Wrapping Up the 2019 Fall Semester in The Forest, 12/17/19


Wrapping Up the 2019 Fall Semester in The Forest, 12/17/19

Dear members of the extended Drew community,

I write to wish you peace and joy this holiday season and send greetings for a happy New Year.

To our students, all that we do at Drew University is related to ensuring your success while you are here and after you graduate. I feel very thankful that you are so engaged in learning and active in this community and other communities that you call home. My colleagues and I are very proud to see you flourishing on your journey to do good in the world.

To our faculty and staff, I am personally grateful to have you as colleagues, and I marvel every day at your dedication to our students and to the University itself. Our work in higher education is becoming increasingly challenging, particularly in maintaining the resources we need to support Drew’s mission. I greatly appreciate the joy and commitment you bring to your work.

To the parents and guardians, spouses and partners of our students, thank you for placing your trust in Drew, and in many cases making significant sacrifices to ensure that your loved one is able to receive an excellent education at this great University. Your commitment is palpable and is reflected in the daily growth and learning that I see in our students.

To our alums, never in my career have I seen such commitment to mentoring and paving the way professionally for our students. I appreciate the many ways you show your support, from one-on-one engagement with our students, offering internships and openings to career paths, and helping recruit new students. Our new Launch initiative is meant not only to serve our current students but to serve all members of the Drew community in a variety of career and identity communities. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to join Drew Connect, where students can find you as a mentor, and you can find other alums with shared interests. Please also visit our LaunchPad to see the many ways you can interact with our students, business and industry, and the career and identity communities. It is our goal not only to express our appreciation for your support, but also to provide lifelong professional engagement.

To our donors, your support is crucial to Drew’s present and its future. I am deeply, deeply grateful that you offer financial support to our students through the University. Whether you are an alum of Drew or not, you understand directly the vital importance of financial aid, program, and facilities support. Your support is essential for Drew to continue to offer the very best education to our students. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And now for some news. I sent a long informational update in August, so here I will only share exciting new updates since then:

Drew was hit by a tornado! It accompanied a severe storm that happened on Halloween night and continued into the wee hours of November 1. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but an enormous number of trees were felled, sadly including some very old, large, and prominent ones. Nearly 30 cars on campus were damaged or totalled, and several buildings and other aspects of infrastructure took some hits. The cleanup from this devastating event is ongoing, but we are finally nearing completion. Our onsite team and hired contractors did a heroic job of managing the cleanup.

On to the good news!

Drew has added new majors in Marketing and Accounting, joining other recent majors, among others, in Media and Communications, Public Health, and Engineering Physics. All of our majors maintain a very, very strong liberal arts focus, and these new majors allow us to be more competitive in a rapidly changing higher education market. Please spread the word.

Women’s Volleyball will be inaugurated this coming year, and Men’s will soon follow. These sports join Men’s and Women’s Golf as our most recent additions to Landmark Conference competition, along with our E-Sports Team, also competing under the auspices of the Landmark Conference.

In October we hosted our first Launch Communities Expo, bringing together our students, faculty, staff, alums, and local business and community members to experience Launch and to engage in learning, dialogue, and networking around our career and identity communities. It was wonderful to see many of you there interacting with our students. Please look for this event in the fall 2020, and we hope to see you at the Drew Day of Scholars this spring. This event is an opportunity to experience our students’ scholarly research and creative products. It is a great venue, like the Launch Communities Expo, to engage with our students and perhaps discuss employment opportunities with them. Thank you to all of our speakers and mentors who attended the Expo!

As we approach an election year, politics is on everyone’s mind. I’m proud of our students at Drew who are actively engaged citizens. There are three highlights this semester that I will mention. Organized by the Theological School, students joined tens of thousands of young people at the Global Climate Strike in New York City. Additionally, students in our Social Impact, Law, Education, and Government Community spent the day in Trenton meeting with, among others, Governor Murphy and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz C’98. Our students also showed their engagement and commitment by winning the New Jersey Ballot Bowl, a nonpartisan voter registration competition!

While I’d personally rather that Drew not be known as “hidden” (and we are doing all we can to increase visibility), the notion behind being called New Jersey’s Hidden Gem is a good one. College Raptor, an informational site for students applying for college, noted Drew University as the best small college in New Jersey. With only 50 colleges nationwide, we are in good company on this list.

Drew is ranked 8th in the country among baccalaureate colleges for our high number of international students, having moved up from 15th place last year. At a time when international student enrollment is decreasing nationally, Drew is very successful in recruiting highly qualified international students, and the students themselves are very successful at Drew.

Once again, Drew maintained its spot among the Princeton Review’s Green Colleges for the 10th consecutive year!

Drew is a Fiske Top 10 Best Buy! While I mentioned this accolade in my August letter, it bears repeating. Don’t be fooled by the “Best Buy” moniker. This designation—in the Top 10 in the country—speaks to the value of a Drew education, and to what students pay, with excellent financial aid packages to receive a nationally competitive education. We deserve to take pride in this distinction.

I close this message with something I haven’t done quite so forcefully in the past. Please consider giving to Drew University, to student scholarships, to support our world-class faculty, or directly to operations through the annual fund. We need your contributions more than ever. While Drew is growing in number of students—our total number of students is nearly back up to its last high point in 2005—sustaining a small liberal arts college in this environment is becoming increasingly more difficult financially. Approximately 25% of our students in the College of Liberal Arts come from families so economically challenged that a financial aid analysis determines that they have no discretionary income to support college. These students have high academic qualifications and they are doing very well at Drew. We must continue to be able to support them.

The Forest is aging. While our campus’s older brick and stone buildings and heavily wooded forest make it one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, maintaining it is a significant financial challenge. The aging infrastructure and enormous deferred maintenance burdens are crushing to the budget. While we are well aware of and do our best to prepare for the specific challenges and capital needs of the campus, tornados, sinking foundations in Baldwin Gym, blown electrical transformers, and other emergencies set us back on planned maintenance and renovations.

As you finalize your year-end contributions, please consider giving to Drew for our students, faculty, and University operations. This great University is worthy of support. We would be deeply grateful if you would consider giving—or giving again.

I sincerely thank you for reading. I send warm wishes for a joyous holiday season with your loved ones and a happy New Year.

MaryAnn Baenninger