President Fry Holds 2nd Town Hall on ‘Viable and Transformative’ Strategic Plan

President John A. Fry at the beginning of his presentation on the strategic plan refresh in his second town hall for faculty and professional staff this year.
President John A. Fry at the beginning of his presentation on the strategic plan refresh in his second town hall for faculty and professional staff this year.

Approximately 200 Drexel faculty and professional staff members began their morning last Wednesday by hearing about the direction Drexel will be going for the next five years through its refreshed strategic plan.

“We want to make sure it’s viable and transformative,” President John A. Fry said of the plan.

Wednesday’s was the second of Fry’s four scheduled town halls. It was also the second held in the Mitchell Auditorium in the Bossone Research Enterprise Center.

The remaining two town halls will be held:

  • April 22, 4–6 p.m. / Queen Lane Campus, Auditorium B
  • May 4, 4–6 p.m. / Center City Campus, Geary B

During Wednesday’s town hall, Fry again went over the goals for 2015 and what progress has been made or is planned. He also again went through the large-scale goals of the new phase of the University’s strategic plan, “Transforming the Modern Urban University.”

The second phase is scheduled to span 2015–19.

2015 Goals

Fry’s presentation began with a rundown of goals for 2015.

He discussed the recruitment and enrollment changes implemented for the most recent application cycle. Those changes included eliminating one-click applications to Drexel, like the Fast App, in favor of more directly marketing the University to “right-fit” students who are more inclined to be successful and stay through graduation.

The strategy is yielding fewer applications, but the intent is to keep enrollment numbers stable, since the students applying likely have a greater interest in Drexel.

“I absolutely believe this is the right thing to do,” Fry said of the new recruitment strategies.

Another goal for 2015 was to name a new provost. Fry told those gathered Wednesday that he expected to make an announcement soon. Friday, Fry named M. Brian Blake, PhD, of the University of Miami, as the permanent successor to Mark Greenberg.

A further piece of the puzzle: The master planner for the University’s Innovation Neighborhood will likely be selected soon, as well, according to Fry.

Fry also discussed further integration of Drexel Online into Drexel, which will continue into next year.

Advancing Research

Getting into the longer-term goals that are part of the strategic plan, Fry discussed potential improvements to the University’s research facilities.

Since a goal of the strategic plan is to increase the research standing of Drexel, the state of some of the buildings and labs where research takes place is an issue.

“One of our big competitive disadvantages is our research facilities,” Fry said. “We have a retention issue for some of our high-flying faculty and, honestly, it’s an embarrassment for a university that strives to be in the top 100 American universities in the Lombardi Report to have some of the research facilities that we have here.”

He laid out some of the plans.

“In order to enhance Drexel’s research capacity, [we must] commence detailed planning and construction for the renovation of Bossone and 3101 Market [St.] for engineering research facilities,” Fry said.

Approximately 200 faculty and professional staff members gathered for Fry's second town hall of 2015.

Fry made sure to assure those present that academic buildings are not being forgotten, but the research buildings factor directly into the strategic plan.

“We have some interesting renovation possibilities, which is where we are going to be spending a lot of our short-term money,” Fry said. “But in the long term, we really need to buckle down and invest in research facilities.”

Social Justice Issues

Two strong factors in goals of the master plan are expanding the conversations on race and other social justice issues on campus, as well as continuing to clamp down on Title IX issues, such as sexual violence.

Wednesday morning, an email from Fry went out on a report he received from Interim Provost James Herbert and Vice Provost Lucy Kerman, both tasked with exploring the state of race relations and inclusion at Drexel. They gave him some suggestions, such as having Associate Vice President Michele Rovinsky-Mayer, of the Office of Equality and Diversity, form a standing subcommittee to regularly report on how Drexel is doing at creating a “welcoming culture.”

During the meeting, Fry said he wanted the University to take a more mindful approach toward race relations.

“We want to better communicate our work and our commitment to diversity and social justice,” Fry said.

A person in the audience suggested potentially creating a required multiculturalism class, which Fry called a “good idea.” He said those were the types of things they were considering.

Additionally, amid Drexel’s Sexual Violence Awareness Month campaign, Fry said “no campus is immune to” issues like sexual assault and that everyone must take a proactive approach to preventing it, which includes reporting issues and offenses to the Office of Equality and Diversity or, in urgent cases, Drexel’s Department of Public Safety.

Further steps have been taken over the last year to improve the University’s Title IX procedures and exceed national standards.

Concluding Programs

Fry talked about the University ending community college programs it had with Montgomery County Community College and Burlington County Community College.

“Frankly, I’m really disappointed,” he said. “I thought it was a great idea to have our faculty involved on the campuses of these community colleges, but because of small enrollments, it would be tough to fund it in the future and have any sort of reasonable return.”

He also said that Drexel University Sacramento fell under the same category of not being feasible to continue while also pursuing the main goals set forth in the strategic plan.

“We’ve had to make tough choices in regard to the Drexel network,” Fry said.

Thanking everyone who contributed to getting Drexel University Sacramento started, Fry assured those gathered that all current students in the cancelled programs would be accommodated through graduation.

Responsibility Center Management

During the Q&A period after Fry’s presentation, several questions focused on the new budgeting model being rolled out over the next three years, Responsibility Center Management (RCM).

The budgeting model will be centered on the University’s sources of revenue, including colleges, schools, centers and departments. It is designed to give them more leeway in deciding their own budgets.

Fry listens as a member of the audience asks a question during Wednesday's town hall.

One faculty member discussed his concerns about the current “parallel year,” during which units were supposed to have a sample Responsibility Center Management budget, which would mirror the current budget, enabling units to see how the new model would be implemented. Unfortunately, many units don’t have the parallel budgets yet and have not been able to try out the new process.

Herbert said that the Responsibility Center Management budget is still expected to go completely live in July of 2017, with 2016 remaining a “hold harmless” year. However, there have been some delays as the mechanics of the system are worked out.

Part of the delay is due to improvements being built into the budgeting model. They’re based on input from faculty and professional staff at various college and school meetings over the last few months.

“At pretty much every college, we’ve gotten some nugget of information that has resulted in a change of the model,” Herbert explained. “Every time you change one of those drivers, it kind of throws everything back.”

He said they want to make sure everything is in full working order before the RCM roll-out continues.

Another question brought up concerns about how implementing RCM would work when it comes to interdisciplinary efforts.

That incentive would come from the One University Fund, which will be set up to start out such efforts. That “centrally funded endowment” will likely soon be the focus of a fundraising priority.

The next town hall will be held in Auditorium B of the Queen Lane Campus at 4 p.m. April 22. DrexelNow’s Twitter account, @DrexelNow, will live tweet the town hall using the hashtag #DUTownHall so anyone interested can follow along.