How she came to Providence:
“I went to college when I was 17 and I never left,” jokes the South Carolina native. After graduating from Clemson University, she began working for JWU Charleston in 1989. She came to Providence in 2006, ascending to the role of president in 2011. Unlike her predecessor, she does double duty as chief operating officer, not just for Providence, but the school’s network of campuses in Charlotte, Denver and North Miami.
What JWU will do under her leadership:
Expand – not just in terms of its physical footprint, but also its educational offerings and community engagement. Plans through 2017 call for investing $300 million in new facilities, mostly in Providence, including the two parcels of 195 land JWU has already purchased. There will be a new parking garage with ground level retail space at the corner of Richmond and Pine Streets and new athletic fields at the Harborside Campus. A building on Clifford Street will be renovated to house a first-in-the-state physician’s assistant program, marking the school’s entry into health sciences. Other possibilities on the school’s wish list: a new academic building and a sports arena on the Downcity campus, more housing, another administrative building and the relocation of the School of Technology closer to Downcity. Then there is the oft-overlooked Culinary Museum. “I would like to see our museum take a step back and develop a very specific plan on its holdings, and possibly relocate Downcity,” Runey says. “We have some phenomenal holdings and we have not focused on the opportunities we should to share them with the city of Providence.”
What Providence gets out of the deal:
Runey says that additional campus buildings will house commercial spaces and amenities that all of downtown will use. JWU’s increased focus on experiential learning (internships, community service, etc.) resulted in 160,000 hours of community service from the student body last year. The new Center for Physician Assistant Studies will help create the skilled job force we need to boost one of the state’s most important industries. “Johnson & Wales has a history of pursuing fields and degree programs which are in high demand from high school students and industry – health sciences is one of those fields,” Runey explains. “It’s not something that has been a part of our institution over the years, but one thing that has is the desire to capitalize on those fields of high demand.”