Dr. Seamus Reilly became president of Carl Sandburg College on July 1, 2018. He's spent time the past five months giving brief presentations at local government meetings to introduce himself and talk about possible collaborations.
“We’re a tax-supported institution. It’s important that the members (of other local governments) have some connection with the college. And I think it’s important for me to get to know people,” Reilly told Tri States Public Radio after meeting with members of the McDonough County Board.
“I look forward to coming back and explaining different things that are going on, telling about our successes, and looking for their continued support.”
He said Sandburg is a comprehensive community college that should serve workers who require retraining, students planning to move on to a four-year institution, and people with some other educational need.
Reilly said he’s been working at community colleges since 1999. Before coming to Carl Sandburg College he was vice president of Parkland College in Champaign, and prior to that he was a department chair and faculty member in English at Parkland.
Reilly said the past few years have been challenging for community colleges in Illinois because of the state’s budget problems. But he believes Sandburg's fiscal situation is strong.
“I think we weathered a pretty big storm. One advantage community colleges have is that funding comes from three different sources: tuition, tax revenue, and the state. So we’re not quite as hamstrung as major universities are,” said Reilly.
“But we’re a significant percentage away from what community colleges were funded 15 or 20 years ago. And that’s just the daily reality. So we tend to be resourceful, we tend to be pretty good at building sustainable models that don’t cost as much, and hopefully we can build on that.”
Reilly grew up in Ireland. He met his wife, who is from Peoria, in graduate school in Dublin. After they got married the couple moved to central Illinois in 1990.
Reilly believes his upbringing gives him a different perspective that will serve him well as a community college president.
“I think one of the things that’s a real benefit for me is understanding the incredible opportunity that education provides in this country. In Ireland education was something that wasn’t necessarily available to everybody when I was a kid growing up,” he said.
“And so to see people who are here and who are able to take advantage of it, come back to school, change careers, for me that was a very liberating thing.”