When Mim Runey was named president and chief operating officer of Johnson & Wales University’s Providence campus in July 2011, she’d already done much to advance the school through nearly 22 years of service.
Runey began working at Johnson & Wales at its Charleston, S.C., campus in 1989 as a communications officer and adjunct faculty member. She came to the school’s Providence campus in 2006 and helped to create and execute the university’s FOCUS 2011 strategic plan.
Under that plan, JWU increased its first-year student retention rate from 67 percent to 74 percent. JWU’s endowment grew by $54 million under the plan and long-term debt was reduced by $60 million.
Runey now will lead the charge on JWU’s next plan, 2017: The Centennial Plan, which includes a focus on re-examining the arts and sciences curriculum and the role of faculty, as well as continued efforts in student retention and the graduation rate.
PBN: What is it that you most enjoy about having a career in academia and in particular at Johnson & Wales University?
Runey: I feel very passionate about higher education and its purpose in our society. At Johnson & Wales, I value the fact that we strive to make the higher education experience as affordable as possible for our students. We offer a private education and integrate components of experiential education.
PBN: Was reaching this level in administration always your goal?
RUNEY: It was absolutely not my goal. I knew that I was committed to higher education, but never saw that as part of my future. I think I realized that I wanted to do more and learn more and I just felt that my time in communications had helped me build a foundation for other work. [In Providence] we had a retiring president after having been at the university for just over 40 years. [Irving Schneider retired in June 2011]. I think that I was so committed to our strategic plan that I knew that we wanted to execute it well and going outside seemed to be a risk. So at that point, I threw my name in the hat.