President’s End-of-Year Newsletter, 12/21/18.


President’s End-of-Year Newsletter, 12/21/18

December 21, 2018

Dear Drew Friends and Family,

Many of you have told me how much you like communications from me about the University, so I have tried to send at least one letter each semester. The end of the fall semester—and the end of the calendar year—always seems like a good time to take stock and to share our successes, aspirations, and challenges. Before you continue reading: A fair warning—you may need several short reads to digest all that is happening at Drew. This message does go on a bit…it’s more of a newsletter than a letter!

We are moving at such a rapid pace here at the University that it is difficult to know where to begin my overview. Be prepared to grab a warm drink and sit a while. If you explore every link you will get a sense of how exciting it is to be at Drew right now. You might want to start by seeing how beautiful the campus looks by taking this online campus tour. It’s easy to see why this past fall, Drew was ranked as one of the 30 Most Beautiful Campuses by College Consensus.

But let me start by thanking you for your part in making Drew a truly wonderful place…

  • To students for embracing your education with such enthusiasm, striving to do your very best, and for already using what you’ve learned to, as Drew’s mission states, “add to the world’s good.”
  • To faculty and staff for your unlimited commitment to our students and to Drew’s future. I am very proud to work among you, and I have truly never been more grateful for my colleagues.
  • To parents for trusting Drew with your daughter’s or son’s education, for the financial commitment you’ve made to ensure that they receive the highest quality education, and for the numerous ways you spread the word about Drew.
  • To alums for staying engaged with Drew, and especially for the many ways you serve as mentors and guides for our current students. For those of you in alum leadership roles, for giving additionally of your time and talent.
  • To trustees, donors, friends, and local community members, for the giving of your many gifts to Drew and to our students, whether they be through generous financial donations, leadership, opportunities for internships, community partnerships, and other relationships.

Drew would not be Drew without each of the important roles that you play, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Let’s Talk about Academics

In 2017 we made the very big strategic leap to combine the leadership of the three schools and the library under one academic administration, reporting to the Provost. Youngish alums, many of you will notice that your former faculty members are running the show on the Provost’s team! Changing academic structures is like moving mountains, but our work has most assuredly paid off. The new model is halfway through its second year and it is hard to imagine that we ever did things differently. The biggest positive outcomes from the change are our ability to shift resources to provide many more academic opportunities for our students, and the wonderful collaborations between the faculty in the three schools and the libraries, where, by the way, we have a wonderful new leader.

New Academic Programs

We have added many programs in the past year and a half, and we have others ready to inaugurate next fall or soon after. Each of these programs attracts new students to Drew in areas where we already had significant strength, but where we weren’t previously offering academic programs:

College of Liberal Arts

  • Many of you have heard of our new initiative called Launch. I’ll return to this later in this letter when I talk about Strategic Planning.
  • Major in Communications and Media. This major joins one of our newest New York Semesters, the Semester on Media and Communications.
  • Major in Environmental Science. Please excuse the not-yet-pretty webpage. This major joins our existing major in Environmental Studies, but with a greater orientation toward the natural sciences. Students now have two options.
  • Major in Public Health. This exciting new major is a liberal arts approach to the burgeoning health industry, and will prepare students for a variety of jobs, careers, and post-baccalaureate degrees.
  • Major in English adds emphases in Creative Writing and Writing and Communication Studies, along with its emphasis on Literature.
  • Major in Engineering Physics. This program has been developed, and the faculty will consider it for approval after the holidays.
  • Minors in Museum Studies and Cultural Management and Performing Arts Administration. The first was just approved by the faculty and the second will be voted on after the holidays.
  • Major in Cybersecurity is in the development stages.
  • Bachelor of Science joins Bachelor of Arts. Previously Drew has only offered a single degree, the BA. Beginning this year selected programs will also offer the option of the BS degree, aligning Drew with most of our peer and aspirant schools.

The programs join all of our excellent other liberal arts and sciences programs. For a full list (and alums, to see the current requirements for your major), look here.

Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

  • Master of Science in Finance. This new degree program has the Wall Street Semester in its DNA. Unlike other programs, our MS Finance students have opportunities for internships during their course of study. Current CLA students can continue for their master’s degree. Students from other liberal arts colleges, like Dickinson College, can come to Drew for their own fifth year master’s!
  • Master of Education. This new program joins our Master’s Certification Program. It provides a master’s degree for individuals who are already teaching, and is attractive to aspiring educators like international students who don’t need or want U.S. certifications.
  • Master of Science in Data Analytics. This program was just approved by the faculty in December. Check back later when the webpage is developed!

These programs join our excellent existing programs in the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. As some of you are aware, however, we will be closing our low residency MFA in Poetry, while assuring that all current students can complete their degrees.

New Combined Degree Programs with Other Universities

These programs join the other excellent combined degree programs that we’ve developed over the past few years.

Drew Theological School

The Theological School inaugurated an entirely new curriculum this year! We describe it as rooted, innovative, and courageous. Our students and prospective students are believers, activists, seekers, thinkers, counselors, preachers, teachers, poets, and dreamers who value thinking and action. They can and want to commit to courageous Christianity, mix it up for ecological and social justice, and inspire the church, the neighborhood, the city, the world. These goals are met with an exciting new curriculum.

