Welcome to the 2018 Fall Semester, 8/29/18


Welcome to the 2018 Fall Semester, 8/29/18

Dear members of the Drew community,

Welcome to the 2018 fall semester! I’m eager to provide an update on all of the happenings here in The Forest. Now in my fifth year as president, I feel very fortunate to serve this University, and privileged to be part of this remarkable community of students and parents, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and neighbors in Madison.

I’d like to wish a warm welcome to new Drew students who have arrived on campus over the past few days. We were especially proud last Thursday to greet the 425 CLA students comprising the Class of 2022, followed on Friday by 105 transfer students, 42 of whom are recent graduates of our INTO program. Among our new students are 82 international students from almost 30 countries. New students, we welcome you to The Forest and know that your diversity in backgrounds and thought will enrich the Drew community. You can read more about a few of our new students recently highlighted in Drew’s news stories, and see how our Orientation Committee tradition of welcoming new students is as energetic as ever!

While returning students’ and faculty members’ return to Drew after their summer activities is a bit less orchestrated, it is no less joyful. One of my favorite times of year is catching up with students and faculty and hearing about the wonderful things they did this summer, including relaxing, working, research, performing, volunteering, and traveling.

We are growing in number as you’ll see below. Our student growth demonstrates positive momentum and recent media coverage reinforces our strengths. Drew is again featured in Fiske’s list of the “best and most interesting” colleges in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland, and was included in The Princeton Review’s Best 384 Colleges. Not surprisingly, the Princeton Review also ranked Drew University in the top 10 nationally in theater and race/class interaction. We are also proud that Drew University’s Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti and New York City semesters have been nationally recognized as innovations in higher education. These types of recognitions speak to Drew’s academic quality and capacity to combine academic and co-curricular activities for positive student outcomes.

I’m happy to share that we have some curricular additions following last year’s new Media and Communications major and new dual degree programs. In the College of Liberal Arts, we’ve added the degree designation of Bachelor of Science (in addition to Drew’s historically offered Bachelor of Arts). Students will be able to earn a BS in chemistry, environmental science, and neuroscience, and our faculty is currently exploring which additional disciplines will offer the BS. This year, the Board of Trustees also approved undergraduate majors in Environmental Science and Public Health. We are expecting these to become high demand majors given applicant interest and the career opportunities in these disciplines. I offer my thanks and appreciation to the many faculty who took part in the development of these programs.

At the graduate level, the Theological School is rolling out an entirely new curriculum, designed to meet the needs of today’s divinity students and congregations in an ever-changing world. This curriculum is the culmination of in-depth study of the school’s strengths, future trends in theological education, and the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s faith leaders. Courses are offered all-year-round, with classes scheduled in varying, flexible formats focused on learning in community. Kudos to the faculty for their hard work and innovative spirit, to Vice Provost and Dean Javier Viera for his inspiration and vision in making this happen, and to Associate Dean Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre for her leadership and dedication in developing it and seeing it through to its successful implementation.

In the Caspersen School, we are very happy to welcome this week our first cohort in two new programs. The Master in Finance program capitalizes on the prowess of our alums in the finance industry and brings our success in the Wall Street program to graduate students considering a career in finance. The addition of a Master of Education program, alongside our Master of Arts in Teaching certification program, offers specializations ranging from teaching students with disabilities to literacy and technology to conflict resolution.

I thank and congratulate the entire faculty of arts and sciences for completing their first year as a unified faculty and for jointly creating new and innovative educational opportunities for our students on the graduate and undergraduate level. These outcomes are a direct result of our first year with a provost structure. I could not be more pleased with our progress in this regard. For the faculty reading this, I know you will also receive an email from Provost Deb Liebowitz and I echo her appreciation for all of your hard work.

These academic additions and changes are part of the larger conversation that we began last year with CRUE, the Committee to Reimagine the Undergraduate Experience. What began with research to find the place where our greatest academic strengths meet the needs and desires of today’s students evolved into an exciting and productive conversation about Drew’s ability to prepare students for fulfilling professional and personal lives after graduation, in their careers and their communities. The spring semester was spent exploring how to translate our findings into academic and co-curricular programs that leverage these strengths. The committee, led by Associate Provost Jessica Lakin and Associate Dean Juliette Lantz, did impressive work creating a framework that the faculty have subsequently endorsed.

