Dr. Lorrie A. Clemo, President, D’Youville University

Dr. Lorrie A. Clemo has devoted her life to leadership and service in higher education. Beginning her journey as a research assistant at Binghamton University, she progressed through the ranks to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at SUNY Oswego, ultimately reaching her current position as the President of the nationally ranked D’Youville University. Throughout her career, Dr. Clemo has relentlessly pursued a singular goal: transforming each campus she serves into a vibrant learning community of innovation, outreach, and growth.

“Lifelong learning is essential to anyone who leads an organization—and that is how I view my evolution from graduate student and research assistant at SUNY Binghamton to roles such as assistant, associate, and tenured full professor, and the subsequent transition from faculty to university administration,” remarks Dr. Clemo.

Emphasizing a humanistic managerial style and a commitment to work-life balance, Dr. Clemo says lifelong learning is also a central component of D’Youville’s mission — one she fully embraced long before she began her tenure as President — to inspire and teach individuals to contribute to the world community by leading compassionate, productive, and responsible lives.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Dr. Clemo fulfills the roles of a wife, mother, and grandmother, seeing these facets as deeply intertwined with her professional calling and responsibilities. With a Ph.D. in Political Science and Policy Analysis from Binghamton University in New York, she has garnered recognition through numerous scholastic and leadership awards such as the NCAA, U.S. Department of Education, Health Resources and Services Administration, SUNY Research Foundation, New York State Higher Education Capital Matching Grant, and the American Council on Education.

An Educational Journey

Reflecting on her diverse experiences, Dr. Clemo values the ability to view situations from multiple perspectives – the student, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrative standpoints. Drawing on her early experiences as a professor, she emphasizes the numerous demands placed on faculty to meet the emotional and intellectual expectations of students while juggling departmental and university responsibilities.

“Unless you’ve been in the shoes of a professor grading numerous research papers and managing multiple courses, it’s challenging to grasp the immense pressure faculty endure,” notes Dr. Clemo. She  also points to the importance of understanding the challenges faced by staff, from delicate interactions with students dealing with everything from complex health issues to financial aid woes and helping to solve disputes between college roommates.

“I was fortunate to leverage robust faculty development opportunities, gaining the skills and innovative approaches needed to teach an ever-evolving and diverse group of learners,” Dr. Clemo remarks, underscoring the importance of continuous learning, relevance, and adaptability in the realm of higher education.

Moreover, her scholarly work in public policy has provided a lens through which she comprehends society and culture. This enables informed and effective decision-making in alignment with the university’s overarching vision. Dr. Clemo’s academic journey not only continues to shape her leadership at D’Youville but also underscores her commitment to a compassionate, inclusive, and impactful approach that extends to every facet of her personal and professional life.

Elevating Graduates and Driving Success in Western New York

D’Youville University, renowned for consistently producing graduates with high early-career salaries in Western New York, attributes its success to strategic initiatives rooted in a legacy of service-oriented education. Founded by the hard-working Grey Nuns organization, which is committed to improving the lives of others, the university has inherited a rich tradition focusing on medicine, allied health, and education.

The statistics speak volumes – the average annual salary for a recent U.S. college graduate is $52,000, while a D’Youville University graduate boasts an average salary of $65,000  given that the majority of students major in the health professions according to collegefactual.com. This pay advantage also compliments the university’s graduation rate, 15 points higher than the national average according to Niche.

D’Youville University’s strategic plan centers on the principles of academic excellence, enhancing the  students’ experience, building opportunities, and community engagement.

Embracing the success model of institutions like MIT and the Colorado School of Mines, D’Youville strategically invested in areas of recognized strength, such as healthcare, business, and simulation training. This focus not only enhances the quality of education but also positions the university as a leader in specialized fields. In 2021, D’Youville’s transition to university status marked a significant milestone, offering 21 master’s degree programs and nine doctoral programs across four schools.

“Though we still offer a comprehensive General Education Program that provides a solid foundation in the arts and humanities, we made the strategic decision to invest heavily in growing and enhancing the offerings, faculty, and facilities in those majors and industries which are projecting high levels of growth and societal need, particularly within the healthcare fields of nursing, pharmacy,  mental health counseling, and medicine,” explains Dr. Clemo.

A key pillar of her strategy involves integrating technology into education, offering a variety of classes online or via hybrid learning.  Using digital communications, virtual reality, and/or metaverse tools, students engage in simulated real-world scenarios, honing technical skills and developing essential soft skills like teamwork and effective communication. Dr. Clemo’s 2021 implementation of a four-day workweek further facilitated the adoption of new technologies, showcasing the university’s commitment to innovation, change management, fiscal responsibility, and creating a competitive edge in attracting top-tier employees to the organization.