Drew Theological School has been highly successful in grants-getting to support the development of their new curricula and programs associated with it. The latest is a grant from the Luce Foundation, called the Social Justice Leadership Project.

Successes Various and Sundry

Enrollment and External Recognition for Drew

I am happy to report that Drew continues to grow in all three schools, in part because of the new programs above. Enrollment in the College of Liberal Arts is on a good course, with our first year class being the largest in many years, and up 40% compared to the entering class of 2015! We are on track to meet our goal of enrolling 470 new entering first year students next fall, with applications trending over 20% over last year. In fact, indicators bode well for the future of Drew:

Overall numbers… Up!
Number of first-year students… Up!
Number of transfer students… Up!
Number of American Students of Color… Up!
Entering SAT Scores… Up!
Number of International Students…. Up!

Drew continues to particularly distinguish itself in international student enrollment, ranking at #15 nationally for the number of international students at baccalaureate colleges.

Drew University again made Fiske’s list of the “best and most interesting” colleges in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland, and once again, The Princeton Review ranks Drew University top 10 nationally in theater and race/class interaction, and includes Drew in its Colleges that Create Futures. Last but not least, Drew ranks in the top fifth of the best colleges and universities in the U.S., according to the 2019 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings.

We are also proud that, for the third straight year, Drew Theological School is featured in the Center for Faith and Service’s list of the Seminaries that Change the World.

Just a Few (of the Hundreds of) Cool Happenings at Drew

  • The Baldwin Honors Program held their first Day of Scholars last spring, and it was an enormous success! Stay tuned for a campus-wide scholarly expo to be held this coming spring, with alums and donors welcome to join us to see and hear about the great work of our students and their faculty mentors.
  • Exactly a year ago today, we completed the Gilbert Challenge. The dollars raised are used as funds for strategic initiatives and the donors’ generosity has led to additional gifts to this fund.
  • For you techy and geek types out there, we are very, very, very (did I say very) happy that after several years we have finally completed a full upgrade of our Enterprise Software system, allowing University operations to run much more seamlessly.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden joined us for a very full house in the spring, as did David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama.
  • A Pair of Pulitzers: Pulitzer Prize–Winning author Colson Whitehead joined us this fall for the Merrill Maguire Skaggs Lecture, as did Pulitzer Prize–Winning author Jennifer Egan for Writers@Drew.
  • Clint Bolick C’79, Arizona Supreme Court Justice, gave a wonderful talk and spent an enjoyable day with our students (and some time with me!).
  • Governor Phil Murphy spoke to local government officials during a shared services symposium at Drew in November.

I’ve had great conversations with some of you about the variety of and political leanings of our speakers. To those of you who believe we should strive for greater diversity of thought, I agree with you. Please remember that we book speakers way ahead, and some are chosen in consultation with donors. Over the next year you will begin to see the fruits of our efforts to achieve the goal of greater diversity of thought. I’ve got a good set of alum and student advisors whom I can count on to offer suggestions, and I appreciate the help!

In the Pool and on the Field and on the Court

Selected Faculty Scholarly Work


  • Catherine Keller published A Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public.
  • Kenneth Ngwa co-edited Navigating African Biblical Hermeneutics: Trends and Themes from our Pots and our Calabashes.
  • Kate Ott published Christian Ethics for a Digital Society.
  • Traci West published Solidarity and Defiant Spirituality: Africana Lessons on Religion, Racism, and Ending Gender Violence.
  • Chris Andrews published The Overworked Consumer: Self-Checkouts, Supermarkets, and the Do-It- Yourself Economy.

Other Selected Faculty Scholarship and Recognition

  • With mixed emotion, we offer congratulations and farewell to Chris Taylor, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of Islamic History and Middle East Studies, on his new position as provost at Habib University in Pakistan.
  • Courtney Zoffness was named a “Notable Essayist” in The Best American Essays 2018, and received a residency fellowship from The MacDowell Colony, after winning The Sunday Times Short Story Prize earlier this year.
  • Alicia Ostriker was named New York State Poet.
  • Jonathan Golden led a team of Drew students to the Parliament of the World’s Religions meeting in Toronto, where the group presented a session in the Next Generations Track called “Leading by Example; Principles into Practice.”
  • Jinee Lokaneeta was elected to serve as the President of the Consortium on Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs.
  • Tammy Windfelder presented “Small Mammal and Plant Survey Results at the CMA” with Dr. Emile DeVito, as part of the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s public talk series.
  • Robert Corrington‘s philosophy of Ecstatic Naturalism was the theme of the 12th Biannual Personalist Conference at Western Carolina University in July 2018.
  • Faculty member Rodney Gilbert passed away last year, and recently a mural was dedicated in his honor and a street in Newark was named after him.
  • Yours truly (MaryAnn Baenninger) was elected Chair of the Board of the Council of Independent Colleges, the national organization for private colleges in the United States and abroad.

