Alumnus Named Jefferson Academic Board Chair
Drew Morrisroe ’96, MBA’99, is an alumnus who studied information systems, finance and international business at Philadelphia University and also a longtime trustee at PhilaU. Now, he’s been named chair of the Jefferson Academic Board, a trustee committee that oversees and guides the University.
“I’m really proud to have been asked by our board chair, Trish Wellenbach, to take charge of the Academic Board and to serve our University,” he says. “It’s something very near and dear to me.”
Morrisroe is an entrepreneur and executive with more than two decades of success across technology, non-profit and management consulting industries. He founded CTN Solutions in 1997 and built it into a leading provider of IT services in greater Philadelphia. Currently, he’s president and CEO of the business. Early in his career, he was named to Philadelphia Business Journal’s annual list of dynamic up-and-comers, “40 Under 40.” The University recognized him with its Philip Elkin Award for business leadership. We recently sat down with Morrisroe to learn more about his new role.
How does it feel to have been handed the tiller of the Jefferson Academic Board?
The University has tremendous strategic opportunities and a very talented leadership team. We’re at a point where we’ve completed the integration of Jefferson and Philadelphia University. Now, we’re looking at the next 10 to 15 years. There are some key strategic alternatives we’re thinking about as an organization, and I believe we’re thinking outside the box. I’m really proud to be a part of this group as we work out what will be the vision for our University going forward.
What do you want to accomplish during your term?
We want to be responsive to the world we live in today. More students want to do learning online. We feel Jefferson’s best opportunity is to give students a hybrid education where they can do online learning but can also come to campus and be part of our campus life.
We also want to continue evolving partnerships with industry and growing strategic collaborations in the U.S. and abroad. We recently started a partnership with Catholic University and Gemelli University Hospital in Rome, which is the hospital of the Pope. We’re going to transform medical education in Europe, making sure graduates’ skills are transferable to the U.S. while also creating opportunities for collaborative research and international clinical trials involving our health systems.
I’m a firm believer that higher education shouldn’t end at graduation. As a university, we need to find a way to continue the education process and to continue working with our alums. We don’t want students leaving and just going on to their careers. We want them to stay involved with Jefferson by helping the next generation of students with their professional education.
I think so much of what’s in our DNA and what defines a Jefferson student and grad is innovation.
What do you want people to know about Jefferson?
There was a very special DNA at PhilaU. It was at Jefferson too. It’s part of the reason why the merger has worked so well. I’ve witnessed it as an undergrad and a trustee: the collaboration between disparate students with different majors. Same thing with faculty and their disparate fields and professions. There are dozens and dozens of projects with students and faculty working across completely different disciplines coming together to figure out how to solve some very interesting challenges. That leads to innovation. I think so much of what’s in our DNA and what defines a Jefferson student and grad is the innovation component—being innovative in your career and in how you approach problems.
How have your own experiences as an innovator helped you as a trustee?
The unique thing any trustee brings to the table is experience from our careers. That career could be anything. As an independent trustee, I get to bring up issues that Jefferson’s academic leadership may not have thought about because they’re a little too close to the day-to-day running of the business. We can help them think differently and consider new directions. Our experiences may not relate to health care or education, but our different perspectives can enlighten and guide the University’s decision making.
We have the ability, because we’re nimble and think outside the box, to take action and seize opportunities as they arise.
In what ways is being an alumnus an asset?
When we were deciding whether to merge, I thought about it not only from a trustee and governance perspective but also as an alum. How would this decision affect graduates? Would the value of my degree increase? The alumni-pride perspective is, “Hey, we’re Philadelphia University: We have these colors; we have this way we’ve always done things.” I use that alumni experience to call up important aspects of any decision. But in the end, you have to take the alum hat off and say, “OK, what’s in the best interest of the institution?”
The University created experiments with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center that will be part of the Rakia space mission to the International Space Station. What do you think it means that Jefferson is a player on the international scene and in outer space?
It’s huge. It demonstrates the value of students working together across programs to do something amazing—their work was validated by international entities of great prestige—and it demonstrates the value of our industry partnerships.
We may not be Harvard or Stanford, but we’re right there with them in that people and organizations want to work with us. And frankly, I think we’re more ready and flexible in our model when we engage these partners. The Ivies are large entities that have their own methodical ways of doing things. We have the ability, because we’re nimble and think outside the box, to take action and seize opportunities as they arise. Our way of thinking and executing are what make Jefferson special. Now, how do we take Jefferson to the next level in higher education?