Convocation 2015: Making This Drexel’s ‘Best Year Ever’

President John A. Fry speaking at the 2015 Drexel Convocation.
President John A. Fry speaking at the 2015 Drexel Convocation.

In the ceremonial start to Drexel’s 2015–16 school year, Youngmoo Kim made a stark declaration: this will be “the best year ever” at Drexel.

Kim, PhD, served as keynote speaker for the University’s convocation ceremony held Thursday, and the associate professor in the Drexel College of Engineering and director of the Drexel ExCITe Center told the faculty and staff gathered that the signs for a banner year were stacking up.

“You can’t help but notice all the changes to our campus, the latest being the opening of The Summit,” Kim explained. “We are well on the path to realizing the Innovation Neighborhood, a model partnership for the 21st century to bring [Drexel] closer than ever to civic and industry concerns. Our incoming class is one of the most selective in history and, perhaps more important, one of the best informed about Drexel and our unique approach to experiential education.

“I hope you’re as excited as I am for this upcoming year,” he said.

Several hundred turned out for this year’s Convocation in Main Auditorium. It was the first Convocation in recent memory held prior to the start of classes, and Kim’s excitement for the coming classes was palpable.

The excitement didn’t stop with Kim. President John A. Fry said that at a recent kickoff event for new students, he could feel a distinct energy.

“What I sensed was that those students made the biggest decision of their lives so far, and they were extremely confident in the kind of University they had chosen and why Drexel was the place they were supposed to be,” Fry said.

During Convocation, Fry stressed that the success of Drexel’s students, particularly its newest students, relies on to the efforts of the University’s faculty and staff.  

Richard A. Greenwalt, chairman of the Drexel Board of Trustees, echoed Fry’s sentiments. He also expressed support of the University’s collective effort to improve the community around it.

“Your hard work and your vision inspires our board,” he said. “I’m proud of your impact on Drexel students, on our neighborhoods, on our city and on society. I’m especially proud of our faculty pursuing solutions to the big challenges of our time and how you collaborate to increase your effectiveness.”

Just over a month after joining the University, new provost M. Brian Blake, PhD, attended his first Drexel Convocation. So far, he likes what he sees at Drexel.

“Drexel is definitely the most progressive and agile institution in higher education today,” Blake said.

This year and moving forward, Blake said he wanted to develop and create programs “that meet students exactly where they are.”

He laid out some potential ideas that he hopes to champion, like creating alternate enrollment plans for the summer and winter quarters to encourage a more diverse student base and developing market-driven online and graduate programs.

He also emphasized his intent to partner with Drexel’s faculty and deans to focus resources on “signature programs” and highlight and improve the best parts of Drexel’s curriculum.

“Drexel has a phenomenal history and a story that places it without peer among the nation’s most premier institutions,” Blake said. “I look forward to working diligently with our community, and I look forward to your partnership.”

Partnership was a focus of Kim’s keystone speech. He stressed that “multidisciplinary collaboration … represents the very future of education, research, innovation and expression at our University and in our world.”

Genevieve Dion’s smart fabrics and Frank Lee’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio are just a few examples of meaningful multidisciplinary collaborations at work at Drexel, Kim said. He said they harken back to the pillars of Drexel’s founding and that “multidisciplinarity is in the very DNA of our institution.”

But when it comes down to it, multidisciplinarity is an effective way to solve problems and bring about change, according to Kim.

“We can make things better and we must make things better,” Kim told the gathered faculty and staff. “Let Anthony J. Drexel’s words resonate: ‘I know the world is going to change, and the Institute will change with it.’ That change starts right here, right now, with us. And that is why this will be Drexel’s best year ever.”