“We each entered into this process with some clear priorities related to our respective strategic visions,” said Hilbert president Dr. Cynthia Zane. SBU president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, added, “As we came to this month’s decision point, we arrived at different conclusions about the best way to structure an alliance.”

Zane said, “There are a number of things we will do as like-missioned institutions aiming to be entrepreneurial and forward-thinking that does not require a change in our legal status or structure. A working group of faculty and administrators from both schools is pursuing a joint-degree offering in an area where we know there is significant prospective student demand.

“And, we will continue to examine other collaborative academic program opportunities that were identified during this process by an ad hoc group of highly talented faculty from both institutions.”

“This was a good and important exercise for both higher education in Western New York and Franciscan higher education,” said Frank Sevola, OFM, secretary of the SBU Board of Trustees. “We are fortunate to have two excellent Franciscan centers of higher education in Western New York and as long as St. Bonaventure and Hilbert continue to collaborate and work together, both schools will benefit and our Franciscan presence will be strengthened.”

The schools are also working together on marketing and website development, as well as a grant project on general education funded by The Teagle Foundation.

“Both institutions have identified collaboration and integration with other higher-education institutions as key strategic objectives, and we will continue to pursue options with Hilbert,” said Sr. Margaret.

Joint Video Statement
The presidents, who issued a joint video statement following the meetings of their boards, also reflected on lessons learned through the process.

“We have learned something about the conditions and process steps that are needed to guide these kinds of considerations. It gave us evaluative criteria should we discover other strategic alliance opportunities,” said Sr. Margaret, who is marking 10 years as SBU’s president.

The boards also became engaged in more significant and meaningful ways that previous initiatives did not require, Zane said.

“This is the kind of board engagement that will be necessary for all private higher-education boards of trustees as we navigate the significant changes under way and projected in our industry,” she said.

The chairs of the boards articulated their appreciation to each other and to the Oishei Foundation for the significant good-faith effort and fiscal investments in this process.

St. Bonaventure Board chair Raymond Dee said the university “has learned a lot about ourselves as an institution. We are deeply grateful to our colleagues at Hilbert and indebted to the John R. Oishei Foundation for investing in this process with us.”

“There was no script for this work,” said Hilbert Board chair Gretchen Wylegala. “Much of what we did was, by necessity, trial and error as we blazed new trails toward institutional integration.”

Wylegala added: “We are using what we have learned from this process to inform strategic planning and additional collaborative initiatives, all geared toward creating opportunities for current and future students.”