HAMMOND — Calumet College of St. Joseph's new president comes with a background that should prove beneficial to the institution's goals of constructing student housing on campus and growing enrollment.
As senior vice president of finance and administration at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, Amy McCormack oversaw more than $100 million in capital projects, including more than $10 million in interior improvements.
Calumet College of St. Joseph is currently undergoing its own interior improvements and replacing windows at its campus in the Robertsdale section of Hammond, but a priority is to move forward with a residence hall project with a dining component.
In order to accomplish this goal, the college needs to have a financial plan in place, and McCormack has experience in putting such plans together and in motion. She has a degree in accounting with a Master of Business Administration with finance and marketing concentrations in addition to her doctorate in higher education.
She spent 26 years with Dominican University, although noted that it was probably during a 15-year period of time that she oversaw the millions of dollars in capital projects she referenced.
"I did a lot of building, financing, planning and actually a lot of presentations to development boards," McCormack said in a recent interview.
The college's former president, Dan Lowery, made his own presentation to the Hammond Redevelopment Board about Calumet College of St. Joseph's plans for residence halls in December 2015 and July 2016.
In 2015, the college submitted to the redevelopment board a bid of $308,500 for a 5.61-acre site at 2500 New York Ave., next to the college's campus, which was to be used for the residential housing facilities.
The college put up $5,000 in earnest money for the site, with the rest of the $303,500 coming in the way of a promissory note that the commission was to forgive over a five-year period if the college follows through with the project.
McCormack said the college is still seeking to build the residential housing on that property, with the initial project to include a residential housing unit with a dining option. A second residential housing unit would come later.
McCormack said the project was discussed at a recent board retreat.
More than just a residence hall
"We are working with a few banks to try to put together our financing plan for the resident halls," said McCormack, who likes to refer to them as "living-learning communities."
She said in such communities, people from different backgrounds live and learn about different aspects of life, such as different food, religions or media, through topical discussions.
"I look at the residence halls really as an opportunity for student development," McCormack said.
By the end of this year, McCormack said she will have a firm understanding of the timing of the building program.
"It's a priority, and it's certainly something I want to move forward with in a positive direction," she said.
McCormack said the first priority is one residence hall with dining to support it. Officials are still evaluating whether the dining component would be within a new structure or within renovated existing space. The college will make sure there is a footprint for a second residence hall, but will not be building it right away.
"Residence halls will make us a stronger institution," McCormack said. "We need to have some residential components and options for students. It gives us more of a campus feel, which we are looking for and creates the learning environment, which I think I think is essential to our future growth."
She said the college will continue to have a large commuter population, but the residence halls just allows the college to serve a portion of the students who are coming from further away or just want a residential experience.
The college last year had about 1,100 students, which included part-time, full-time, traditional and graduate students. Of that number, there were 627 who were considered traditional students, and the college would like that to increase to about 700 to 750 students. There are about 130 students who live in apartments in the local community.
McCormack said there is a place for apartment living as juniors and seniors gain independence, pay their own bills and make arrangements for utilities.
She spoke also, however, of the opportunity for the development of freshman and sophomore students in the residence halls. She added that some of these students living on campus can hopefully be a resource to the community, such as volunteers at the local Boys and Girls clubs or tutors at secondary schools. Some perhaps could serve at interns at such places as the Hammond Port Authority, she said.
McCormack noted there are students who already perform community service locally, she said, but if they lived on campus it would be easier. While the residence halls might also allow for the college to draw students from a broader area, McCormack said even those coming from local communities like Munster, Highland or Crown Point might benefit from staying at them.