In a complete reversal of his predecessor's plans, new Roosevelt University President Ali Malekzadeh said Tuesday he intends to return the school's Schaumburg site to the full-service campus it was until recently, and eventually expand it.
"It's time to go back and really defend our turf in Schaumburg," Malekzadeh said in an interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board that marked his 120th day on the job.
Only 14 months ago, then-President Chuck Middleton announced a major repurposing of the Schaumburg campus that would eliminate many of its programs and see the university lease out unused space to other institutions.
Middleton's plan ultimately did not make as many changes as expected, as the colleges of Business and Arts and Sciences remained in Schaumburg, along with the College of Pharmacy. But it still moved the campus away from being an all-purpose one where suburban students could take virtually all their classes without commuting to Chicago.
Middleton said the changes were market-driven, from the diminishing corporate presence in the suburbs to the declining number of students in the region.
But Malekzadeh on Tuesday said a number of factors -- including further economic recovery and a renewed desire to serve the suburbs -- has Roosevelt recommitting to Schaumburg. Within five years, Malekzadeh wants every parking space on the campus full and the university adding a building to meet its growth.
"The sense of optimism I'm bringing to the table is new," he said. "We will be going back to Schaumburg in a big way to serve a 20-mile radius."
Malekzadeh said he eventually hopes students in any major can start and finish their degrees entirely in Schaumburg. That would give the site a distinction the university's downtown Chicago campus doesn't. Roosevelt's College of Pharmacy exists only on the Schaumburg campus with no plans to expand to the city.
Although the university will continue to recruit high school and community college graduates, Malekzadeh said its primary market in Schaumburg is older students and professionals.
"We cannot lose sight of our bread and butter, which is the adult market," he said.
Malekzadeh has been discussing his plans with suburban officials such as Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson and Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, and he said he intends to set up an advisory committee of community and business leaders to get further input and design programs that meet their needs.
Larson said he found Malekzadeh and his mission very positive.
"It was encouraging, because when we first heard Roosevelt was moving to Chicago and abandoning its Schaumburg curriculum, we were very concerned," he said.
Not many towns in the region can boast of a university like Roosevelt, which made the potential loss of its services all the more painful, Larson said.
"I think it's great," he said. "We don't want to close the doors and turn off the lights."