President's 2017–2018 Welcome, 8/28/17.


President’s 2017–2018 Welcome, 8/28/17

Dear members of the Drew community,

I am so pleased to welcome everyone back to what I know will be an excellent year. We have accomplished a lot together recently, and I look forward to what 2017–18 will bring.

As we gather to begin this year together as members of the Drew community—a community that is intentionally inviting and inclusive—I am mindful of how thankful I am to be a part of a place that understands that our diversity is our strength. I contemplate recent events in Charlottesville with feelings of sadness and despair that there is so much hate in this world, and I understand that overt manifestations of hate are symptoms of underlying societal disease. Along with my feelings of abhorrence and anger toward the groups spreading hate and white supremacy, I am able to take comfort in being part of this community and to have the opportunity to participate in our efforts toward peace and justice. I recognize the solemn responsibility I have to ensure that Drew University remains a safe and socially active place where all students, faculty, and staff are supported.

As the University mission states, “Drew prepares its students to flourish both personally and professionally as they add to the world’s good by responding to the urgent challenges of our time with rigorous, independent, and imaginative thought.” We must call on these mission imperatives as we face the urgent challenges of this very time.

As you know, we launched a community-wide discussion on race and inclusion at Drew, which generated more than 20 ideas on how to increase inclusion on campus. Implementation continues on many fronts and students, faculty, and staff continued all last year to carry this important work forward. For example, we formed the University Diversity Committee, with campus-wide representation, to advance and coordinate all of Drew’s diversity efforts. We also began the Freedom School initiative, which strives to expand our understanding of social justice and provide the Drew community and outside community members with training in nonviolent resistance and community organizing. Many of Drew’s faculty and staff members are doing what they do best—working in partnership to continue to ensure that classrooms and co-curricular activities are venues for guided learning opportunities on issues of white supremacy and racial and religious intolerance. Additionally, our search for a coordinator of diversity, equality, and inclusion has begun, and several other efforts will continue this semester. Perhaps these and other initiatives are some of the reasons why the Princeton Review recently recognized Drew for “lots of race/class interaction.”

Our class of 2021 demonstrates the diversity of thinking, culture, and interests that has been indicative of Drew’s makeup. We are excited to welcome all of our students, and you can read about some of our newest ones here and here.

I am also mindful that we have a great deal to celebrate as we continue to mark the 150th year since the founding of Drew Theological School. Some of our recent achievements that demonstrate how much The Forest is growing include:

  • The number of incoming undergraduate students is up 27% in three years.
  • An increase in international students of 195% in four years.
  • Our undergraduate retention rate has jumped eleven points in four years.
  • Our undergraduate new liberal arts majors and minors include media & communications, creative writing, film studies, data studies, and statistics.
  • We recently launched new professional combined degree programs in nursing, software engineering, law, and teaching, in partnership.
  • Additionally, enrollment has increased in Drew’s graduate programs, new programs will be rolled out over the next few years, and the Theological School—Drew’s founding institution—is launching new curricula for several of its degrees.
  • In June, our 150-hour fundraising challenge far surpassed its initial goal.

All of these growth indicators are a sign of a vibrant and engaged learning community that is growing not only in size but in opportunity and innovative curricula.

Over the summer we successfully initiated a new provost structure, with the goals of enhancing capacity and both increasing connections and reducing administrative redundancy between the three schools. The provost’s office itself also opened this summer, starting with the appointment of Debra Liebowitz as provost and dean of arts and sciences, and Javier Viera as vice provost and dean of Drew Theological School. Deb has worked quickly to staff the office, naming Jessica Lakin the associate provost of academic administration, Judith Redling the associate provost and director of the Center for Academic Excellence, and Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre the associate dean of the Theological School and the Caspersen School. Maria Masucci will serve as the new associate dean of faculty in arts and sciences and Ryan Hinrichs and Juliette Lantz will share the responsibilities of associate dean of curriculum in arts and sciences. This work of building out the provost organization will continue throughout the fall semester.

We have also been busy making progress on the financial and operational initiatives that help Drew continue to improve and grow. I look forward to sharing more updates on Shine 2, the current operational plan, and associated initiatives throughout the fall. As has become tradition, I will be attending faculty, staff, and student gatherings to ensure opportunities for questions and discussion about anything on your minds.

Looking forward, we have exciting events on the horizon for this year. There’s a wonderful line-up of Drew Forum speakers, including Neil deGrasse Tyson on September 26 and Samantha Bee on October 21. Vice President Joe Biden will join us on March 28 as this year’s Thomas H. Kean Visiting Lectureship. We will also welcome Bishop William Barber II T’03 back to Drew as a part of the Theological School’s Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures on October 30-31. Additionally, I look forward to hosting our Community Sesquicentennial Celebration with a barbeque on Thursday, October 5. More information will be shared on this event in the coming weeks.

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing summer and, as it draws to a close, perhaps take some time to read the most recent issue of Drew Magazine, which features “Drew Gooders,” truly inspirational Drew alums dedicated to serving their communities, and use it as further inspiration to embody Drew’s motto, “Freely you have received; freely give.” I know that as we head into this academic year, honor our 150th anniversary, and contribute to the world around us, this concept is more significant than ever.

Finally, I’d like to express our deepest concern and best wishes to our Drew community members in Texas and Louisiana who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey and, as always, please let us know if there is anything Drew can do to support you.

I wish you the very best in 2017–18 and look forward to seeing you on campus soon.

Best regards,

MaryAnn Baenninger