I am pleased to share our very first details about the culmination of this work—the Launch program. Launch will serve as Drew’s one-of-a-kind, leading edge path to a degree, syncing Drew’s rigorous liberal arts education with professional and career development and powerful community engagement inside and outside of Drew. As part of Launch, the University will guarantee two real-world, résumé-ready experiences including, among others, internships, New York City Semesters, hands-on research, meaningful student work, and study abroad. Launch will also provide opportunities to earn industry-recognized credentials. Each student will have a mentorship team to support and guide him or her along the way. The goal of this systematic approach is even stronger student outcomes. Drew will launch students into the post-college world not only with knowledge, skills, and experience, but also with clearly documented résumés and transcripts demonstrating their readiness and their competitive edge to employers and graduate schools. While Launch will officially launch—pun intended—and be promoted to students arriving in fall of 2019—the opportunities, as they are initiated, will be available to all Drew students.

Pivotal to the implementation of Launch is the addition of Dr. Daniel Pascoe Aguilar to our team as associate provost for experiential education and career development. Dr. Aguilar will create the University’s Center for Experiential Education and Career Development, designed to bring together the existing Centers for Global Education, Civic Engagement, Internships and Career Development, and undergraduate research programs. The new Center will advance the University’s efforts to increase undergraduate and graduate student participation and engagement in meaningful experiential learning. It will also ensure that this is seamlessly integrated into the Drew experience in a way that expands students’ future career and academic opportunities.

Our Campus Life and Student Affairs (CLSA) division is also a key partner in enriching our community. I am pleased to report that I have promoted Frank Merckx to vice president, campus life and student affairs and dean of students. Frank has served impressively as the interim vice president and dean for the last seven months after I consolidated those two previously distinct roles. Frank successfully reorganized the department, found operational efficiencies and continued to build Drew’s traditions and student opportunities in conjunction with his colleagues. CLSA is an important partner in Launch and I am very proud of the strong partnership between Provost Debra Liebowitz and Vice President Merckx and their divisional teams in creating a superb experience for our students.

With the reorganization of CLSA, I am also pleased to announce that Michelle Brisson has been promoted to dean of student engagement and Steph Mazzarella C’02 is now director of student engagement. I am also pleased to introduce William Petrick, our new associate dean of students. Prior to coming to Drew, Will was at The College of New Jersey where he served as an assistant director for residential education and housing. Will also served as a conduct administrator, Title IX investigator, member of the institution’s Student Advocacy Advisory Team, and will oversee the creation of the Social Justice House living learning and community

In addition to those members of Frank’s leadership team, I am proud to say that after a period of reviewing and revising the role, the Rev. Taylor Bean has joined Drew to serve as university chaplain. The Rev. Bean hails from Alabama, and received her Masters of Divinity at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. While there, she served as a pastoral intern at several churches in the Atlanta area. She brings with her a passion for chaplaincy as she also served in that role for the City of Refuge women’s shelter in Atlanta, GA and at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, FL. She also serves as associate pastor at the Madison United Methodist Church and we are happy that her position is the result of a partnership with them.

In addition, a national search for a vice president for advancement has commenced this summer. Again I thank Beth Kornstein for her generous service in the interim role. The search committee is chaired by Vice Provost and Dean Viera. I will share more information about the committee and the progress of the search in a future update.

While we are excited to welcome new members of the Drew community, we must say goodbye to others. After four years at Drew and 45 years in higher education, Bob Massa, senior vice president for enrollment and institutional planning, will retire in spring 2019. The exact date will be determined once we identify a successor. Dr. Sarah Abramowitz, professor of mathematics and chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, has graciously agreed to chair the national search for Bob’s successor. Sarah and I are in the process of appointing search committee members. Bob will continue to lead our enrollment efforts into the spring semester during the key recruiting season for fall 2019.

