Opening of School Letter, 8/29/18

Opening of School Letter, 8/29/18


As has become tradition, I write to welcome you to the new academic year, to share with you an update on activities that occurred over the summer, and to preview some of our plans for this academic year.

The Provost structure, in place for a little over one year, has fundamentally changed the ways in which the three academic schools interact and collaborate, as well as the ways in which we develop and support our students. I would like to highlight a few examples of the things we accomplished together this past year:

  • We created a comprehensive, data-driven process for thinking strategically about new program development that builds on each school’s historic strengths and will contribute to the University’s strategic growth.
  • We standardized policies, procedures, and processes in the graduate programs, and aligned them as appropriate across the three schools while ensuring the full range of Drew services are available to both graduate and undergraduate students.
  • We created an integrated faculty governance structure that necessitated building a single Graduate Academic Standing Committee (for students in both Caspersen and the Theological School); a single Arts & Sciences process for review, tenure, and promotion of faculty; and a single Arts & Sciences process for curricular review and approval.

Among other benefits, these structural changes produced and supported notable curricular developments in all three schools. The Theological School concluded a two-year process that resulted in approval of new degree programs, a comprehensively transformed curricula, and new policies governing faculty workload and expectations to support the implementation of the project ahead. The Master of Arts in Teaching degree as well as the History and Culture program in the Caspersen School underwent significant curricular revision, and we developed new programs in Teacher Education and Finance at the graduate level. In addition to the many majors and minors that faculty in the College revised, new majors in Public Health and Environmental Science were approved, a Bachelor of Science degree was approved, and a framework for a reimagined undergraduate experience (the CRUE project) was endorsed.

Each of these programmatic initiatives is critical to our ability to attract new students to all three schools, and our new and streamlined administrative processes are making both our work and our students’ experiences better supported and more seamless integrated. We were only able to make this much progress in a single year because of the supportive attitudes and hard work of many people – faculty, staff, and the academic leadership team – and I’m grateful that our entire community was so engaged in these efforts.

Many faculty and staff members were also involved last year in bringing to Drew a truly phenomenal group of new faculty, and I want to offer a sincere thank you for these efforts. Joining the Drew faculty this fall are:

  • Carolina Arango-Vargas (Women’s and Gender Studies & Anthropology)
  • Alex Bajcz (Biology and Environmental Studies)
  • Jeremy Blatter (Media and Communications & Sociology)
  • Christopher Fazen (Chemistry)
  • Oleg Ivanets (Economics & Business)
  • Jens Lloyds (English and Director of First-Year Writing)
  • Ziyuan Meng (Computer Science)
  • Tomás Morín (English and Creative Writing)
  • Akwasi Nti-Addae (Economics & Business)
  • Jennifer Quigley (New Testament and Early Christian Studies)
  • Brandie Waid (Teacher Education)

In addition, I am especially pleased to welcome three faculty members who have been teaching at Drew for a collective thirteen years into new positions: Sangay Mishra (Political Science & International Relations) and Yahya Madra (Economics & Business) are moving into tenure-track lines, and Rory Mulligan (Art) is now a full-time member of the faculty.

We’ve also welcomed a number of key new staff members to the academic division at Drew:

  • Dr. Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, the new associate provost for experiential education and career development, comes to Drew from Ithaca College where he was the executive director of career services. Daniel will begin his work at Drew on September 10th.
  • John Jordan, the academic director of Drew’s INTO Center, spent the last four years directing the university prep program at Alfaisal University in Riyadh and previously served as curriculum supervisor at Colorado State’s INTO Center.
  • Amo Kubeyinje comes to Drew as our associate vice president for graduate enrollment from William Paterson University where he was the director of graduate admissions.
  • Irina Radeva, Drew’s reference and government documents librarian, comes to us from Rutgers where she was library associate.
  • Dr. Meredith Hoxie-Schol, Director of Doctoral Studies in the Theological School, comes to Drew from her role as Director of Research and Communications for one of the global agencies of the United Methodist Church.

This summer has also been extremely busy:

  • The June on-campus orientation program for undergraduates was extraordinarily successful. Over 317 students attended, while 113 others took advantage of distance orientation. It took a village to make this a stellar first experience for our incoming students, so thank you to all the faculty and staff who were a part of these important days, especially the folks doing first-year advising. Michelle Brisson, Jill Cermele, and Maria Masucci deserve special thanks for taking leadership of this program and ensuring that our newest students are happy, informed, and registered for courses!
  • An ad hoc committee to analyze the implications of significant student growth for instructional, residential, and administrative space has been formed. There is an oversight committee with representation from the academic administrative team, and subcommittees on each area. Thanks to Jim Bazewicz (instructional), Minjoon Kouh (residential), and Tina McKittrick (administrative) for serving in the committee. This work will continue through the fall with a preliminary report to the Trustees in October and a final report and recommendations about necessary capital investments due in February.
  • The Theological School continues their recent success in winning grants for programmatic initiatives. This fall they launch their new curricula in five of their six degree programs, a process which was largely supported by the DuPont Fund, and will also launch the Social Justice Leadership Project, an initiative in Public Theology funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. This initiative will bring to campus leaders and artists at the forefront of social change in the United States, and will help to equip religious leaders, congregations, and justice artists in connecting their ideas and resources with purposeful action in their communities. A major public event will launch the program in October.
  • At my request, the Arts & Sciences Committee on Faculty worked over the summer to review faculty at the associate and full ranks who had not been reviewed in seven or more years. Many thanks to Sarah Abramowitz, Monica Cantero, Patrick Dolan, Roger Knowles, and Peggy Kuntz for doing the work to bring us up to date on faculty reviews!

