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Mid-Year Update

February 29, 2012

To the Drexel Community:

Drexel is proving to be the fastest-moving academic community I have ever known. Accomplishments and milestones have been piling up since my last University-wide message at the start of the academic year, and even since the completion of my recently published 2011 President’s Report. It is my privilege to update you on some of the University's recent achievements, as well as some exciting ones that are soon to come.


Major Milestones

The quality of our research enterprise is demonstrated by the selection of four College of Engineering faculty members for National Science Foundation CAREER awards in 2012 so far. These awards support early career-development activities of junior teacher-scholars, to help prepare them for long-term contributions to research and education. One CAREER award is a great achievement for an institution; four is remarkable.

Another important funder also recognized the impact of unique Drexel research when the W.M. Keck Foundation announced a $1 million grant for our Anthony J. Drexel Plasma Institute. The grant will fund research into interactions between plasma and living systems, with the goal of expanding the applications of plasma science in medicine.

I had the privilege a few weeks ago to accompany Drexel researchers on an extremely productive trip to Israel, where we laid the groundwork for a number of advances in Drexel’s global research profile. The occasion was the second Hebrew University-Drexel University Bi-National Symposium on Translational Research in Biomedicine and Biomedical Engineering. Our Joint Drexel-Hebrew University Research Hub is funding four promising collaborative translational research projects, with at least four more on the way. We also had fruitful meetings with partners at the Israeli Institute for Technology (the Technion) and Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

New leadership is invigorating two of the University’s academic units. Dr. Joseph Hughes was named dean of the College of Engineering, coming to Drexel from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he led their School of Civil and Environmental Engineering through a period of sustained growth and elevated quality and was named the 2011 Georgia Engineer of the Year in Education. And Dr. Sandra Kirschenmann became executive director of the Sacramento Center for Graduate Studies, bringing to the position 30 years of higher education leadership experience in the Greater Sacramento region.

New Directions

The iSchool at Drexel and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette announced that they will receive funding from the National Science Foundation to create a joint Center on Visual and Decision Informatics. This virtual enterprise will serve as a research hub to develop new tools and techniques helping government and business decision makers analyze and interpret information. The CVDI will join 15 other NSF-funded Computer and Information Science and Engineering centers.

This spring marks the debut of an innovative Criminal Justice course called “Prison, Society and You,” which will bring 15 Drexel students to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia for peer-to-peer discussions of social justice issues with 15 incarcerated men. The course is part of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, an international partnership between higher education and correctional systems, and will hopefully be the springboard for similar courses in other disciplines.

ELATE at Drexel, our Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering program, has begun accepting applications for its first group of fellows from around the nation, senior women faculty in engineering, computer science and related fields who want to grow into effective institutional leaders. ELATE, modeled on the successful ELAM (Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine) program in the College of Medicine, also recently attracted funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to design evaluation systems to assess its outcomes and impact.

Individual Achievements

Our faculty are demonstrating their innovative leadership in a wide variety of forums. One major recent example is the election of Dr. Donald Bersoff as the president of the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest association of psychologists. Dr. Bersoff directs the J.D./Ph.D. program in law and psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Earle Mack School of Law.

Drexel researchers continue to produce work that both expands the frontiers of science and attracts attention by focusing on topics of public interest. A study from the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the Anthony J. Drexel Plasma Institute demonstrated that plasma can be an effective method for killing pathogens on uncooked poultry. Researchers from the iSchool reported on the popular topic of online dating, specifically how people decide what dating site to use and how they define success. And the Power of Food Scale developed by psychology researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences to better understand why some people lose control of their eating was featured online by The Doctor Oz Show.

Student-led projects at the University also have received recognition. Drexel Smart House was selected by the World Green Energy Symposium for a 2011 NOVA Award in the Educational Case Study category, honoring outstanding contributions in the area of new and green energy alternatives or sustainable innovations in existing technologies. Student-run radio station WKDU was named “Station of the Year” for the second year in a row by College Music Journal. And WPSG-TV (The CW Philly 57) added to its lineup all three seasons of “OFF CAMPUS,” the sitcom produced by students in our Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.