And Not to be Outdone, Selected Student Scholarship and Recognition

And We Can’t Forget the Alums: Here, too, Are Some Selected Recognitions

We are well aware that there are hundreds more alum accomplishments that weren’t mentioned in this letter. Please send your success stories to, and you never know, we might do a story about you…

Strategic Planning

For the first several years of my presidency, we made the decision to focus on short-term, targeted strategic plans designed primarily to return Drew to a strong position in recruiting and retaining students. Admissions best practices, strong financial aid, fresh and bold marketing, and the tuition reset to match our market have all contributed to strong enrollment numbers over the past few years. But looking toward the future, those strategies will not be enough to sustain Drew’s enrollment or to achieve the national reputation it deserves. We must exemplify a liberal arts and sciences education that is both true to its roots and bold and innovative.

For the past year and a half, we have been engaged in academic planning in all three schools. Our goal has been to match Drew’s “academic DNA” with what today’s students and parents are telling us that they want for an undergraduate or graduate education and their outcomes. Born of these strategic deep dives were the many new academic programs that you read about above. Each one emanates from an existing strength of Drew’s.

Also born of our planning efforts is Launch, our unique undergraduate experience that puts post-college planning at the heart of a Drew student’s education, and guides students—from whatever place they start—toward a firm plan for their own futures and to achieve their goals for life after college.

Launch will distinguish Drew by making universal for our students those attributes that have always defined us: extraordinary faculty mentoring, alums ready, willing and able to serve as mentors, learning in the “real world,” and taking advantage of our unparalleled location. One of the most exciting things about Launch is bringing our alums, parents, and employers to the center of the mentoring process.

We’ve introduced a new platform called Drew Connect to help students and alums connect directly. If you haven’t already joined, contact for help in joining. This is just a first step toward building a cluster of industry- and affinity-related career and professional communities that will go fully online when Launch itself officially begins next September.

Another key part of our strategic planning efforts has been directed at making Drew much, much more efficient in non-student facing areas and directing more of our resources toward academics and the student experience generally. To understand Drew’s use of resources, we recently conducted “benchmarking” studies on staffing, benefits, and compensation, and profit and loss analyses in operational areas. In general, our conclusions matched the perceptions of our leadership team: Drew could do a lot better in stewarding our resources, and in turn, we could do better in compensating our staff and faculty. Over the past two years, and culminating this winter, we have implemented many cost saving measures, including a significant reduction in non-faculty staff, bringing us much more in line with our peers and therefore able to compete on an equal footing. We are also instituting a salary increase initiative over the next five years to ensure that we remain competitive.

All of these initiatives have worked, and beginning this year we will be able to very significantly reduce expenditures and eliminate our longstanding structural deficit, while at the same time adding the many programs you’ve read about above.

These changes, while very difficult on the one hand, and work-intensive on the other, bode well for the future of Drew and its economic sustainability. But we are not fully out of the woods yet (or should I say out of The Forest?) for two primary reasons: Our long-standing deficit has caused our endowment to shrink, and our physical plant suffers from millions and millions of dollars of deferred maintenance that we must race to keep up with on a continuing basis.

I share these things not to paint a pessimistic picture, but rather to tell it like it is, and to convince you that we need your support to thrive.

  • Drew is a hot school in the market right now, as evidenced by our strong enrollment, but we need you to help accelerate our upward climb. Please tell everyone you know about Drew and share some of the wonderful accomplishments I’ve written about.
  • Give of your time and talent when you can: Our students need mentors, internships, public service placements, and you can help.
  • If you are an alumna or alumnus, try to be active. “Like” our Facebook and Instagram pages, attend events, browse the website for alumni happenings. This will keep you connected and enthusiastic about our progress, and increase your pride as an alum.

An Ask

When I began at Drew in 2014, I spoke to many alumni and friends of Drew. One consistent theme I’ve heard is “we don’t want to only hear from you when you ask for money.” We have taken that to heart and we have made a very significant effort to keep our extended family informed. I receive great feedback from letters like this, and I promise to keep them coming.

We do, however, need financial support, most especially Annual Fund giving. Thanks to your support, annual giving was up last year by 33% from $1.2 million to $1.6 million. But our peer institutions raise in the neighborhood of $3 million per year. We must close that gap or we will forever be at a disadvantage.

Please consider giving to the Drew University Annual Fund before December 31, or if you already do give, please consider increasing your gift or giving a second time. Each dollar from the Annual Fund goes directly to University operations and quite literally helps us to make ends meet.

Even after reading this monster of a letter you may have questions about Drew. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at Remember that we are closed until January 2, but you will hear from me after we return.

In Closing

Thank you for taking this time to learn about Drew, and thank you in advance for considering a gift. I’ll close by sharing our own holiday greeting. As usual, it’s pretty squirrely, and comes to you as the work of Drew students, Tessa Bagby C’22, Nick Kilgore C’21, Jake Diozzi C’22, and Riley Crompton C’22, first- and second-year Drew students. We had a blast with this!

Warmest wishes to you and yours,

MaryAnn Baenninger
Drew University