By Devin Rose
Donna Carroll is a 57-year-old single woman—with more than 3,600 kids.
"Or none, depending upon your perspective," said the Dominican University president and a River Forest runner-up in Wednesday Journal's annual Villager of the Year.
Carroll is in her 18th year as president, and said she's proud of what Dominican has achieved in 2011.
In May, the school became the country's first university to enter Cuba for a study abroad program. There were two Fulbright Scholars named from the university. And the school took on a national leadership role in campus-based interfaith dialogue by welcoming Interfaith Youth Core Founder and White House appointee Eboo Patel as the year's Lund Gill Chair.
In addition, the school has hosted several other standing-room-only speakers and performers, Carroll said.
But as the school's head strategic planner, she said she is always focused on its next steps. Those include hiring more faculty members, increasing fundraising for student scholarships, advancing technology and constructing a new building on the Priory Campus at 7200 W. Division St.
Carroll said she's also excited about initiatives in the works through the school's Butler Children's Literature Center and Center for Global Peace through Commerce, and Dominican's collaboration with U.S. Bank on economic education.
But 2011 saw challenges, too. In this economy, the unpredictability of enrollment, philanthropy and state and federal funding has made leadership difficult, Carroll said.
She will continue to fundraise and build relationships throughout the next year. Being an engaged neighbor and resource is a big part of planning for the future, she said. The school working with the OPRF Community Leadership Program, OPRF Symphony and the River Forest Park District demonstrate the importance of partnerships, she said.
Looking back, Carroll said it was pretty gutsy of the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters to hire a young New York woman as their first lay president. But to this day, she says they are her greatest champions, "through all the positives and the pain."