President John A. Fry toasts to Drexel's future at his first town hall meeting of 2016.
Drexel President John A. Fry began and ended the first of three town hall meetings planned for this spring praising those involved in bringing Advanced Functional Fabrics of America to the University (AFFOA): first by naming the individuals and colleges that made it possible, and then again with a champagne toast to close the meeting.
“This was a really, really big moment for our University. In the six years I’ve been here, this is the single most important thing I’ve seen,” said President Fry. “We are competing against — and winning against — absolutely some of the best universities in the country. This was a long shot going in. But the best ideas and the best people won against the best universities in the country.”
The theme of Drexel winning was carried throughout the first part of the presentation, as Fry highlighted “Drexel Achievers.” He singled out the 80-student Hyperloop Team, who beat out hundreds of other colleges in Space X’s international competition and will present their prototype this summer; Diana Robins, PhD, who is continuing to fight for autism screening in toddlers; and Loretta Sweet Jemmott, who is focused on expanding health equity in local neighborhoods.
Fry did not shy away from discussing areas where Drexel is still developing. He spoke of the new Graduate College’s mandate to bring a sharper focus and new programs to better serve Drexel’s graduate students. Medical education is getting a new curriculum in 2017, “Foundations and Frontiers,” emphasizing a more intentional approach to clinical exposure, research and civic engagement.
Expanding online education is also part of Drexel’s future, and Fry said that online and hybrid courses should no longer be considered “exotic.” There’s a four-year investment plan for nine new programs in seven colleges, and a goal of exceeding $70 million annual revenue from online education. He encouraged all faculty in attendance to think about online courses they might teach.
“This is a really important part of not only your own professional development,” Fry said, “but for the future of this University.”
Drexel has increased its neighborhood focus, working with local and minority-owned businesses to create the engaged community that Fry considers a priority. This wouldn’t be possible, according to Fry, without faculty leadership. Fry singled out and thanked a handful of faculty members who have taken on civic engagement roles.
Retention of freshmen from fall to winter term was at 97.3 percent — the highest in five years — and although Fry does not see this as a guarantee of long-term success, he called it “a good start.” When asked to elaborate further on the enrollment approach during the Q&A portion of the town hall, Fry talked about the importance of a relationship-building approach over a mass-market technique.
“High-quality students who want to be here, who have been well recruited and really understand what Drexel has to offer, the chances of them graduating within six years begin to increase dramatically,” Fry said. “That is the big university goal we have to talk about here.”
Fry also outlined the details of the Schuylkill Yards development, and he was emphatic that the deal will contribute to the University’s endowment through land appreciation and lease payments by developers, rather than costing Drexel money.
“What we’re trying to do is take the real estate we’ve acquired for the last 20 years and figure out how to sensibly monetize it so that there’s a cash flow back to the University,” he said
When all was concluded, Fry gathered everyone for the champagne toast to the AFFOA team he had promised at the beginning, saying “Drexel does its best work when it works together.”
Upcoming Town Halls:
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 4 p.m. Center City Campus Geary B Auditorium 245 North 15th Street
Thursday, April 7, 2016 4 p.m. Queen Lane Campus SAC Hall 2900 Queen Lane