Strength in Numbers

Collective StrengthBuilding our collective strength for excellence that endures

Before Tyler O’Neil graduates from Drake this May, he will have honed his journalism skills at two daily newspapers and a weekly business publication and traveled with the press pool covering a visit by George W. Bush. He will have learned to lead as a resident assistant and residence hall director. And he will have refined his goals and discovered new strengths through a summer of research and language immersion in Nanjing, China.

“Before I decided to take Chinese as part of my international relations major, I hadn’t had a serious interest in China,” says O’Neil, a journalism and international relations double major. “But it turned into something that’s a huge passion for me. Even after I graduate, I will have the opportunity to return to China through Drake’s virtual language studies program.”

Small learning community, big success

At Drake, O’Neil found a serious proving ground for refining real-world skills.

He was able to take core courses right away, which led to writing positions for the Times-Delphic newspaper and the Iowa City Press Citizen as a first-year student. And his role as director of Ross Hall brought him the leadership experience that can only come from being responsible for more than 100 students.

“It boils down to the fact that Drake provides a safe space where you can learn to excel,” says O’Neil. “You have a lot of support while you learn how to make things happen. And while you’re part of a small community, your successes can be huge. You can write a story that is picked up and circulated by The Huffington Post and on the AP wire or affect real change by leading a fundraiser for your fraternity.”

Collective strength: what does it look like?

A Q&A with Susan Ladd, director of financial aid

Drake Blue talked to a cross section of faculty and staff to find out how the concept of collective strength plays out in their own areas. One of these Q&As follows; visit to read more.

Q. What are some things your office does that are vital to the mission of the University?

A. The Office of Student Financial Planning is gearing up for a new season of awarding financial aid. More than 98 percent of full-time students who enroll at Drake directly from high school receive a Drake scholarship or grant. Our job is to blend this generous support from Drake with other institutional, federal, state and outside sources to find ways to make students’ dreams of a Drake education possible.

Q. How does the added strength of others fit into this picture?

A. We depend on the collaborative work of all faculty and staff at Drake in recruiting students since a little bit of help from almost all of us is needed in helping a student complete his or her Drake journey.

Q. If Drake were to succeed in getting faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends fully engaged around building our future, what would that look like in your area?

A. A great way to build a sound future for Drake is to work toward less dependence on tuition revenue. Each year, more than $40 million in Drake grant and scholarship support is “unfunded aid” — basically a discount on the tuition we charge. Most private universities, including Drake, are very dependent on tuition revenue. Building a better future in the Office of Financial Planning would include a healthy Drake Fund for general scholarships and a robust scholarship endowment in order to make Drake affordable for all.

Q. Part of our collective strength is the day-to-day support provided by alumni and friends of the University. How does such support make your job a little bit easier?

A. Our job gets easier with every dollar donated in support of scholarships for students. Our job gets easier with every classroom renovation, every new or expanded facility and every endowed professorship. Our job gets easier as the academic centers strengthen and our community becomes more international. Our job gets easier when we celebrate the success of our graduates. All of these things, and so many more, demonstrate to prospective students the opportunities that await them at Drake.

Q. Any other thoughts on what being part of a collaborative system means to you?

A. Drake is about developing each person’s potential — their promise. This is true for students, for faculty, for staff and for the friends of the University. Our leadership has inspired and motivated us and has, with great intention, given us the opportunity to grow and achieve.

More Q&As with Drake University faculty and staff


Collective strength is one of the priorities outlined by distinctlyDrake, Drake University’s articulation of its vision.

Visit to learn more about Drake’s aspirations for the future, order your free Bulldog Pack with Drake-related challenges to complete for prizes, view Drake love stories from alumni or share your own story. You’ll also find listings of regional distinctlyDrake events where you can meet and connect with others who have a passion for Drake. Browse the site to see how you can play a part by putting your love for Drake in action, and determine for yourself whether a love story really can change the world.

Exceptional learning: it takes a community

O’Neil’s is just one among hundreds of similar stories that unfold every day at Drake University. Students arrive with hopes for what their futures may hold, hopes that will be tested and refined by the educational and life experiences they are offered.