As President Baenninger wrote in her fall 2018 welcome note, our efforts to become more efficient and grow the student body over the past few years have been successful and we must continue as we work towards a sustainable Drew. To this end, the academic team has continued work over the summer on our major initiatives–LAUNCH for the CLA and Curriculum Transformation for Theo–to strengthen existing and develop new educational offerings in a way that helps us pivot to better meet the market.

After the endorsement of the the CRUE platform last spring, Juliette Lantz, Ryan Hinrichs, and Mike Fried took the lead on generating a process for how to proceed with design development of the curricular elements of the framework. A first discussion of this process has been had with a joint meeting of the Curricular and Assessment Committees, with representation from Dean’s Council. We are also putting together an ad hoc committee of faculty and staff to coordinate the overall implementation of the co-curricular and curricular elements of the framework. For the curricular components of CRUE, this group will work with standing committees in the College, and the faculty more generally, with the goal of bringing a newly designed curriculum forward for a faculty vote by December. I will be sending a separate email to Arts & Science faculty with more information about this process. As MaryAnn’s letter explains, we have named this our LAUNCH program. “Launch” will serve as Drew’s one-of-a-kind, leading edge path to an undergraduate degree, syncing rigorous liberal arts education with professional and career development and powerful community engagement.

In addition, the academic and admissions teams have continued to establish partnerships with other institutions to create pathways into our graduate and undergraduate programs. For example, we have finalized Memorandum of Understanding with several institutions including Gettysburg College, Dickinson College, and Bloomfield University, for seamless entry into our Master in Finance program. In Teacher Education, Kristen Turner (and her team) and Bob Massa have taken the lead establishing partnerships for entry into our 4+1 BA/BS-MAT, including with Raritan Valley Community College and County College of Morris. They also finalized MOU’s with Chester, Morris, and Madison School Districts for student teaching placement and preferred entry into our M.Ed.. We also have contract agreements to provide ongoing professional development with three school districts and one additional high school.

This summer we have re-structured several areas that are part of the Office of the Provost:

  • In order to create a digital services team that crosses the library and instructional technology staff and build an Instructional Technology group to meet the needs of a 21st century university, Instructional Technology is now reporting to Andrew Bonamici, university librarian. Shawn Spaventa has provided much-needed interim stability in the day-to-day operations of Instructional Technology and the Media Resource Center. I am very pleased that he has agreed to stay in this role permanently.
  • In addition, we have restructured existing Instructional Technology salary lines to establish and begin recruiting for two new positions – a Digital Scholarship Technology Manager, who will focus primarily on the University’s digital humanities (DH) and digital scholarship (DS) initiatives, and an Instructional Designer, to work on the move to hybrid and online graduate courses. These positions will expand capacity for faculty training and consultation on use of digital tools and technologies in courses, curricular and co-curricular changes in the CRUE framework, and expansion of graduate education to online and hybrid formats.
  • As we continue our efforts to build the Center for Experiential Education and Career Development, the Center for Internships and Career Development will now be reporting in the academic area rather than to Bob Massa. Sue Ceravalo and Maya Sanyal, director and assistant director of career services, have left Drew to pursue other opportunities, and I am grateful that Dick White has agreed to serve as interim director of CICD during this time of transition.
  • Judy Redling, Frank Merckx and I have worked to restructure some existing staff positions to better manage student issues that come through the Critical Intervention Response Team process (aka CIRT). The goal of this restructuring is to ensure that we are able to pay sufficient attention to broader retention related issues while addressing needs of individual students.

The Compensation Monitoring Committee met over the summer, and the chairs (Chris Apelian and Hillary Morgan) have been planning their agenda for the year with Maria Force; the first meeting during the academic year will be very soon. President Baenninger and I have also agreed that the faculty representation on the Annual Planning and Budgeting Council should be elected. There will be one faculty representative from the Theological School and two from Arts & Sciences. If you are interested in running for one of these positions, or if you would like to nominate someone else, please email this information to by Tuesday, September 4th. An electronic vote will be held the week of September 10th in order to ensure that the committee is staffed prior to its first meeting, which is on September 18th. (Please note that this committee meets approximately biweekly on Tuesdays from 10:30-12:00).

We begin this fall welcoming 425 new first-time undergraduate students, 66 transfer undergraduate students, 43 new pathway students and 11 students in Academic English, 135 new Theological students, and 80 new CSGS students to our community! This includes 13 students in the new Masters of Finance program and 11 in the new Master of Education. These numbers represent significant growth over last year in all three schools, and represent some of the largest classes that we have brought to Drew in the past seven years. These outcomes would not have been possible without the work of the Admissions and Communications teams as well as INTO Center staff, so I thank them for their efforts. Additionally, Frank Merckx, Michelle Brisson, and their teams have done an excellent job welcoming and orienting our new undergraduate students to campus, and Melanie Johnson DeBaufre, Joanne Montross, and Beth Babcock, who staged excellent orientation programs for our newest graduate students.

We’ve affected and experienced a tremendous amount of change recently and I am heartened by the ways we have worked thoughtfully and collaboratively to make such progress. We are on the right path, and with the amazing talent of Drew’s faculty and staff, we can together navigate the challenges facing Drew and higher education today. I look forward to continuing our work, and to re-connecting with each of you as the new semester begins.



Debra Liebowitz
Dean of CLA and CSGS