FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Questions & Answers from the 1/24/23 Strategic Plan Community Update
(Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and COO Helen Bowman): The challenges we face are not unique to Drexel; they are being felt throughout all of higher education. Over the past decade, Drexel has made significant investments in financial aid, programmatic enhancements, and facility improvements. The real goal behind all these investments was to generate a return in the form of higher enrollment yields (which will ultimately lead to a higher NTR per student), growth in our research portfolio, growth in our graduate program enrollment, and strengthening of our retention and graduation rates.
While we remain confident that these returns will be achieved, the favorable impact has not materialized as quickly as expected, while the investments have left the University with accelerated expenses that aren’t being recovered. Several colleges and schools are experiencing declining enrollments, graduate enrollments in many places have remained stagnant or declined, and undergraduate yield remains below our desired expectations. All of these factors impact our revenue. In addition, retention is experiencing a setback nationwide as a residual effect of COVID-19, and Drexel has not been immune. While we are proud that our research portfolio has grown, we're not seeing the expected increases in indirect cost recovery and graduate enrollment. The University has had to nimbly address these setbacks using one-time measures, but now we need to work together to address them structurally, with permanent solutions, until we begin to capitalize on the investments made and generate the expected returns.
As for FY23, due to lower undergraduate and graduate results, the University’s increased merit pool for faculty and professional staff, and unforeseen expense increases, the deficit has increased. As a result, the University must work together to limit spend, achieve efficiencies wherever possible, increase fundraising, and recover lost revenue. The FY24 budget is still under development; any unresolved gap from FY23 will be added to it. Under the current assumptions, expenses are growing faster than revenues, so in addition to the steps being taken for the short term, we're also developing a five-year plan that will result in a sustainable operating budget model moving forward.
(Brian Keech, Senior Vice President, Government and Community Relations): Over the past few years there have been significant increases in federal spending – in areas such as research, student aid, workforce development and infrastructure -- that provide opportunity for Drexel’s students, faculty and professional staff, and we will continue working to maximize these opportunities for the benefit of the institution. Drexel secures approximately $140 million per year from primarily the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the departments of education and defense, as well as commerce, energy and labor, for faculty research. In addition, student aid programs also make up a significant source of funds for Drexel and our students, at around $230 million annually. Increases in Pell, SEOG, federal work-study, and other programs offer opportunity for our students. In addition to the FY23 annual budget recently approved by Congress, the past two years have seen increases in federal funding for research and other relevant initiatives through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Each federal spending bill provides research grants and funding opportunities for workforce development and education-related programs. In fact, the University has received significant funds from the ARP, primarily through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and we still have several grants pending for public safety. Finally, federal and state matching programs in health care have provided the University with the opportunity to secure millions of dollars in additional supplemental funding over and above our base level funding for Drexel’s College of Medicine and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children for two consecutive years and we are working to repeat the same this year.
(Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Megan Weyler): The overall employment outlook in the US has been a challenge. In just the past 12 months, we have gone from a significant fight for talent to headlines of mass layoffs in multibillion-dollar organizations. Drexel is facing budgetary challenges that we must permanently correct. While all efforts are being made towards increases in revenue, we should expect to have expense reductions. We cannot guarantee that there will not be any layoffs, but we are looking at every other innovative solution and we'll move forward with those first, including opportunities such as job sharing or part-time availability for positions. When it comes to hiring, we will focus on essential, revenue-generating positions that are mission critical and advance strategic priorities.
(Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Megan Weyler): We are evaluating the option of offering a voluntary retirement incentive program, similar to what was offered in 2020, which required a minimum age and years of service.
(Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Megan Weyler): We are evaluating all options. Drexel is currently conducting a peer and market analysis on the program.
(Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Megan Weyler): We are considering all of these options. Individuals are really striving for work-life balance after the past few years of trauma and burnout, and if we want to attract and retain top talent, we need to adapt to the evolving world of work. Most recently, we have evaluated an option of a nine-month staff appointment, but this may not be feasible on a large scale. There are many other options managers can consider, such as job-sharing, one of the flexible work arrangements available through Drexel’s policy, in which two individuals work on a part-time basis to fulfill the goals and responsibilities of one position. At this point, it has been proven that we can offer flexibility while maintaining, or even increasing, productivity. HR business partners are available to assist with these types of decisions.
Resource: Flexible Work Arrangement Resources
(Megan Weyler, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer): In 2016, the Provost’s Office implemented a new pay scale for adjunct faculty with a minimum required rate of $1,000 per credit hour. While this new rate primarily impacted those at the lower end of the scale, some of which doubled, it did not impact all. Currently, each college or school determines adjunct pay rates based on the market for their discipline but must abide by the $1,000 minimum. Drexel employs almost 1,000 adjunct faculty each term. They are an integral part of Drexel’s success. It has been a few years since the last market assessment was completed, so it is time for us to conduct a new study. Any increase recommendations will need to be prioritized as we finalize a multi-year strategy for budgetary needs.
(Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Megan Weyler): At this time, we are asking individuals to limit non-essential travel and spending as much as possible; however, we encourage employees to take advantage of any online or virtual presentation opportunities, which may be more cost effective, and to take advantage of professional development, workshops, training and certificate programs that Drexel offers through Career Pathway.
Resources: target="blank">Talent Development at Drexel
(Provost Paul Jensen): Among the important goals for RCM is to provide greater transparency and accountability. Units that are doing well and exceeding budgets will share in that surplus profit. Units that fall short will feel the accountability of that. Schools and colleges will feel both sides. Resource allocation at the department level is a decision of the dean. I think it's also important to distinguish between year-to-year growth for a unit and exceeding budget. So, it's possible to have a unit that is growing year-to-year, but if their budget forecast is growing, they may not be exceeding the budget, and therefore not having profit sharing.
(Provost Paul Jensen): President Fry and I talked about this, and we found ourselves in a situation where we had two choices and neither ideal. The choices were to delay the search and run the risk of not having a permanent leadership in place next year. Or the other choice was to move ahead with the search and recognize that there could be changes to academic structure. We felt that the risks of moving ahead with the deans' searches and securing leadership are much lower. We are going out with searches for the existing units as they are, as there's a chance there may not be any change in structure. The timing is such that we will have recommendations from the UAC by the end of April. We will be extremely clear with the finalists about this process.
(Provost Paul Jensen): First, thanks Aleister Saunders, executive vice provost for Enrollment Management and and Rena Cumby, Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee Chair and associate professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, for co-chairing the UAC and for all the work they have put in so far. An announcement about the UAC and its membership went out to the community on Jan. 24 providing the timeline and details for recommendations, which are due by the end of April. Ensuring alignment with the University’s Strategic Plan implementation, many of the members of the UAC are also serving on Strategic Plan implementation teams, and several served on the Executive Planning Committee (EPC) that crafted the plan. While the UAC is not embedded within the Strategic Plan’s structure, it is in direct support of the plan and its goals. It is important to understand that while we have a Strategic Plan implementation in progress, we also have individual units that are responsible for aligning their work to the plan and for planning to long-term success, including academic, operational and financial stability. In the Provost’s Office, for example, our initiatives include RCM and Areas of Excellence and Opportunity (AEOs), and we work closely with Elisabeth and her implementation team to ensure alignment.
(Provost Paul Jensen): Over a year ago, Evelyn Thimba, senior vice president for Enrollment Management, and her team raised this issue based on what we were seeing in some of the placement exam results. At that point, we started working with the College of Arts and Sciences to identify needed investments to better support students. This year we have been working with Dean David Brown and Doug Wright, chair of the math department, to create smaller sections of courses and make some pedagogical changes that are being implemented this winter. We're also monitoring attendance more closely to head off problems earlier. We are going to be evaluating the effectiveness of placement exams as an indicator for preparedness, which Steve Weber, inaugural vice provost for undergraduate curriculum and education and professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and I will be bringing people together to explore.
(Subir Sahu, Senior Vice President for Student Success): This is a real challenge for all of us across institutions of higher education. Students are coming into college with increased needs, more complex needs, and the need for more individualized attention. Rather than host large-scale programs to reach as many students as possible, we’re going to have to take a more individualized approach. And the one way to do that is to really think about how we make these large, complex communities simpler. How do we make them smaller so that students know who to reach out to when they do face those issues? I want to recognize the great work of Annette Molyneux, associate vice president for student success and director of Counseling and Health, and Tania Czarnecki, executive director of the Counseling Center, in overseeing our Counseling Center. They have done a lot of work to meet students where they are through embedded counselor positions, hybrid models of counseling, reaching out through different mechanisms, and not just having a brick-and-mortar approach. I think that's really helped. Katie Zamulinsky, associate vice president and dean of Student Life, has also implemented a lot of this work within Student Life.
(Evelyn Thimba, Senior Vice President, Enrollment Management): In addition to the work being done at the newly announced ARC, we are doubling down on the initiatives that were first implemented under Student Lifecycle Management, namely the Early Warning System and Gateway Course Initiative looking at the keys to success with faculty and advisors, a strong focus on analyzing the results of the First-Year Survey, and using the responses to reach students who have identified their areas of weakness, making sure they are aware of all the resources available. We are also working with academic leadership to continually assess advising loads.
