President's End-of-Semester Reflections, 12/9/16.
Dear Drew community members,
As has become a tradition, I write to share my reflections at the end of the semester and before many depart for winter break. It is an honor to serve as Drew’s president, to work with so many gifted and dedicated faculty and staff and to experience the passion and talents of our students. As our students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and friends are already aware, this semester has been an interesting and challenging one with significant triumphs for the Drew community, as well as moments of sadness and anxiety. Through it all, I have been very proud of how the Drew community has come together to continue to celebrate its proud liberal arts tradition and to provide for learning in a safe and supportive environment. This is the Drew I have come to love over these nearly three years and that I have tremendous faith in as we continue to grow together.
We began the semester welcoming the Class of 2020 and we are experiencing the many accomplishments and talents that they brought along with them. The College of Liberal Arts experienced a 13% year-on-year increase in actionable applications. This class has joined us as an elite group. The admit rate for new entering first-year students is now 57%, improved from 70% the prior year. Thus, Drew is becoming a more selective institution. We are also pleased to report that 45% of this new class is from outside of New Jersey, and 36% of our students self-identify as American Students of Color. In addition, SAT scores year over year for new matriculated students increased by 30 points. Additionally, the Theological School welcomed 110 new students and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies enrolled a highly distinguished class across its various and innovative degree programs.
These students joined an already accomplished student body, whose achievements are too numerous to mention, so here are just a few:
College of Liberal Arts
Drew Theological School
Caspersen School of Graduate Studies
In addition to these and other individual accomplishments, exciting events and programs contributed to the energy on campus. We welcomed the Shakespeare’s First Folio exhibit as a collaborative partnership with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and used the Folio as a centerpiece for a month-long series of talks, performances, exhibits, and receptions. We launched two new New York City semesters in social entrepreneurship and theatre, and RISE celebrated its 35th anniversary. In the Drew Forum, we were joined by Gail Collins of the New York Times, Commissioner Rob Manfred of Major League Baseball, and Dan Pfeiffer and Jon Favreau of “Keepin’ it 1600,” who podcasted live from campus.
Fundraising progress so far this year has been very solid, building upon the momentum generated by our successful $85.4 million One And All campaign. The College received a $3 million gift from the son of the late Dr. Norma Gilbert, longtime professor of math and statistics, which will be used to fund two junior professorships in mathematics in her memory. Searches are underway for the inaugural Gilbert Junior Professors, which will no doubt further strengthen our math and computer science department. Other notable gifts include a bequest intention of $1.4 million from an alumna, which will support the Archives, and a newly endowed scholarship in the Theological School that will support students engaged in missionary work. Also in the Theo School, a new visiting scholar position will deepen Drew’s connection to the Korean and Korean-American communities. And, last but most certainly not least, we secured a $3.5 million gift from former trustee Joe Baker C’69, toward the new Commons project.
The Theological School was named among the Seminaries that Change the World and we welcomed the gift of a monument honoring Henry Appenzeller, the father of Korean Methodism, to campus. In support of their dedication to activism, the Black Ministerial Caucus and the Graduate Division of Religion led a Black Lives Matter service, workshop, and silent protest, which enabled the Drew community to voice personal concerns as well as larger, societal challenges. The school also welcomed prominent guests to campus for special lectures, including former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who spoke of his work on a prisoner re-entry program, and the Reverend Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners, who spoke on white privilege, race and social justice in America.
Our faculty and academic community have also been busy raising the profile of Drew, while providing unique opportunities for our students. Mellon Artist-in-Residence Julia Wolfe was named a “genius” by the MacArthur Foundation. Additionally, Associate Professor of English Patrick Phillips published Blood at the Root, his first work of nonfiction, to significant critical acclaim; Professor of Music Trevor Weston recorded his new album in the Concert Hall; and Associate Dean of the Caspersen School Bill Rogers received a Golden Bridges Award from the Irish Echo. RISE Fellow Arnold Demain was named as one of Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researchers of 2016. Several Theological School faculty also led international cross-cultural seminars, including Dean Javier Viera, who led 16 students to Colombia. Lastly, Dean Chris Taylor has completed his first semester serving as dean of both the Caspersen School and the College of Liberal Arts and has begun to discover tremendous opportunities to benefit both schools.
