Fry Discusses Drexel’s Future in Year’s First Town Hall

President John Fry speaking during the first strategic plan faculty and staff town hall meeting this year.
President John Fry speaking during the first strategic plan faculty and staff town hall meeting this year.

President John Fry told an audience of more than 100 Drexel faculty and staff members at Wednesday’s town hall that he wanted to discuss what lies ahead for the University.

“I would like our conversation today to be about our future and your aspirations,” he said.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first of four exploring the next phase of Drexel’s strategic plan, “Transforming the Modern Urban University,” which was launched in 2012.

After discussing progress on University-wide goals this academic year, Fry reflected on the initiatives that drove the strategic plan’s first phase, which lasted from the launch until last year. Those included becoming a transportation hub-based university and creating an “innovation nexus.”

Fry moved on to next phase of the plan, which is scheduled to run through 2019. That phase includes five initiatives: Achieving academic, professional and clinical excellence; implementing student lifecycle management; expanding Drexel’s global impact; improving research and innovation; and master planning.

Recruiting “Right-Fit” Students

Both Fry and Randy Deike, senior vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Success, discussed a shift in strategy from mass-mailing potential applicants to selling the University more individually to students familiar with Drexel who are more likely to stay at the University through graduation. That shift has resulted in fewer applications, but will bring in a class of students who will thrive in an atmosphere like Drexel.

“[We have] a goal of recruiting a highly-qualified class that will be properly packaged with financial aid to support [them] to maximize the likelihood of their success,” Fry said.

Objectives of that plan, Fry said, includes lowering the University’s freshman acceptance rate to 70 percent and raising the average SAT score for acceptance. Those changes could potentially double the percentage of accepted students who enroll at Drexel, known as the yield rate, to 15 percent.

As of Wednesday, according to Fry, early decision responses were ahead of where they were a year ago. Next year’s enrollment numbers are expected to remain the same as this year’s, with 2,900 new first-year students.

Later in the meeting, a professor from the School of Education asked what individuals in Drexel’s schools and colleges can do to support the new recruitment efforts.

“Huge changes are being made and fingers are crossed,” Fry said. “This is a big transition year for us, but it is absolutely necessary for us to do this to put us on a more competitive path.”

Building Up the Community

Master planning was another of the new phase’s goals discussed. The goal specifically includes completing construction and development that has already begun around the University as well as planning new spaces and improvements in nearby neighborhoods including the 30th Street Station district.

“We’re also going to do public realm planning, which I’m pretty excited about,” Fry said. “That’s to support and improve the aesthetics of the community spaces throughout the Drexel campus.”

Further integration of Drexel into Philadelphia is important to the strategic plan’s next phase.

“I think as this becomes a more residential campus and this becomes a campus with more choices for people socially, as it becomes a neighborhood that’s integrated into the campus and vibrant and diverse, I think that attracts people,” Fry said. “Being in a city is great. But being a part of the city you’re in is spectacular … and will really attract more students.”

A Global Impact

In addition to the plan’s emphasis on local integration, Fry also talked about stretching Drexel’s influence across the world.

He said that expanding the University’s reach outside of the United States — though not through satellite campuses, he stressed — will access new research opportunities and better prepare students for an increasingly global society.

To achieve that, Fry said it will be important to strengthen Drexel’s foreign language instruction programs. Additionally, expanding co-op programs abroad will be key.

Co-op Remains An Asset

Co-ops, in general, is a significant strength for Drexel.

“The fact is, in this day and age, having a co-op program is about the best thing that a university could have going for it with people asking for more of a return on investment,” in education, Fry said.

One audience member asked about students whose co-ops are unpaid. Fry said it is an issue that University administrators recognize, because pay for co-ops depends on the employer organization. He said they’re working on assisting students with unpaid or low-paying co-ops, such as raising money to support them.

Additionally, a new electronic database is being utilized to better track students’ career plans and how they shift as they move through the University.

Interdisciplinary Efforts

Research and interdisciplinary efforts are a big part of the new phase of the strategic plan.

Improving the University’s standing in research is key to advancing the University’s reputation, and Fry said he saw “positive activity” within innovation.

Factoring into the research goal is what Fry described as a “big bet” Drexel is making: more funding for interdisciplinary research.

He cited initiatives like the A.J. Drexel Center for Autism Research as an example of the University’s interdisciplinary efforts turning out meaningful research.

Sexual Violence Prevention

Fry also discussed efforts to further improve the way the University handles sexual violence cases.

He discussed an audit that recently took place to make sure Drexel continued to meet national standards for sexual violence cases and prevention. The audit resulted in Drexel turning over adjudication of complaints to retired judges with experience deciding such cases, which Fry said he felt was positive for the University.

Next Meetings

Faculty and staff have three more opportunities to participate in town hall meetings at three different campuses:

  • April 15, 9–10:30 a.m. / University City Campus, Bossone Research Enterprise Center, Mitchell Auditorum
  • April 22, 4–6 p.m. / Queen Lane Campus, Three Parkway Building, Auditorium B
  • May 4, 4–6 p.m. / Center City Campus, New College Building, Geary Auditorium B