It’s a real treat when one gets to meet up with an old friend.
Vince Maniaci, President of the American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts and I were doctoral classmates a couple decades ago at the University of Pennsylvania. This is the first time I’ve seen him in years, but Vince hasn’t changed a bit– not in his energy, his humor, his beard, or his commitment to serving students. Vince has been AIC’s President for 16 years. Speaking as someone who just headed a university for 15 years, that’s a long, long run — and something to be proud of.
American International College is a different kind of institution than the ten other colleges I’ve visited so far on this trip. The student body consists of 1,300 undergraduate students, almost half of whom are athletes (many recruited from foreign countries) and over half also Pell-eligible. Vince describes them as young people who are really smart and committed, but whose schools didn’t really push them to achieve academically. At AIC, they will be both supported and challenged to succeed.
Building successful sports programs, Division 1 and 2, has been a deliberate strategy of the college. Expanding its health science offerings has been another successful strategy, and AIC’s new health science building is very well designed inside and out.
American International College also offers more than two dozen master’s degree programs in education and the health sciences, and these have been instrumental in bolstering the college’s finances. The total graduate enrollment at AIC hovers around 1,000, but what is distinctive is the fluid relationship between undergrads and grad students, perhaps because of the emphasis on campus life, sports, civic engagement, and the arts. The college feels inordinately friendly – like Vince himself!
There’s a lot that is special about AIC, an institution clearly focused on its mission to lift the lives of people not born into privilege.
Even though the campus was not full (a situation which drove Vince to repeatedly bemoan, “Where are my students? This is just so … sad!”) , one could sense a real spirit of community.
Listen here to my interview with President Vince Maniaci, well-monitored by his Chief of Staff Nicole Cestero, who earns her salary keeping the ever-entertaining, always-100% committed Vince on topic and out of hot water. What a job!