We are thankful to Bob for leading the team that has partnered with faculty and staff to grow the incoming first year CLA class by over 40% from 302 to 425, while increasing median SAT scores from 1190 to 1230 and total undergraduate enrollment by 17% from 1482 to an estimated 1730. During his time at Drew, campus visits increased to almost 3,000 students, interviews more than doubled, and programs for high school and independent counselors brought over 500 of them to The Forest. I am grateful that Bob has chosen to spend the last few years of his successful career creating sustainable admissions and financial aid functions for Drew. The Forest is flourishing in large part because of his efforts.

It is also with very mixed emotions that I announce that Marti Winer C’97, G’17, vice president of university relations and chief of staff, has accepted an exciting new leadership position in the hospitality industry and will be leaving Drew on September 7. Four years ago, Marti stepped out of her corporate career to join my senior team to help shape this period in Drew’s history. Marti brought her expertise in communications, customer service and operational excellence, plus her boundless energy and passion for Drew. She has been an integral part of our success over the past several years. We thank Marti for helping to strengthen our relationships with the Borough of Madison, for reviving the Drew Forum with well-planned and executed events, for serving as a trusted liaison to our Board of Trustees, and for being a wonderful team member on the endless number of initiatives in which she has played an active role.

My colleagues and I are pleased that Marti will always remain an active member of the Drew community as she returns to her alumna status. Marti has graciously agreed to continue to consult with me on several projects as I determine how to ensure her myriad responsibilities are successfully transitioned.

This would not be a back to school message if I did not take this opportunity to report some of the improvements on campus. The renovation and re-opening of Holloway—which was closed in 2014—as an active residence hall is a visual testament of our growing student population. Our two residential floors have been refreshed and there are entirely new bathrooms throughout the building. The Welch-Holloway Lounge has also had a facelift to provide a relaxing and conducive environment for student life. On the academic side, we are very proud of the new state-of-the-art science labs completed in the Hall of Science. These labs were funded in part through a competitive process with the New Jersey Higher Education Facilities Authority. Both of these projects are a tribute to the collaboration between faculty and staff to ensure the best use of our on-campus resources and successful project management. It is also worth noting that both of these projects were made possible by the strategic debt-refinancing program we engaged in last fall, allowing us to plan for the upcoming needs of our growing community.

On the strategic front, you have heard me speak for several years now of our multi-year financial and operational plan, SHINE. SHINE is designed to create a sustainable future for Drew, one that preserves our excellence in academics and the student experience and our historic traditions, yet allows us to survive, grow, and evolve in a changing higher education landscape. Achievement of the goals of SHINE involves many layered and tough financial decisions. For example, the University has been operating under a planned deficit, investing in new programs while simultaneously ameliorating long-standing financial challenges like deferred maintenance, antiquated systems, and dramatically escalating health care costs. We have addressed these challenges by focusing on enrollment growth, implementing the tuition reset, adding new programs, growing annual and unrestricted fundraising capacity, exploring innovative partnerships in technology growth and management, and selling residential real estate. These efforts have been successful, but we will need to continue to add new programs that are both in line with the University’s mission and competitive in the market while also continuing to realign processes and administrative and staffing structures. The quest for sustainability will also involve achieving savings by identifying and reducing non-mission central activities. It is imperative that we provide sustainable routes to the very best educational experiences for our current and future students.

While I know there is a lot of content included in this update, to me it feels like we have hardly scratched the surface of success stories I’d like to share and ideas that we are working on. I was most certainly not able to thank everyone I should be thanking for helping Drew to continue to be a vibrant institution with constant innovation and forward motion. I look forward to seeing you all at various events on and off campus this year and having these conversations in person. I also always welcome your comments and feedback at president@drew.edu.

I wish you all the best in your endeavors. Whether you are a Drew student or faculty member, or whether you are part of our extended community of alums, parents, donors, and friends, I hope it will be a wonderful year for one for each of you individually. From The Forest, thank you for everything you do to make Drew shine!


MaryAnn Baenninger