(Evelyn Thimba, Senior Vice President, Enrollment Management) An increasing number of colleges and universities are considering a tuition pricing reset as a strategic tactic to address the high sticker pricing and the high discount models that have become the norm in higher education. Over the past three years, Drexel has engaged in several tuition reset conversations, including the commission of The McKinsey Group, to determine if this strategic tactic is worth exploring. In addition to extensive research and analysis performed by the Enrollment Management team, the McKinsey team strongly recommended against this approach noting that the reputational risk, exhaustion of institutional bandwidth and the low and potential negative impact to net tuition revenue as reasons why this would not be a wise strategic and tactical move for Drexel.
(Kim Gholston, Vice President, Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture and Chief Diversity Officer):The work continues and we appreciate all of you that have leaned in to support the Anti-Racism Task Force commitments and our overall Culture of Equity. The report of Drexel’s Anti-Racism Commitments and the work that is being done across the University can be found on the Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture (EIC) website. We are also launching a pilot that consists of a mix of 11 administrative and academic units working towards the operationalization of two of the University-wide Anti-Racism Commitments that include: 1) Enhancing racial literacy by creating learning opportunities at the individual and organizational levels through dialogues, and assigned workshops, films, and articles; and 2) Creating an inclusive employee experience that is supported by conditions that reflect and reinforce anti-racism efforts and a culture of equity. In addition to identifying approaches to operationalizing these commitments, we will identify a comprehensive evaluation approach to monitor success. Once determined, we will invite volunteers from this group to pilot these approaches prior to deploying them across the University. Lastly, this group will serve as thought partners as we continue with the implementation and success monitoring of all 64 anti-racism commitments across the University.
(Kim Gholston, Vice President, Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture and Chief Diversity Officer): Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are major components to student retention. EIC continues to connect our education, programming and interventions to increased student retention and to engage with our DEI partners and student identity groups across the University to help resource and support their needs and initiatives.
(Don Liberati, Associate Vice President, Drexel Business Services) While you are on campus, we hope you will visit any of the locations below where faculty or professional staff members at Drexel University can find a place to eat, relax and talk with colleagues.
The City View Lounge is a new employees-only spot on the University City Campus that opened earlier this month. Located on the sixth floor of MacAlister Hall at 3250 Chestnut Street, it features lots of space where you can bring your own food, bring up something from another dining location in the building, pick up food from a dining location across campus, and/or purchase your own grab-and-go items through a self-service market for meals, snacks, desserts and coffee.
All Drexel Campus Dining locations are open to faculty, staff, and students. Drexel Campus Dining offers dining plan options for faculty and professional staff that makes dining on campus more convenient and affordable than ever. There are two different plan options to choose from.
Visit any of local retail options on or around Drexel’s campus. A listing can be found on the Drexel Business Services website.
(Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Erin Horvat, Senior Vice Provost, Faculty Advancement, Interim Dean, School of Education & Caroline Schauer, Interim Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement) Although new initiatives are in development, several existing university-wide programs provide networking and community-building opportunities for faculty with shared professional and personal interests. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- For faculty with an interest in enhancing their teaching craft, the Teaching and Learning Center offers the Drexel Institute for Inclusive and Equitable Teaching, the Drexel Teaching Academy, and numerous workshops and events throughout the year.
- For faculty seeking to engage more with the community, the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement offers workshops for community-based and community-engaged learning.
- The Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships offers volunteer opportunities and a monthly free and family-friendly community dinner where all are welcome.
- Various colleague resource groups exist for faculty and staff, each with programming and events.
- Drexel Athletics events are exciting ways to support student-athletes, but also to enjoy socializing with colleagues.
In addition to these university level resources, we encourage faculty to partner with their program/department head and college/school leadership to develop local opportunities for engagement. Community building is critical to our success and satisfaction at work. These local environments are often where we have the closest relationships that sustain us, and it takes us all working together to make our local communities what we hope they will be.
(Alan Greenberger, Vice President for Real Estate & Facilities): Drexel does not own the Shush Building. It is part of a complex of buildings and properties that is now in bankruptcy and will be put up for sale very soon. The building has been boarded up and secured to ensure the safety of our community members in Center City.
On December 15, 2019, Tower Health and Drexel University completed the acquisition of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. The partnership between Tower Health and Drexel University ensures that St. Christopher's will remain a source of health and healing, medical education and research, and jobs and economic benefit for its Philadelphia neighborhood and the broader region just as it has for the last 144 years.
