Behind the List with The Rev. Bernard F. O'Connor, President of DeSales University

Creating programs that benefit the Valley

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In today's world, receiving a college education often is imperative to obtaining a good job.

The Greater Lehigh Valley offers an array of higher education institutions that provide nearly every program imaginable. From prestigious engineering programs to health care studies, the region's schools give students endless possibilities.

Here to answer this week's "Behind the List" questions is the Rev. Bernard F. O'Connor, Oblate of Saint Francis, president of DeSales University in Center Valley.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has DeSales been operating in the Greater Lehigh Valley and what are its primary services?

The Rev. Bernard F. O'Connor: The first class of 156 students arrived on campus in 1965. Today as we approach our 50th anniversary, we are a university with traditional undergraduate programs, adult evening undergraduate programs and graduate programs, including two doctoral programs.

LVB: Does DeSales offer specialty programs in its undergraduate and graduate degree programs?

O'Connor: Our newest programs are a doctorate in physical therapy for graduate students and a digital forensics track in the undergraduate criminal justice program. Our new Gambet Center for Business and Healthcare has a simulated trading room for finance students and the area's first gross anatomy lab for our health care programs.

We were the first in the Lehigh Valley to have an accelerated undergraduate evening program more than 35 years ago. Today, it features online learning in addition to in-class teaching.

LVB: How does DeSales directly stimulate the local economy of the Greater Lehigh Valley?

O'Connor: In addition to the more than 500 employees who contribute to the local economy, more than 3,800 of our graduates live and work in the Lehigh Valley at companies of all sizes. Our 3,000 students all live – or live on campus – here in the Lehigh Valley, as well.

Our conference facilities, in particular the University Center, offer meeting space to dozens of local companies and nonprofit groups. These meetings, as well as our undergraduate theater performances and the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, draw thousands to the area every year.

LVB: Does DeSales partner with businesses in the Greater Lehigh Valley to provide potential internships and career opportunities for its students? If so, what have been some of your biggest successes?

O'Connor: During any academic year, more than 90 students are interning at Lehigh Valley companies, including PPL, Dun and Bradstreet, the [Lehigh Valley] IronPigs, ADP [payroll services] and Enterprise. This does not include our nursing and physician assistant students who serve clinical rotations at area health care facilities.

Many of the companies who accept DeSales University interns in turn offer them employment.

LVB: What strategies does DeSales use to attract prospective students?

O'Connor: DeSales uses a comprehensive marketing campaign with traditional media (outdoor, radio), digital media, social media and direct mail. Our website tells our story, as well. Some of our best advertising however, especially in the Lehigh Valley, are word of mouth and our alumni who live and work here.

LVB: What does the future look like for DeSales? Does it have plans for growth in the region and beyond?

O'Connor: That is a question that we are answering ourselves as we create our next strategic plan. We see enrollment growth and the creation of programs and majors that will ultimately benefit the Lehigh Valley.

Our programs are based on serving a need. Our more recent program additions, the doctorate in nursing practice, increasing the size of our physician assistant program and the physical therapy program, especially benefit the local health care industry.

Compiled by christopher holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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