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posted: 10/21/2015 5:00 PM

Editorial: Roosevelt's emphatic and welcome commitment to the suburbs

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  • Ali Malekzadeh, president of Roosevelt University, talks about new changes coming to the Schaumburg campus.

      Ali Malekzadeh, president of Roosevelt University, talks about new changes coming to the Schaumburg campus.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Roosevelt University President Ali Malekzadeh had a refreshing message for Schaumburg and the suburbs this week:

"We're back."

Not that the university had abandoned its Schaumburg campus, but in August 2014, former President Charles Middleton announced plans to dramatically curtail the school's suburban operations. He foresaw a renewed emphasis on Roosevelt's new downtown skyscraper and a shift in strategy to recruit more on-campus students. He imagined that Roosevelt's Schaumburg facilities would be so diminished that the school would rent space to other institutions.

That is decidedly not Malekzadeh's vision. In an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board this week, Roosevelt's new president repeatedly stressed that he expects to fill every classroom in Schaumburg -- and possibly even build more.

"We will be going back to Schaumburg in a big way," he said.

For current Roosevelt students, this can only come as good news, reinforcing that they can complete in Schaumburg the degree work they began there. But it's also exciting news for prospective adult learners interested in degree programs from a rigorous, respected institution. As Malekzadeh said, the suburbs are home to lots of those potential students, and Roosevelt will provide an option that will enable them to commute while meeting the other demands of work and family.

And it's good news for the suburbs at large.

For one thing, it strengthens an already impressive network of higher-education options in the suburbs that includes community colleges, commuter programs from public institutions like Northern Illinois University and prominent private schools like Wheaton College, Benedictine University, Judson University and others.

Moreover, it further signals, as Malekzadeh framed it, our general emergence from the recession, as well as reinforcing the vigor, variety and vitality of the suburban economy at a time when we are often distracted by companies that once maintained a strong suburban presence receding back toward the city of Chicago.

There is always room to question Malekzadeh's optimism, of course. Predicting the future for any enterprise is an exercise in calculated risk. But Malekzadeh is going about it in the right way, meeting with students, professors and local community leaders and preparing to build market-driven programs that Roosevelt's suburban constituents demonstrate they want.

Roosevelt's Schaumburg operation never quite shrank to the degree Middleton predicted before he left last June. But uncertainty still clouded the campus's future. The new president's emphatic commitment helps erase that cloud, leaving us with one simple response:

Welcome back.

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