We also continue to improve Drew’s facilities to provide enhanced on-campus experiences, correct many deferred maintenance issues and preserve The Forest. As you know, the Commons reopened to great reviews. Next semester we will continue to work on the hot water capacity of the building, ensuring a solid infrastructure, and over the summer we will finish the new entrance to the building.
We also continue to evaluate the best plan for a new parking lot at the Ehinger Center and to make other much needed deferred repairs to steam pipes and electrical systems. Throughout this process, we continue to be dedicated to maintaining The Forest by replacing any tree lost to age, disease or campus improvements with at least one new tree. We are proud to say that many of these projects are resulting in new trees at a greater than 1:1 ratio.
In other news, it is not just those of us on campus who have noticed the positive changes, as we continue to be recognized in the media. The Princeton Review ranked us in the top 10 for theater and in race/class interaction and named us a “green college” for the sixth year in a row. Drew was among the top 20% of colleges and universities nationwide with students with the lowest amount of debt, and we were named a top NJ college for low-income students. Also, Washington Monthly ranked Drew in the top third of schools nationwide and included us on its “Best Bang for Your Buck” list.
While we celebrated all of these achievements this semester, we also mourned the loss of community members. First, I’d like to pay tribute to two emeriti trustees who recently passed: Barbara Morris Caspersen G’83,’86,’90 and Jeanne Zenker. Barbara Caspersen joined the Drew University Board of Trustees in 1985 and served as its chair from 2003 to 2008. Barbara and her late husband, Finn, were among the most generous benefactors in Drew’s history, making a significant gift in 1999 in support of the graduate school, which now bears their name. Jeanne Zenker served as a trustee from 1977 to 2003. Jeanne and her husband, David, established an endowed fund in 1998 to support in perpetuity the restoration and preservation of historic Mead Hall.
We also deeply mourn the loss of Kundai Marowa, a second-year student in the Pathways program. A popular member of the rugby team, he was described by professors and friends as intelligent, kind, and well-liked. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the friends and family of those we recently lost as our community continues to heal from these devastating events.
As we look toward 2017, I am very conscious that the new year will be historic for the University as we celebrate the sesquicentennial year of its founding. The Drew Theological School was founded in 1867 and, since then, Drew continued to grow to include the College of Liberal Arts (established in 1928) and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies (established in 1955). I am humbled by the people who have been a part of our community’s history, who have helped Drew to achieve all of its accomplishments to date, and am now proud to be among the individuals who continue to make it successful and prepared for whatever comes next.
With an eye on the future, I am pleased to confirm that we have begun our next strategic planning process, as well as a review of our governance processes. Our Annual Planning and Budgeting Council will mark its one-year anniversary next semester and is starting to hit its stride as we regularize our budgeting process. All of these endeavors require a great deal of background research, education and discussion, and we have been very deliberate in our approach to sustainable systems and processes. We will also be starting our search for a provost, who will ultimately be charged with sustaining the unique features of our three schools, while creating operational efficiencies that free up resources for other beneficial work.
Lastly, we continued to provide educational programming and safe discussion spaces for all members of our community during what has been an emotionally challenging semester. Even when we may not agree on political, social and economic topics, we can come together with respect and care for each other. This characteristic is an essential ingredient in what makes Drew a special place. My colleagues on the Cabinet and I realize that there are members of this community who are very anxious about potential federal policy decisions and about the overall political climate in the country. We remain steadfastly focused on supporting all of our students, faculty and staff, and stand firm in the University’s deep commitment to their safety and security. As a community, we do not tolerate discrimination in any form. I encourage students and other community members to reach out to faculty, staff and administrators if you have concerns or experiences that do not exemplify Drew’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In closing, I thank each one of you for everything that you do to make Drew the best version of itself, to keep Drew growing and evolving, and for being an integral part of our community.
I look forward to the many events scheduled for next semester, and most especially to celebrating the sesquicentennial. I am so proud of Drew and what we have been able to accomplish, and hope that you, too, take pride in being a part of this great community.
For each of you I wish a happy, healthy, and safe holiday and all the best for 2017!