The Head Of Honolulu’s ‘Hidden Gem’
Thanks to new president Lynn Babington, Chaminade University is no longer a well-kept secret in the islands, but a higher-education institution that does amazing things.
Chaminade University is on the cusp of great things, and newly minted president Lynn Babington can see that future clearly. It all starts, she says, with the students.
In the handful of months Babington has been at the helm of the university, she already has made important moves that fall in line with her desire to foster curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking in young adults. It’s a natural train of thought for Babington, though, who is a nurse by trade.
“It prepares you well for any field, but particularly for higher education,” she says. “When you’re a nurse, your whole point is to be present with the patients, to listen, to help people figure out what their assets are, and how they can take care of themselves, and that’s fairly similar to leading an entire academic community.”
Babington took over as Chaminade’s 10th president last summer after a stint as interim president at Fairfield University, where she also was provost and senior vice president of academic affairs for a few years. She was selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation executive nurse fellow in 2013 and a Fulbright Scholar at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel a couple of years before that.
There’s no doubt that her journey to the islands has been filled with valuable learning experiences, and the culmination of finally moving to O‘ahu, she says, has been nothing short of amazing.
“I feel like I’ve found the right place to be at this point in my life,” she says. “I feel very blessed every day when I wake up and look outside and see Diamond Head and this beautiful scenery.”
Along with husband Dr. Randall Carpenter, Babington has spent countless mornings on the water stand-up paddleboarding to welcome the sunrise. It’s a beautiful ritual for the college lovebirds, who first connected at University of Michigan.
“We also lived on the West Coast for a long time, and we used to come to Hawai‘i for vacation when the kids were little,” Babington recalls. “So we’ve always had a fond place in our hearts for Hawai‘i.”
The recent holiday season was just like old times, as Babington and Carpenter’s children — Caitlyn, a public defender in Harlem, and Christian, a musician in Brooklyn — flew in from the East Coast to visit.
It was a nice respite for Babington, who has hit the ground running at the university since arriving on-island last summer. She established her first goal right off the bat: to ensure that Chaminade (which Babington has referred to as “a hidden gem”) is known for the great things it does, and that it continues to develop programs that directly relate to the needs of Hawai‘i’s growing economy.
“We’re kind of a well-kept secret,” she notes. “We do some amazing things here, and people don’t know that.
“We provide a very rich, robust education here, but we do it in a slightly different way,” she adds. “Our graduates leave with a commitment to bettering their
communities and being involved in their communities regardless of what their field of study is.”
Ethics and service learning are woven into the curriculum, no matter a student’s degree or concentration. But it’s not just about volunteering. Service learning delves into a person’s principles and gets to the heart of why they do what they do. It’s a notion that becomes deeply embedded into a person’s character.
“It’s deliberate and purposeful,” says Babington.
With service learning at the core of their classes, students are able to use their talents for good and get a chance to reflect on the experience.
“It’s really connecting the dots between the service you’re providing in a community with the content of what you’re trying to learn in a particular course,” Babington adds.
Through experiential learning, students gain the skills necessary to hit the ground running after graduation.
“They’re career-ready,” Babington adds.
Over the years, Chaminade accounting students have worked with the homeless in tax preparation and have helped those individuals get back tens of thousands of dollars in returns.
Service learning also extends to English students, who work with high-schoolers to put on a Shakespeare play, and nursing students, who teach seniors how to become balanced individuals.
“Our major focus is the growth and development as a whole person,” Babington says.
Faculty and staff encourage students to explore areas of interest, whether it be athletics, religion, culture or leadership, and help them maneuver the challenges of transitioning to a more independent life.
“We like to say higher ed with a higher purpose,” she adds.
Looking at its place within Hawai‘i’s bigger picture, Chaminade’s main goal is contributing to the growth of the state and impacting local communities in positive ways.
“I want our young people to pursue careers here at home, rather than leave their families to accept jobs on the Mainland or overseas,” she says. “So our educational programming will evolve as the needs of society evolves, and that’s what separates us as a Marianist
Catholic institution: adaption and change.”
To do that, Chaminade’s board, faculty and staff need to remain in the present with the future in mind. As Babington notes, the choices they make now will set the foundation for the state, local communities and their students for years to come.
The university is poised to be a leader in very distinct areas, and it’s Babington’s job to get the word out. Her hope for all the students that call Chaminade their alma mater is to have a desire for lifelong learning, as well as aspirations to be agents of change who have a moral compass focused on social justice and giving back.
“That’s what the world needs,” she says. “That’s why our graduates become leaders in their professions and their communities. They set an example for us all by striving to make the world a more just and peaceful place.”
Undergraduate completion rates across the nation haven’t been stellar as of late. That four-year degree students pursue with vim and vigor often ends up taking a few semesters longer, which puts a strain on finances and emotions.
“It’s hard for students to get the classes they want in order to meet their major requirements in that time period,” says Chaminade president Lynn Babington.
But Chaminade University is ahead of the curve in terms of completion, as many of its seniors attend commencement after dedicating eight semesters (or fewer) and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. It’s all thanks to the college’s four-year guarantee.
Basically, full-time students who don’t finish their degree in four years don’t have to pay tuition after that point.
The guarantee is in place thanks to excellent counseling and advisers, who make sure students stay on track and take necessary classes in the right sequence.
“We have a very high graduation rate in four years because of that guarantee,” Babington adds. “Parents and students like knowing they can count on four years of tuition, not five or six.”
THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS
Students pursuing a degree in the medical field can benefit from Chaminade University’s partnerships with nearly two dozen top-notch medical schools across the nation, including George Washington, Boston, Tufts and A.T. Still University.
“What people don’t know is that if you came to Chaminade you’d have these amazing experiences, and then if you wanted to be in the health profession, you have automatic entry in to medical school,” explains president Lynn Babington.
In fact, this past semester, the college had six students graduate as biochemistry majors, and all of them currently are enrolled in cutting-edge Ph.D. programs on the Mainland.
So it’s not just medical schools that Chaminade partners with. There also are graduate programs at places like Creighton and Dayton that accept Chaminade students pursuing other health-related professions.
HERE COMES THE SUMMER
Chaminade University belongs to a consortium that specializes in summer internships and educational programs, which means local students have opportunities to accumulate hands-on, real-world experience from reputable institutions like Purdue, Stanford, Penn and Carnegie Mellon.
Last summer, a communications major spent time at Purdue, where they participated in a leadership program — it’s not just for STEM or medical students.
“They work in labs, they have paid internships, they get this Mainland experience while they’re here in Hawai‘i for school,” adds Chaminade president Lynn Babington. “They learn some very interesting things, whether it’s research or they’re providing an actual service in their internships.”
Recently, environmental/interior design students joined with their accounting peers to travel to the Philippines, where they designed and planned for a cultural center, and Chaminade’s Hogan entrepreneurs jetted off to China and India to learn about international small startup businesses.
Another student, a Roosevelt High alumna and recent Chaminade grad, was able to garner valuable experience during her summer travels at first-rate organizations like Stanford University and National Institutes of Health. She also spent time at UCLA, where she assisted professionals conducting cancer research. Now, she’s on her way to medical school.