President's End-of-Semester Reflections, 12/9/15.


President’s End-of-Semester Reflections, 12/9/15

Dear Drew Community,
As 2015 comes to an end, I write to share with you some of our many accomplishments this year and to look ahead to what 2016 will bring. It is my plan to use letters like this and other communications to keep you in touch with happenings at the University. Please feel free to contact me with comments or questions at I truly enjoy hearing from you, and I will respond as soon as possible.A remarkable (and surprising!) accomplishment of 2015 was our own Dr. William Campbell, a RISE fellow, winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine. The Nobel not only recognized the life-saving work of Dr. Campbell but also highlighted our one-of-a-kind RISE program, through which undergraduates perform research guided by senior industrial scientists. This program complements the education students receive through coursework and research with our science faculty. RISE is only one example of the many extraordinary mentorship opportunities available to all of our students.Of course this is only one of the many wonderful achievements by Drew faculty members campus-wide, who complemented their outstanding mentorship of students with dozens of scholarly publications, fellowships, awards, exhibitions, and performances. For example, Ed Baring won Guggenheim and Ryskamp Fellowships, Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre was awarded a visiting fellowship by Williams College, Patrick Phillips and Ross Gay were National Book Award finalists, and Aracelis Girmay received the Whiting Award—to name only a few.And, to end 2015 on a high note, doctoral candidate Brian Shetler, along with other members of the staff of the Special Collections and University Archives, “discovered” a rare first edition of the King James Bible printed in 1611—a story covered last week by The New York Times.

We also came together this year to celebrate an inauguration with a theme—The University and the City—that highlights our deep and wide connections to our communities—Madison, Newark, New York City, and beyond. I was honored to be a part of the many terrific activities that gathered students, faculty, staff, alumni, and many distinguished guests on campus, and I sincerely appreciate all of the thought, work, and engagement that went into making inauguration week a special week for Drew.

And our students never fail to impress! It’s a challenge to highlight just a few, but here’s a try: in 2015, Daniel Gaston C’16 received a US Department of State Scholarship, Minna Nizam C’17 interned with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dong Hyeon Jeong, a Theological School PhD student, was awarded a fellowship from the Forum for Theological Exploration, Taryn Murphy C’16 interned with the Boston Red Sox, Saif Yasin C’17 received a Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention—and our internship superstar, Gabi Bisconti C’16, finished up her fifth internship.

Our scholar athletes set new standards in 2015: the women’s field hockey team received the Gladiator National Academic Team Award, the men’s tennis team was named to the All-Academic Team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association—and Rangers from several sports teamed up with the Special Olympics for weekly basketball games. Dozens of individual Rangers were also lauded for their academic achievements, were recognized by the Landmark Conference, and set campus records. The Drew Sports Network is up and running so you can follow Drew contests live or in replay. And Ranger men’s soccer coach Lenny Armuth celebrated his 300th win!

This fall, the College of Liberal Arts launched a re-imagined First-Year Program, and all first-year students visited New York City together with their seminar professors. I tagged along for the ride. This unified connection of first-year students to New York is a powerful complement to our growing cadre of New York City programs—on Wall Street, the contemporary art scene, the United Nations, and communications and media—all part of our experiential learning efforts that connect the classroom to the community.

Also this year, the Theological School finalized a new mission statement, approved new strategic goals and launched a transformation of its curriculum. Additionally, it organized a year of conversations on race with major thinkers—most recently Dr. Jennifer Harvey—and was highlighted as one of only 25 seminaries in North America that excel in offering courses on faith and ecology. The Caspersen School introduced two new programs: a dual certification Master of Arts in teaching—the first in New Jersey—and a certificate in conflict resolution and leadership.

With our stellar faculty, our remarkable students, and our outstanding programs, it’s really no surprise that this year The Princeton Review named Drew among the “50 Colleges that Create Futures,” that the National Science Foundation ranked Drew 17th among liberal arts colleges nationwide in the number who earn doctoral degrees in the physical sciences, and that Drew was on the President of the United States Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

We also experienced renewed strength in enrollment in 2015. In the fall, there were 23% more first-year students in the CLA compared to fall 2014, and the number of transfer students jumped 37%. This year, we signed honors partnership agreements with Raritan Valley Community College, County College of Morris, and Brookdale Community College, and we are about to sign a similar agreement with Bergen County College. These agreements make it seamless for their honors students to transfer to Drew. We anticipate keeping the number of partnerships like this very small, and of very high quality.

We’re encouraged by admissions data for the incoming CLA class—as of this writing, our early decision applications have more than doubled since this time last year and our regular admission applications are also up significantly. This is in large part because we have been better able to communicate the strength of our faculty and academic programs through a highly effective admissions team and new marketing efforts. Our messaging and marketing focuses on what distinguishes a Drew education—exceptional faculty mentorship, a commitment to connecting the campus with our “cities” of New York, Newark, Madison, and Morristown, and a focus on experiential learning.

I’m happy to report that contributions to the annual fund for the last fiscal year totaled a record $1.33 million, exceeding the previous record of $1.25 million from the year before. Additionally, the One and All capital campaign is thriving and, with $75 million raised, is on track to hit its $80 million goal by June 30, 2016.

The momentum evident in the accomplishments of our faculty and students, our programs, and our enrollment and fundraising can also be seen in our campus facilities: a renovated Hall of Sciences reopened this fall and Tilghman House, the future home of INTO New York at Drew, and Wesley House, home to the Office of Admissions, are both under renovation. The Commons dining hall is next on the list, with a full renovation to be completed by September 2016. The renovation will combine with a new dining contract to produce very high quality dining options for students and the campus community at large.

Following the Board of Trustees’ approval of an increase of 3% to our salary pool, we implemented salary increases for eligible employees this fall for the first time in five years. This act is part of a larger institutional strategic reinvestment plan that includes investing in our people, our students, and our campus. These increases to correct inequities and compression will continue to be adjusted over the next few years.

We are also adding a new standardized staff performance review process throughout the University, which we plan to launch in spring 2016. In addition to using this tool to document the progress of personal career development and newly acquired skill sets, we are also using this opportunity to create cohesive goals for our staff. By articulating goals for customer service, diversity, inclusion, and accountability, we will be able to use a shared vocabulary to talk about performance and grow professionally to better serve Drew together.

We are also deep into the work of our accreditation report, the Periodic Review Report (PRR), to be submitted to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education next spring. In addition to highlighting Drew’s strengths, the PRR process provides an opportunity to assess Drew’s challenges and areas where we can improve. When I arrived, members of the community told me that they had “planning fatigue” from working on plans that hadn’t come to fruition. People are feeling ready now to take a deep dive into charting the University’s future, and conversations around campus have now helped us to articulate the need to begin a long term strategic planning process this spring. We will embark on new budget and planning process across all three schools, beginning in January. On the celebratory side, we have begun planning for Drew’s Sesquicentennial in 2017. It is an exciting time to be cherishing Drew’s historic past while using our momentum to plan for a successful future.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season and we look forward to seeing you soon.

With deep appreciation for everything you do for Drew,

MaryAnn Baenninger