Questions & Answers from the 5/17/22 Strategic Plan Community Update
(Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and COO Helen Bowman): So just so everybody understands, undergrad and grad net tuition revenue, as well as room and board are increasing by about $25 million, as well as revenue from one-time opportunities of approximately $20 million. That said, we are experiencing some decreases in revenue in both undergrad and grad online learning revenue of about $5 million. This is expected, however, as a result of coming out of COVID, particularly experiencing this is the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the School of Education. Two schools, whose enrollments were greatly impacted by the by COVID. Undergrad registration fees are also declining by about $2 million due to graduation of a larger class and with smaller classes coming in during these COVID years. So, from a revenue perspective, we are seeing an increase in revenue, but it's not increasing larger than the expense structure. On the expense side, why all schools, colleges and departments are coming together to help close the budget gap, primarily through temporary expense reduction. This included dependence on designated funds as well, so many of the expenses have been put on designated funds versus operating funds so that's not a longer-term solution that can be maintained. In addition to all these expense reductions on the operating budget there were major investments that required funding so that we could spark future growth. Those investments include investing in the health sciences building, various faculty lines, including seven new faculty lines and filling 54 existing lines which include 39 tenure track and 15 non-tenure track. We're investing in growth areas - one example is CCI we're seeing tremendous growth there. We're providing additional funding for math support for our students, as a result of COVID impact on their math skills, additional funding in enrollment management student services and other student activities to support our current and incoming undergrad and graduate students to ensure that they are graduates versus just students at the university. There are other revenue-generating investments that are needed in institutional advancement, government and community relations to improve the revenue. There’s already fantastic progress in all of those areas, so we want to keep up the momentum. We have a merit of 2% in the budget, but we will likely go back to the board in September to increase that to the 4% to 5% range recognizing the great resignation. We're committed to doing more in that, as well as investments in fringe benefits, and so, when you put that all together, the expenses are growing faster than the revenues and therefore we're working together on one-time opportunities and stop gap measures to balance the budget. I hope that helps.
(Provost Paul Jensen). We've hovered around 50% 10 year tenure track for a number of years, and I think it's important to recognize there's quite a wide range in terms of variation across the schools and colleges, because they have different missions and some schools and colleges need to make more use of adjunct faculty and that type of thing so there's good reasons why there's variation so I don't think of it so much as us having a target, I think part of this is really thinking about how we're going to grow and evolve. And as we grow and evolve in different areas that by itself can start to shift the ratio. I will say that I think there have been two things that have happened and are currently happening that are probably moving us in the direction of a higher percent of 10-year tenure track. One was we lost a number of non-tenure track faculty when the clinical practices closed related to the Hahnemann closure and so that boosted our 10-year tenure track percentage, and then a year ago Helen, John and made the decision with the deans to reinvest funds in hiring particularly assistant professors on the tenure track and so there are a number of schools hiring this year, and that will, I think, move us up a little bit more so in summary it's not so much having a target but it's really understanding how we're evolving and growing.
(Don Liberati) Thank you very much for that question. Just to give you a little perspective - each spring we monitor the housing applications very closely, we work very closely with Evelyn and her team to understand the enrollment projections in terms of our planning. As we look towards Fall ‘22 I would share two points: first just to assure everyone, we have plenty of capacity to house our first-year students, which is always our first priority. And second, we really have a strong partnership with ACC and they have excellent assets on our campus so we can work with them to provide options for returning students, if need be, as we approach Fall ‘22. And just a final comment that we are very much looking forward to Kelly Hall opening in Fall of ‘23 and the opportunity that closing Meyers Hall presents for our residential neighborhood.
(David Unruh) The answer is number one that we're always fundraising whether we're in campaign or not. And number two, I would say that we're actively planning for the next campaign, it needs to be anchored by priorities that evolved out of the strategic plan that will inform how we focus our philanthropic acquisition efforts so in rough timing again very rough I would anticipate a public phase of the campaign that could start somewhere in fiscal ‘26 or ‘27 depending on feasibility studies and other sort of internal readiness, but we will certainly continue to fundraise as aggressively as possible, regardless of being in a formal campaign or not.
(Provost Paul Jensen) So let me divide that question into two - I think it asked about academic and administrative units both. The areas of excellence and opportunity initiative, I described earlier. The final phase of that is asking, as I mentioned, are we structured appropriately to support these areas of excellence and opportunity? And, as I mentioned, that could be both about our portfolio programs but also schools and colleges and are we structured optimally so we're looking to wrap up this this initiative later in the summer so at that point, we would be addressing those questions and those will be things that we're having broad discussions about across the university, obviously, if we're making any changes there in terms of administrative units, you know I would say we're already well underway as Evelyn alluded to, we have major restructuring going on with our enrollment management operations and with university communication so I'd say that is well underway.
(Provost Paul Jensen) I think there may be two different things in there, we actually haven't started individual interviews at the college level as part of areas of excellence and opportunity, I think that has been deans and our leadership steering committee at faculty Senate, primarily in the provost office. We have had conversations with schools and colleges that have been about budget. And so those have naturally focused on financials, but it's a good question, and what I do want to say is that, as we're working through areas of excellence and opportunity, we were very clear at the outset, to say that this will not be strictly driven by data, I mean data is incredibly important, but you know it doesn't capture everything, and this is why. We're putting emphasis on interviews on you know open ended survey questions on focus groups, because we know there's a lot, so if you just think about scholarly active scholarly and creative activity, you know we have new metrics and we have funding metrics and that's great data, but we know that misses a lot and that's why these other forms of collecting input are so important, and those are happening, will continue to happen, so I appreciate that question, so we are not taking a narrow view of these things.
(Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and COO Helen Bowman) I believe I gave some of the large ticket items that's leading to this with the caveat that, with all of this, we are on a path to close the budget gap with the measures that we're taking, but I do want to add that the university's support of St. Chris is purely a balance sheet item, the support is cash versus an operating budget we do not consolidate St. Chris’ financials with ours, and in fact we actually earn interest on the line that we have towards them, which is a positive add to our P&L. And in total overall Tower has a minimal impact on our budget gap, and it has upheld its commitments to support St. Chris and we expect them to do so through the new ownership so it's really the items of investing for growth, so that we can improve our revenues moving forward and just really the covert impact on enrollment that lasts through you know, a five year period so that would be my reply.
(Nadine Ezzat) First I'll say that our faculty our number one strength at Drexel and absolutely marketing the Faculty and their expertise is key to recruiting students to Drexel, so we are working on an integrated marketing communications organization that will take some of that work and really expand it beyond what's happening now really looking at faculty expertise through videos through highlights through being able to get that message out both at a program level, as well as a level of the university so that's absolutely in the works and 100% agree that that faculty are the key to Drexel’s success.
(Shivanthi Anandan) Let me take a step back and sort of explain how for the undergraduate side how this happens, right now, at Drexel. I oversee the transfer and any of our memorandums of understanding with outside colleges and schools for transfer articulation in the Provost office, and I work with a team that is also in EMSS so April Torgun, Mike Harrington and Kevin Coleman. And with two transfer advisors who I think are stellar – Megan Strauss Rooney from the College of Arts and Sciences, and Noel Palladino from the College of Engineering, they have incredible experience in doing these things. Currently transfer evaluate credit evaluations are handled at the College level. With the establishment of the EIC and the movement of the transfer evaluation, the transfer process under the EIC that Evelyn just talked about, this is going to be handled more centrally, so the process should be more efficient, more effective and more quick. Where the colleges, I think, have a really important role is twofold: currently, it is the EMSS team that looks for opportunities. Colleges do that too, but it is rather inconsistent across all the colleges. I think we have an opportunity for the colleges to own this as well, and to think about programs that they have that may benefit from having transfer students come in. There are a few boundaries and safeguards that we have to put in, but we are very well versed in putting those safeguards in so that a transfer student comes in, with a plan of how to succeed academically at Drexel and how hopefully we can make that person a part of the Community. So I see that there is increased ability or availability for the for colleges to think through this and I'm hoping that this is like a two way process, it may start at the colleges, it may start at the at the EIC but then eventually we have successful processes that we get together and we create for this. Those transfer students that actually have planned to attend Drexel from a two year college do very, very well so it's a sort of a street legends that our transfer students don't do well. I have it on good authority those two lead transfer advisors that once they plan and they make the transfer into Drexel with all the checks and balances in place, they do really, really well. So this is, I think, a very useful tool for us to consider bringing into Drexel as we move forward. Evelyn I'll pass it to you to add anything to what I've just said.
(Evelyn Thimba) I'll be very quick. The first part of the question regarding articulation agreements, Shivanthi is spot on. We are really working to build. articulation agreements at the institutional level, so EMSS will really be working to build those articulation agreements, so, for example, Drexel and CCP or Drexel and Mercer County College as an institution. We have to work hand in glove with the with the colleges, with faculty, to really make sure that as we're building those program plans, we are ensuring success and transferability for students within Drexel. On the College side, though I see an important role where the colleges will also continue to build articulation agreements at the College level and some at the program level and so there are two really great paths forward here when we're talking about articulation agreements. On the questions of transfer credit evaluation we are a unique and complex place and there is a lot of work that's going to be put in to help us centralize the process of transfer credit evaluation and really our plan is this summer to start with a period of deep discovery on all of the existing practices at the College level so really, we have to work very closely, not just on our team here but working with the advisors and faculty at the College level to understand what practices are currently in place. We plan to begin with a pilot of a couple of colleges we've already identified two and reached out to those so we'll start with those in the Fall of 2022. And, eventually, our goal is to is to complete all of this discovery and move to handling all evaluation centrally by the Fall of 2023 for the entire university. But all that work will really require a lot of collaboration between the enrollment management teams the advising leads and the colleges as well.