Enabling and guiding the next generation of motivated, skilled learners relies on the engagement of educators, staff members, alumni, community members and others. They devote their time, talent, creativity and resources to expand these students’ worlds and guide them as their aspirations crystallize.

This is the embodiment of collective strength, which is one of the key priorities of distinctlyDrake — the plan of action for achieving the vision for the University. It’s a vision in which Drake is, and is recognized as, one of the best institutions for higher education in the United States.

On the shoulders of many

“I see our collective strength as being a shared sense of ownership in the University’s present and future,” says John Smith, AS’92, GR’00, vice president for alumni and development. “It is a collective sense of responsibility — recognizing and appreciating that all of our individual experiences at Drake have been made possible because the generations before us accepted that responsibility.”

Ultimately, it’s about strengthening and building on the advantages that we already have at Drake and finding multiple ways to make these accessible to all.

“Drake is uniquely positioned to achieve ambitious goals that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago,” he adds. “And now, we have plans in place to act on our collective hard work to benefit the future of countless students.”

Keeping pace with rapid change

Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is just one University program that is winning awards and garnering national attention with its cutting-edge curriculum.

“The SJMC faculty and students are doing such smart, fun, boundary-stretching things in their classes — I am constantly in awe of their creative energy,” says Kathleen Richardson, director of the SJMC and associate professor of journalism.

For the SJMC’s magazines major, students in the senior capstone class created Urban Plains, an online-only lifestyle magazine that captures the young adult scene in four Midwestern cities (

The project involved not only writing, editing and design, but applying the technology skills required to create a rich, multimedia environment that includes music, video and customized applications for platforms including the iPad.

“Our students are modeling what the future of journalism and mass media should and can be,” says Richardson. The school’s success is really a collective effort, she says, which stems from a sense of community among faculty, staff and students as well as engaged alumni and friends who help with everything from visiting classes and critiquing student work to helping fund travel to professional competitions.

“Keeping up with a rapidly changing profession is challenging. We need to make sure our curriculum is current, our technology is cutting edge and our students are prepared to be successful in whatever the world will throw at them,” says Richardson.

Blazing new professional trails

Drake’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, like the rest of Drake’s colleges and schools, is earning kudos for its present excellence while also unrolling plans for a bigger future.

“Both the pharmacy and health sciences programs are distinguished by their research experiences and multidisciplinary collaborations with health professionals,” says Linda Krypel, professor of pharmacy practice. “Drake is also at the leading edge of expanding the role of pharmacists in health care, bringing pharmacy students front and center in patient care through medication therapy management.”

Students gain valuable hands-on experiences in health care and research environments — including Drake’s pharmacy practice lab — and benefit from numerous multidisciplinary collaborations with hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other partners.

“Learning takes place as a two-way street where our students have hands-on experiences that hone their skills, while the sites are benefited by having students, and the college, expose them to the latest in the field,” says Krypel.

She adds that the plans driven by distinctlyDrake will further enrich the opportunities available to students — plans such as enhancing the University’s teaching, learning and research facilities; bringing together faculty who are currently spread among several buildings; and strengthening global opportunities. When these programs are enriched, she adds, the University as a whole is enriched.

“A university, just as a society, is defined as a sum of its parts,” says Krypel. “This includes all parts of our campus from the buildings and grounds, athletics, library, schools and colleges, student services, finance and so forth, all the way up to the president. It goes back to the idea of strength in numbers.”

Building a better Drake

Our ultimate success as an educational institution, says Susan Ladd, director of financial aid, relies on each of us having a clear understanding of the part we play in achieving our goals for Drake and seeing how our contributions fit together to support students and create an exceptional learning environment.

“While we all have parameters to work within, it’s amazing to me that without fail, everyone’s first thought is always, ‘What’s best for our students?’” says Ladd. “Collective strength means offering our time and expertise in committee work; it means knowing our colleagues so we know where to send a student in need; and it means the certain knowledge that we are working together to build a better Drake.”

— Jill Brimeyer


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