Advancing Mission and Transforming Opportunities

In the past couple of years, D’Youville University has undergone significant transformations, opening the Health Professions Hub and attaining University status. These developments not only reflect the institution’s commitment to its mission of service but also present novel opportunities for students.

The university’s most recent strategic initiative is to expand its healthcare influence through the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine, a new degree to complement the health-sciences specialization of the university. Currently holding candidate status with the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), D’Youville anticipates launching its College of Osteopathic Medicine within the next two years upon accreditation.

The significance of this endeavor becomes evident in the healthcare landscape of Western New York. With only one other medical school currently serving the region, D’Youville’s initiative will address a critical gap, especially in osteopathic medicine, which emphasizes a holistic mind, body, and spirit approach to patient care. This focus on overall wellness aligns with the growing need for primary care providers, an urgent requirement in the face of a severe shortage in the United States and specifically in Western New York.

That the region is experiencing a demographic shift, both in terms of population growth and attracting  younger residents, further underscores the timeliness of D’Youville’s endeavors. “After 70 years of population decline, the population of the City of Buffalo has grown by more than 10% over the last decade and by 6.4% since the 2020 pandemic,” says Dr. Clemo. As the area flourishes due to increased opportunities and a lower cost of living, the university’s commitment to healthcare education becomes integral in meeting the rising demand for skilled professionals.

“In alignment with our work around establishing a new medical college, we recently were awarded $3.2 million from the US Department of Health’s Health Services and Resources Administration (HSRA) to provide assistance to 300 economically and/or educationally disadvantaged students from the Buffalo and rural Western New York region over the next five years who wish to become health professionals,” shares Dr. Clemo. “The Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) initiated through this grant not only provides financial assistance but also creates collaborative experiential training opportunities with community-based partners. This innovative approach ensures that students actively apply their health skills in real-world settings, making a meaningful impact in underserved communities.”

A Vision to Become a Wellness Capital

In the face of unprecedented challenges shaping modern society, D’Youville University is steadfast in its commitment to becoming a leading wellness capital. The university recognizes the pervasive stress, anxiety, and burnout stemming from factors like the pandemic, inflation, political polarization, climate change, war, and a general mistrust in institutions. In response, D’Youville is pioneering initiatives that prioritize personal relationships, physical and emotional well-being, and upward mobility.

Central to this vision is the Health Professions Hub, which was officially launched in June 2021. Developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, this 59,000-square-foot facility addresses critical healthcare needs and serves as an educational, training, and community health center embedded in Buffalo’s Westside. Offering everything from a primary care clinic, pharmacy, and rehabilitation gym with physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant, and chiropractic services to all who reside in the community.

“When you add in our Proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine, which also will be located adjacent to the Health Professions Hub, you can see why D’Youville University is truly creating a space where wellness is prioritized,” elaborates Dr. Clemo.

Seizing Opportunities in Challenging Times

In the face of formidable challenges confronting higher education, aspiring leaders have a unique opportunity to demonstrate and redefine the value of academia. Dr. Clemo recognizes the complexities arising from the “enrollment cliff,” affordability concerns, lower graduation rates, and the sociocultural impacts of the pandemic. Moreover, the sector is contending with ideological movements that question whether higher education is even necessary.

For those aspiring to lead, Dr. Clemo sees this as an extraordinary moment to not only showcase the value of a college education but also to reshape academic institutions. The key lies in forging robust partnerships with local communities, businesses, and nonprofits. Dr. Clemo says, “Few moments inspire me more than a trip to our Health Professions Hub where I see people from the local community receiving healthcare from D’Youville students under the watchful eye and careful mentoring of highly experienced medical faculty.” This, she believes, exemplifies a path forward—providing students with the experience essential for long-term success.

“The AI revolution currently underway also offers new opportunities for higher education leaders. While AI and other types of automation will create millions of new jobs in fields and areas we can’t yet predict, in the short-term, AI technologies are beginning to displace tasks human workers currently perform,” notes Dr. Clemo. To that end, millions of Americans will need to be upskilled and retrained to participate in the evolving workforce.  Colleges and universities can and should play a critical role in imparting these high-end skills. Beyond technical capabilities to ensure success, individuals will require superior skills in critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and empathy, which many colleges already teach through a variety of liberal arts and STEM courses.

Dr. Clemo emphasizes that the success of institutions in meeting these challenges hinges on bold leadership. She says, “Only those colleges and universities with leadership who possess the courage and humility to acknowledge both their strengths and limitations can bring together the stakeholders necessary to develop curricula and processes that are relevant and immediately applied to real-world situations. This approach enables them to respond more quickly and effectively to the continuously evolving needs of industry and society as we strive to tackle humanity’s most complex issues.” Given the rapidity with which technology and knowledge evolve, only those who have learned how to learn will remain relevant over time, as they will have the emotional and intellectual capabilities to adapt to the changes the future holds.

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