It seemed fitting that the 935-seat Mertens Theater at the University of Bridgeport was selected as the place for the April 6 ceremonial inauguration of Laura Skandera Trombley as the university’s 10th president since the theater is the focal point for one of the new programs being promoted under her administration.
This fall the university begins offering a theater major, leading to a bachelor’s degree in the performing arts. The professionally equipped theater is where students enrolled in the new major are sure to be spending a lot of their time, both onstage and backstage.
“It’s a tradition in higher education that would have the community come together and have an inauguration,” she told the Business Journal about the ceremonial happening.
Trombley actually assumed the position as president last July 1.
Trombley previously served as president of Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She was president of The Huntington Library, Arts Collections and Botanical Gardens, a research institution in San Marino, California, in 2013, President Barack Obama had appointed her to the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board. She is an expert on Mark Twain and is a consultant to the Libra Foundation, a private foundation with $260 million in endowments, and the Harrington-Schiff Foundation, which supports nonprofits involved in health, the environment, arts and culture.
“What we’ve started is a program called ‘The Bridgeport Plan,’ connecting education to a career that will give parents and students a much clearer sense of the kinds of opportunities that exist and the kinds of careers and salaries that they will have their choice of once they graduate,” Trombley said.
One of the university’s greatest assets, Trombley said, is its location and the physical beauty of its campus overlooking Long Island Sound. “One of the projects that we’re currently starting is how can we best engage our unique location with an emphasis on sustainability and environment management because we have an urban field station that is located right between I-95 and the Long Island Sound,” she said.
Trombley referred to a series of meetings she had with faculty members after she moved into the president’s office and a number of late-night meetings with students. “I heard from students about how faculty members have been wonderful mentors and educators and how they’ve truly transformed the student experience. Over the last few months, what I’ve been looking at very carefully is first portraying the institution to the public in a way that represents the excellence of what we do here.”
One of the things being worked on as part of a strategic plan is to “create value and opportunities for our students each step of the way and to come up with a very clear pathway in terms of everything they can expect from their first year all the way to their senior year,” Trombley said. “Students are far more portable than they used to be. Transferring (from school to school) over the last 10 years has become much more commonplace than it was, say, when I went to college, where the norm was you would start and finish at the exact same location.”
Trombley said the university expects to be announcing new educational programs and cultural events in the coming months. “We’re currently in conversations with the Bridgeport Symphony about making the University of Bridgeport their future home,” she said.
Nursing professionals looking to expand their portfolios can look forward to the university adding offerings in cancer care and pain management. She said the university is planning to host a major national conference on opioids in the fall. Additional programs are being developed for graduate students in the fields of finance, robotics and education.