Questions & Answers from 6/21/21 Strategic Plan Town Hall
(Provost Paul Jensen): It's a good question, I would say it is probably not accurate to say that RCM disincentivizes interdisciplinary programs. When you look at the undergraduate level, for instance, the RCM model itself provides an allocation mechanism for colleges that are doing programs together. It is important to note that we do have to make sure that we are not as university creating redundant courses in multiple colleges. That is probably one of the things that is driving the question. We have to be careful about that, but I think that model itself provides a good mechanism for sharing revenue across colleges. In addition to that, we have created the ability for schools and colleges to jointly own a program. That will facilitate the creation of more interdisciplinary programs. And at the graduate level, as we re-imagine the model, we have really simplified the flow of revenue so that it's more direct at the graduate level, which is going to make it much easier for schools and colleges to come together to establish sharing agreements. There are actually a number of aspects that will help us achieve our goals of being more interdisciplinary.
(Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and COO Helen Bowman) Drexel has had a flexible work arrangement policy, which includes remote work, since 2013. As we prepare for a post-pandemic return, the leadership team has been engaged in discussion on how best to provide increased flexibility and still ensure the University’s goals are achieved. To assist in this assessment, a pilot group was formed to gather feedback on the benefits and challenges of a hybrid workforce. The pilot will run through spring and summer terms; the experiences and information gathered will assist in determining resolutions to the barriers that have been outlined. While we intend to increase flexible opportunities, we need to work though this change together, balancing the benefits of flexibility with the needs of our on-campus students and colleagues.
(Provost Paul Jensen) All units should be incorporating the university strategic plan into their unit strategic plans. When I think about the process that we went through, we had hundreds and hundreds of faculty and staff involved in the entire planning process. So, when looking at the strategic plans of various schools and colleges in the university plan, there's tremendous overlap. The reason for the overlap is that the planning process was so inclusive from the beginning with all the pre-planning. Many of the ideas from the different units found their way into the university strategic plan. It would've been very difficult to start with a large number of individual strategic plans and then create a unified plan. However our process to some degree sort of simulated that in a more indirect way that enabled us to create a cohesive plan, but included input from many, many perspectives.
(Dr. Kevin Owens) I think you're really right. It would have been really difficult to go the other way. First of all, we probably would have been wrong to think that we would have all been thinking the same thing. And there is an advantage to having different points of view. As a culture, we talked about this in the EPC, we must enhance our culture of basically trying different things and looking for success in different ways. And all of us have different viewpoints on how the university works. And to try to meld everybody together, would have been very difficult. But to give each other the chance to try different things could be a strength.
(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) Several months ago, we did an outreach to our community looking for self-nominations or nominations for various Initiative teams. As the core team started putting together the teams, we really drew initially from those lists. We then identified chairs from those lists in discussing what the charge and the goals would be for some of them. We occasionally would reach out to individuals either from the core team or through the Faculty Senate to try to engage our community. Even after the launch of Initiative teams, when gaps were identified, for example, insufficient representation from a particular college or school, we have been very flexible about membership. We are trying to be as intentional and deliberate as possible about committee composition to reflect all colleges and schools, diversity, as I mentioned earlier, and gender balance. This is also an opportunity for us, and I believe President Fry had mentioned this several months ago, to really look to our emerging leaders at Drexel if they have the bandwidth to serve in that capacity to lead efforts. So, we have really looked at this also as development opportunities for our Drexel community to be engaged in leading efforts. Committee composition has been extremely thoughtful and again, is flexible.
(Nadine Ezzat) We absolutely should consider lowering the base price as well. This pilot was done in order to have an immediate impact on the fall term, and the base tuition rate was already locked in for the year. But as part of our analysis for the pilot, if we do find that there's increased interest in the programs at the lower price, we will look at decreasing the base price; the discount was just simply a lever that we were able to quickly implement to impact the fall term.
(Nadine Ezzat) In terms of competitors, we do believe that we have better quality programming than a lot of the competitors that are in our mix. We can justify being the most expensive by a small margin. But it is much harder to justify being double the price of our next closest competitor. If we are at the top or close to the top but still competitive in terms of tuition, we can talk about our quality, our outcomes, et cetera, that make it worth the additional cost to choose Drexel.
(Provost Paul Jensen) I think in our RCM work in particular, one of the things we've really focused on is that one of the keys to strengthen financial foundation of the university is academic excellence. It is absolutely the key. We've had a lot of conversations about it. Now what we need to do is increase our yield rate for our undergraduate programs, and it is about excellence. We are trying to build that directly into the model by including measures that are correlated with excellent programming so that colleges will focus on excellence as opposed to just focusing on volume. That is critically important.
