By: Michidael Ceard
“I didn’t like it when I heard you were a man, but I guess it’ll be okay,” said former Barry president Sister Jean O’Laughlin, OP, PhD when she met Barry’s new incoming president during the summer of 2019 before her untimely passing.
Several staff, students, and faculty at Barry are just as surprised by the school’s choice but have aimed to welcome the first ever male layman as its seventh president. Ruth Mendez, a freshman clinical biology student is also surprised by this choice despite her short time at Barry.
“I haven’t been here long but it’s pretty surprising,” said Mendez. “It is interesting that we are deviating from the past.”
Previously, Dr. Mike Allen served as vice president of student affairs at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and served as an athletic director during his tenure there.
He replaces former president Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD who retired July 2019 after 15 years of service to the university.
Although Dr. Allen is a male layman, he explains that he has the same values as his ordained predecessors.
“I want to follow and honor their legacy,” said Dr. Allen. “I will be thinking about our future and setting us [Barry] up for success.”
Dainely Fabregas, senior criminology student values this in the new president and respects his educational track record.
“He meets the qualifications and that is all that matters,” said Fabregas. “Barry will always be inclusive.”
As president, Dr. Allen said that his job is huge and requires good management on his part.
“There are a lot of groups to connect with,” said Dr. Allen. “I’m also thinking about family all the time.”
Dr. Allen was attracted to Barry because of its mission and core commitments. He hopes to champion some of the wonderful initiatives already here. Sustainability and climate change advocacy are some of the issues that Dr. Allen is extremely fond of at Barry.
“It’s critical that we are protected,” said Dr. Allen. “At the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, our sisters care about these things deeply and I want us to continue this at Barry.
Following the school’s first disaster by way of Hurrican Dorian’s devastation in the Bahamas, Dr. Allen encouraged the Bahamian hurricane relief efforts through an initiative of Barry’s school of education.
“We’ll have around 3,500 hundred backpacks sent to the Bahamas by the end of the month,” said Dr. Allen.
When reflecting on the Catholic tradition here at Barry, Dr. Allen hopes to drive the mission with action and examples. He wants every student to feel welcomed and at home while allowing people to flourish within their faiths.
However, Dr. Allen has some ambitious changes for Barry in the future.
He wants to increase Barry’s enrollment, retention of students, and generate more income for the university. He hopes that hiring Bernadine Douglas from Berea College as the university’s new vice president of institutional advancement will fit into this long-term goal.
“We need an influx of revenue,” said Dr. Allen. “Students want resources and we have to create them. Although Barry is a private school, we service financially needy students.”
He recognizes that some students are concerned about scarcity in housing, scholarships and student events.
Dr. Allen is committed to championing the wants of students during his tenure at Barry. He commented on some important student requests such as commuter parking and cap decorating.
“Everything’s on the table,” said Dr. Allen. “All we would need are proposals on the specifics.”
That positive attitude carries over into Dr. Allen’s personal life. He loves spending time with his wife and two children. When he finds the time, he reads, plays golf, goes to the beach, and loves a game and movie night.
“Every day is an adventure here for us [family],” said Dr. Allen.
He also is no stranger to South Florida. He previously lived in Boca Raton in the early 2000s for three years and even adopted his daughter and son in Florida before moving to D.C.
In fact, Miami’s diversity was something Dr. Allen was excited about it. At Barry, he’s happy to be among students who can gain a diverse educational experience.
“At Barry, students aren’t just learning from faculty. They are learning from everyone,” said Dr. Allen. “We definitely need to have conversations on campus where we talk about what that means for students.”
Dr. Allen urges students to share their concerns with him as president.
“Don’t be shy. I want to hear what you [students] have to say,” said Dr. Allen. “You [students] are the best recruiters for the university.”
Students can share their concerns with Dr. Allen every month through a new initiative called “Coffee with the President.” Students are invited to bring their favorite beverages to the first session on Oct. 15 in Thompson Hall’s Buc Stop Café.
This surely stems from Dr. Allen’s days as a student himself. He completed his undergraduate degree at Trinity College in Connecticut where he met his wife.
In the future, Dr. Allen hopes to make Barry a front- runner in education. He hopes he accomplishes this at the end of his tenure.
“I hope Barry is one of the elite Catholic institutions in the country,” said Dr. Allen.
With these positive ambitions' students, faculty, and staff are sure to welcome his new wave of changes and watch Dr. Allen’s journey at Barry.