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Milestone Academic Year Ahead for Drexel: 2018-19

September 24, 2018

Dear Members of the Drexel Community:

With next year’s centennial of the Drexel Co-op on the horizon, and a number of important initiatives coming to fruition across the University, I hope you are looking forward to the new academic year. Drexel is becoming more selective; its academic and research enterprises are growing stronger; its alumni and friends, generously loyal; and our rapidly evolving campus offers a more inviting and secure setting for students, faculty, professional staff and visitors.

Today, we welcome the largest and most academically talented freshman class in Drexel’s history. Drexel’s newest undergraduates are uniquely positioned for success: Their average SAT score of 1280 was 18 points higher than last year’s class, and a top priority will be to foster their active engagement as university students — with Student Life initiatives such as our First 100 Days, campus concerts, homecoming, and Greek Week.

This year, we’re joined by 17 new tenured and tenure-track faculty members, spanning two-thirds of the schools and colleges with tenure-track faculty. Our annual rankings once again placed Drexel among the top national universities, and the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education moved Drexel 10 places higher, to 74th out of nearly 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide. One in every four U.S. students seeking admission to medical school this academic year applied to our College of Medicine. Drexel researchers — supported by an 11 percent increase in sponsored research awards last year, to nearly $120 million — are making their mark, too: In June, the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association moved Drexel 18 places higher, to 54th, on its top 100 list for patents granted in the past year.

In support of scholarships and co-ops, faculty and research, academic programs and other priorities, our $750 million The Future Is a Place We Make campaign is taking great strides. For the third straight fiscal year, donors made gifts and commitments of more than $100 million, bringing the campaign total to $500 million this month, and surpassing the University’s previous fundraising campaign record of $455 million. This includes more than $77 million in scholarship support from more than 5,500 donors.

The academic year means new assignments for some colleagues, including Dr. Penny L. Hammrich, a School of Education professor and associate dean of academic affairs and graduate studies, who takes over as interim dean, replacing Dean Nancy B. Songer, who is now pursuing full-time research. Also new this year as an interim dean, Dr. Maria T. Schultheis, is guiding the College of Arts and Sciences after Dr. Donna M. Murasko completed her deanship. In the College of Engineering, we welcome Dr. Sharon L. Walker as dean, and Dr. Paul E. Jensen begins his first full academic year as the R. John Chapel Jr. Dean of the LeBow College of Business.

Our campus is growing with the formal opening of the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy at 1200 Chestnut Street in Center City. At the Institute, Thomas R. Kline School of Law students will be able to hone their litigation skills in a courtroom setting that’s not only realistic, but also conveys the majesty of the law and their calling to seek justice. This inspiring space has been created through the extraordinary generosity of Kline Law’s naming benefactor, Trustee Tom Kline. Another campus addition is Drexel Square, a beautiful public space under construction across from 30th Street Station.

The Main Building has been home to Drexel since the University’s founding in 1891 — a bustling center of activity and one of our most cherished icons. Ongoing work will help ensure this National Register building continues to serve the University well. Most immediately visible, the granite steps at the main entrance have been cleaned and repaired, and the woodwork inside the great arch has been painted the original, rich brown color. Beginning next summer, the roof and skylights will be replaced. In coming weeks, you will see preparation for this work as protective netting is suspended across the Great Court ceiling. This work, and the restoration to follow, will necessitate occasional periods of inconvenience; thank you for your patience as we ensure the preservation of this important building.

Providing a safe campus environment for the entire community remains a priority, and I have great confidence in our police force of 40 armed officers, supplemented by 150 security personnel. Five additional police officers will be on board this fall. With the increase, the Drexel Police Department will expand safety education programs for students. This month, you will also see a greater bike patrol presence between Market and Chestnut, and 30th and 34th streets, where a number of thefts have occurred.

The state of Drexel's finances is strong. The University’s continued prudent management of resources, combined with increased enrollment, generated strong net operating results for FY18. The FY19 budget prioritizes investments in faculty, academic programs, IT security and public safety, and a 3 percent salary pool for faculty and professional staff, while continuing to maintain a balanced budget. The University continues to grow endowments focusing primarily on scholarships and awards to enhance access and affordability through new gifts and aided by strong investment performance. Our commitment to operating the University at peak efficiency remains core in our approach and contributes to the strong state of Drexel’s finances.

Drexel student-athletes continue to excel both on the field, with title-winning performances, and in the classroom, with an overall 3.29 grade-point average. More than 450 student-athletes will compete in 18 varsity sports this year, and another 9,000 students will join club or intramural sports. The past year saw Drexel women's basketball win the CAA regular season title. Men's basketball waged the largest comeback in NCAA history against rival Delaware. Rowing won its sixth straight overall title at the Dad Vail Regatta, and the women's crew found success abroad at the historic Henley Women's Regatta in England. Women’s squash won the Kurtz Cup title. Wrestling finished the season nationally ranked in four different polls. Alexa Kutch marked the third straight year women’s swimming sent a representative to the NCAA Championships. Golf won the City Six, while women’s soccer made its second straight CAA tournament appearance.

There are so many elements to what we take pride in at Drexel. But, of course, our hallmark is co-op. And how different experiential learning looks today, in light of its beginnings at Drexel in 1919 among engineering students. Next year, we will celebrate the many ways that Drexel’s unique academic model contributes to the University’s singular appeal in higher education.

On Thursday, we’ll formally note the turning of the academic calendar at our Convocation. I hope you can join me at 11 a.m. in the Main Building, and I wish you all a productive and rewarding academic year.


John Fry