(Provost Paul Jensen & Dr. Kevin Owens) This is a critically important issue. Kevin and I can say we personally have had tremendous conversations about this. He and I are both committed to getting something very significant done in the coming months. (Kevin) I want to agree. This has been something that has been talked about a lot over the years. The whole thing that has to do with the course submission, and the course approval process. Some people think of it as being the Faculty Senate process. It is a much bigger process than just the Faculty Senate. Paul and I have been in discussions about changing this for quite a while. We have gotten multiple groups of people together in various subgroups to talk about this. We recognize that this is something absolutely that must happen, and it is in progress.
(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) The website very recently went live so we are still in the process of populating all of the completed committees. Our efforts now will be to build out the website and populate your questions on our FAQ page.
(Provost Paul Jensen) The Strategic Plan mentions areas of focus in health, technology, design and social sciences. These are the topics that emerged from the work of the EPC and build upon the historic strengths of the university. The Provost’s Office is currently working with the schools and colleges to create academic investment plans that will reinforce these areas going forward.
(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) Graduate students drive the research enterprise at Drexel and really contribute as one factor that is critical to our success as an R1 comprehensive research institution. Drexel has formed a doctoral and specifically PhD student working group whose first goal was to address the heterogeneous stipends across many of the programs and graduate students and to implement a minimum stipend across the university. The question of the value proposition and the importance of the doctoral students in driving revenue, grant revenue into Drexel is an important one that will be addressed by the Graduate Education initiative team.
(Provost Paul Jensen) As we work through Strategic Planning and implementation, success absolutely requires involvement from all types of faculty and professional staff and Dr. Elisabeth Van Bockstaele has created an inclusive process. If there are faculty who want to be involved, they can absolutely be involved. The implementation work that Elisabeth is overseeing is running in a parallel, coordinated way with already established initiatives out of the Provost's Office and Faculty Senate, demonstrating that Drexel already has an existing infrastructure for implementation. It is a true partnership with no duplication of effort, but a lot of synergy and sharing of the workload to move things forward.
(Provost Paul Jensen) There is integration; we are, in fact, refreshing the Capital and Master Plans based on the Strategic Plan.
(Provost Paul Jensen) The Provost’s Office is working with the catalog office to create a mid-year supplement version that will be more of a living document. This is a complicated issue; the catalog will never truly be a living document; it will always have a bit of an annual nature to it. But Drexel has taken steps to make it more of a living document.
(Provost Paul Jensen) The Provost’s Office will continue to meet with the College of Engineering (and all the schools and colleges) to discuss enrollment and other important topics. The goal is to define how the Provost’s Office and the schools and colleges can collaborate to address these challenges.
(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) Paul has been accompanying me and members of the core team when we meet with various Initiative teams to discuss the strategic plan, to discuss prioritization, review the questions that I referred to earlier in our presentation. We don't want to be prescriptive, but we do have some goals of trying to have what we call ‘quick wins’. These are efforts that could really move the needle to ensure Drexel’s success and are prioritized. Each initiative team outlines three priorities, for example. If they require some consultant work, meaning benchmarking data, we obtain that data for them. In some instances, there will be some investment funds needed for particular programs as we move forward. If there is a strong business case for a particular pilot in which there needs to be an investment, we need to have a transparent and equitable way of submitting those requests through the Initiative teams.
Brief answers to common questions around strategic planning
We recognize that for some professional staff and faculty, this might be
your first involvement in an institution that is executing a strategic
planning process. A strategic plan is an organizational strategy and
vision document. It provides a roadmap for identifying and achieving key
priorities over a period of time. For a comprehensive university such as
Drexel, composed of multiple schools and colleges, centers, institutes and
partnerships, it also can enable a diverse range of faculty, professional
staff and other constituents to follow one compass or “north star” to
achieve unified goals. Ideally, a strategic plan is a “living” document
that can be adapted and improved upon as conditions change and as
challenges and opportunities emerge.
The Drexel 2030 plan was drafted against a backdrop of changing trends in
higher education, specifically demographic declines in high school
graduates and international students. It was made more urgent by the
closure of Hahnemann Hospital and the acquisition of St. Christopher’s
Hospital for Children, the pivot to remote instruction during the
pandemic, and nationwide calls for racial equity.
The plan provides a blueprint to retain and grow Drexel’s
distinctiveness, to best prepare students for continued success in
changing and evolving professions, to support high-impact, use-inspired
and translational research endeavors that address the most urgent
challenges in society, and to ensure overall efficiency and effectiveness.
The Drexel 2030 plan was created to identify primary focus areas where
future success is essential: enrollment; efficiency and effectiveness in
mission delivery; and new markets and diversification of revenue. The
plan, to be implemented during a nine-year period, from 2021 to 2030, will
inform priority-setting and decision-making across the University around
those priority areas.
