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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

President Pfannestiel, one year in

Utica University President Todd Pfannestiel in his office. / Photo: Diana Sidorevich
Utica University President Todd Pfannestiel in his office. / Photo: Diana Sidorevich

On Aug. 1, 2023, Todd Pfannestiel assumed the role of president at Utica University after serving as provost for five years. One year into his presidency, Pfannestiel believes his term has marked excitement and progress for the university. 

“I know that whenever I’m doing something, I’m enjoying it if the time flies by,” Pfannestiel said. “I can honestly say that my biggest regret is that I need my work to slow down so I can enjoy every moment of it.” 

Over the past year, he has accomplished some of his personal goals when assuming the position of president, advancing both student enrollment numbers and academic offerings. 

“We have really started to move the needle over this year in regards to recruiting graduate level international students, and we’re hoping that next year we’ll see more undergraduate students,” Pfannestiel said. “We’ll also have some new programs coming up. For example, a new Master’s in computer science that launches this fall, in addition to a few others that aren’t ready for prime time just yet.”

Pfannestiel also has his eyes set on the study abroad program at Utica. He seeks to partner with other universities to send more students abroad as a collaborative effort. 

“The difficult part for many schools of our size is, until you get enough students interested, you never have enough to make a program go,” Pfannestiel said. “We’re going to start thinking about what universities we can partner with where, at any one point, we might be able to combine our smaller interest numbers into a large total of students.” 

Another interesting development in Pfannestiel’s leadership position has been his role in a committee designated to assign the next purpose of the St. Luke’s building across the street from Utica University. 

“I’m in the group as a representative of the university, and the county is putting together a master plan of what they want to do with that building,” Pfannestiel said. “The way it is looking right now, I think eventually we’ll see it turned into a townhouse and condo with retail areas on the ground floor.” 

Looking at what obstacles might lay ahead for Utica University, one of the biggest challenges it’s set to face is the shortage of high school students looking towards higher education options, according to Pfannestiel. 

“We’re going through what is phrased as a ‘demographic cliff,’” he said. “As a result, there is a lot of competition out there in terms of how we recruit students to come to Utica University. It creates pressure; we are a private institution, so we don’t get state money. We are reliant on students choosing Utica and paying tuition to pay the bills.” 

Upcoming enrollment is something that Pfannestiel has been keeping a particularly close eye on, wanting to ensure that the incoming money is balanced with university expenditures. He firmly believes that Utica University will be able to do just that. 

“We’ve already run to the edge of that ‘demographic cliff’ and succeeded,” Pfannestiel said. “For example, last fall we brought in a new student class that was 30% larger than the previous year’s class. This university sells itself, and we really need to continue to find ways to have events for prospective students to visit.” 

Pfannestiel also wants to focus on improving Utica’s tuition price, claiming that he and his team are looking into resetting the cost. 

“If we want to stay at the front of the line so that students pick Utica first, then we need to look at every factor,” he said. 

If momentum continues in the way Pfannestiel believes it will, then Utica University could potentially see an increase in student population from below 4,000 to above 5,000 within the next three years. 

“I am a history professor by training, so I like to look backwards to see where we are going,” he said. “This year has been great for our stability with a new union contract, and everyone has been working hard to bring in new students which has put us on the same page.” 

Above all else, Pfannestiel wanted to thank Utica University’s students for a successful first year as president. 

He added: “We made great steps forward this year because the students showed us how to do it. You were the ones who, after the pandemic, wanted to get back on grounds and get back to having fun. It was a challenge, but we did it, and we did it because you all showed us how to do it. Our students showed us that we can deliver a quality education to them while still having fun along the way.”

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Kayden Lamphere
Kayden Lamphere, Special Assignment Reporter

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