Remaking the Campus

The creation of Westphal College’s URBN Center in Robert Venturi’s landmark building at 35th and Market Streets and the rise of the new home for the LeBow College of Business at 32nd and Market continue at an exciting pace. Even as these buildings promise great improvement in our academic facilities, Drexel broke ground last week on a project that will set the tone for the long-range transformation of our campus and University City envisioned in the new Master Plan.

Over the next 18 months, Drexel and American Campus Communities will build more than 360,000 square feet of student housing, offices and retail space, filling in the footprint of the Creese Student Center along Chestnut Street between 32nd and 33rd Streets. This $97.6 million project is the first step in our creation of a new gateway to Drexel and University City. And our partnership with a private developer will serve as a model for future plans to reimagine spots such as the Lancaster Avenue corridor near 34th Street and eventually the prime undeveloped property we now own on JFK Boulevard across from one of America’s premier transportation hubs, 30th Street Station.

Serving the Community

Based on our belief that the regional economic growth we foster must have a solid foundation in Drexel’s own neighborhood, we are developing pathways for West Philadelphians to prepare for a variety of good careers. This year we launched the Medical Assistant Pipeline Program, a partnership with University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative to provide Certified Medical Assistants from West Philadelphia with paid training, mentoring and job opportunities through the College of Medicine.

As Drexel pursues our goal of becoming the most civically engaged and service-oriented university in the nation, outside organizations are taking notice. For example, the outstanding work done by Drexel’s weServe and Alternative Spring Break programs to connect our students to service opportunities was recognized by the Jenzabar Foundation with a 2011 Student Leadership Award. The Foundation’s awards recognize student campus groups and projects that have made a significant contribution to better the world outside of their institutions of higher education.

Excellence in Athletics

This has been one of the more exciting winters in memory for Drexel Athletics. The men’s basketball team is riding a remarkable 17-game winning streak and is gearing up to compete as the top seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament this weekend, with hopes high that they will continue to play well into March.

Our newest varsity sports, men’s and women’s squash, were bolstered by the opening of the wonderful new Kline & Specter Squash Center in the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Made possible by the generosity of Tom Kline and Shanin Specter, the Center features five competition courts, two recreational courts and comfortable facilities for the teams and their fans. It’s an amazing addition to our athletics venues.

The men’s ice hockey club experienced a unique thrill in January when they had the opportunity to play in the “Crosstown Classic” against Villanova on the NHL Winter Classic ice at Citizens Bank Park, summertime home of the Phillies. Oh, and they won the game, 7-3.


One of the most exciting things about our momentum at Drexel is that it’s hard to predict where the next big news will come from. But we know that several major events and initiatives are approaching.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has entered its bicentennial year, and a slate of informative special events is scheduled throughout 2012. There could not have been a more exciting time for the Academy and Drexel to join forces, and I strongly encourage you to take part in the celebration. Our union with the Academy also attracted another vote of confidence in the form of a $1.2 million grant from the William Penn Foundation to support the creation of our new Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.

“Dream It. Do It. Drexel: A Campaign for the Future” has had its public launch, and this comprehensive fundraising campaign will continue to bring together students, faculty and professional staff, alumni, friends of the University, funding organizations and other stakeholders in conversations about how to create the Drexel of tomorrow. Our goals are bold, compelling and inspiring, and they are well within our reach.

Finally, we are putting the finishing touches on the Drexel University Strategic Plan: 2012-2017. This comprehensive statement of our vision, goals and priorities for the University is the result of thoughtful collaboration among senior leaders, students and faculty, professional staff, alumni and trustees. I am excited to share it with you.

I thank you for your contributions to our vibrant and innovative University. I am confident that we will continue to accelerate the pace of transformation here at Drexel, together.


John A. Fry