In 2018, Drexel leadership launched the planning process and began
assessing goals and structure. In 2019, an Executive Planning Committee
(EPC) was created to oversee the process, consisting of twenty additional
members of Drexel leadership who intentionally represent a full cross
section across academic and administrative areas, including the Faculty
Drexel 2030 Strategic Plan Timeline [PDF]
Incorporating broad input from across the University, as well as analysis of peer institutions, demographic trends and broader challenges facing society, the EPC identified strategic priorities for the plan, as well as initial members of the implementation team. In 2020, planning was adjusted and expedited in response to the pandemic and increased anti-racism efforts in society, and to incorporate work done by various Drexel task forces on those issues.
The plan seeks to maintain and grow Drexel’s success, impact, visibility,
reputation and distinctiveness during a time of change and disruption in
student demographics, consumer attitudes toward higher education, employer
hiring trends and societal challenges that require research-focused and
more transdisciplinary solutions. As always, student success will continue
to remain Drexel’s central focus.
During the implementation process, each team has been charged with
identifying success metrics for its specific area and will continually
measure, refine and communicate those results.
Overall, as primary areas of focus, Drexel seeks to continue to pursue and
grow: 1) enrollment success; 2) efficiency and effectiveness in mission
delivery; and 3) new markets and diversification of revenue.
To achieve those goals across academic and administrative units, under
each of the three primary areas of focus, 12 initiative teams will
specifically examine and provide recommendations regarding student success
and retention; graduate education; marketing and external communications;
internal communications and digital infrastructure; research
administration; pricing and financial aid; operations; housing and
facilities; program and curricular innovation; undergraduate online
teaching and learning; continuing education and lifelong learning; and
partnerships. (The video included in this section above elaborates on how
teams in those areas will be structured.)
Drexel’s commitment to diversity, access and inclusion will be thoroughly
considered and represented in all components of the plan.
Members of the Executive Planning Committee (EPC), identified in question
three above, are responsible for the plan. In December 2020, Elisabeth Van
Bockstaele, one of the EPC members, was named Drexel’s chief strategy
officer to manage implementation of the plan.
Multiple teams of faculty, professional staff and administrators are
working together to begin executing the plan, ensuring representation and
incorporating input from all areas of the University. Our implementation
approach is structured to foster cross-collaboration, idea sharing and
integration of knowledge, while maintaining agility and flexibility.
Connecting related initiatives together, team chairs will collaborate to
ensure alignment and integration for each of the key focus areas.
A core team will manage overall implementation, overseeing three teams
with primary areas of focus: 1) enrollment success; 2) efficiency and
effectiveness in mission delivery; and 3) new markets and diversification
of revenue. For each of those focus areas, twelve teams will examine and
deliver recommendations in more refined initiative areas. (The video
included in this section above elaborates on how teams in those areas will
Frequent, broad and open communication is vital to the success of the
implementation efforts. This website, which will be updated regularly, is
part of that process. On June [TK], 2021, Drexel invites
the University community to the first of a series of Town Hall discussions
focusing on implementation, where leaders of the Drexel 2030 plan will
share updates. All Drexel faculty and professional staff are welcome and
encouraged to attend this virtual session.
Updates will also be communicated through traditional Drexel channels to
members of the University community, including emails and stories
published in DrexelNOW, Drexel Magazine and other vehicles.
In addition to consulting with direct supervisors, members of the Drexel
community are also encouraged to make comments and ask questions by
The most recent plan, Transforming the Modern Urban University, was
initiated in 2012 and evaluated, updated and refreshed beginning in 2015.
In addition to identifying goals for and investments in student
recruitment and success, teaching and research, that plan introduced and
expanded aspirations including innovation districts and civic engagement.
The Drexel 2030 plan will evaluate and build upon objectives that were
introduced and strengthened during the previous plan. The new plan also
explicitly establishes racial justice, diversity and inclusion as key
measures of success across the University. Prior to the historic movements
of 2020, Drexel already was focused on diversity and inclusion in its
planning, however the work of the University’s Anti-Racism Task Force has
been broadening the scope of those efforts. Additionally, Drexel’s
dedication to sustainability will be considered to ensure a responsible
and continued stewardship of resources.
Drexel is committed to a strategic plan implementation process that is
dynamic and transformative, with potential for broad input that draws on
expertise from within and outside of the University. To that end, as it
has for other initiatives, Drexel may engage consultants and advisors to
obtain an objective, third-party perspective on specific implementation
At every stage, Drexel will retain full control of implementing the
We ask that everyone in the Drexel community become and remain engaged
with the Drexel 2030 plan. The easiest way is to attend Town Hall sessions
and keep up with Drexel communications regarding the plan, including
emails, DrexelNOW and Drexel Magazine stories and other communications.
Use the link below to share your comments, ideas and questions. If you
would like to be considered for a volunteer role on an initiative team,
speak with a supervisor or contact us at the link below.
Thank you for all that you do for Drexel University.