Welcome to the first installment of President’s Circle Insider. I look forward to sharing my insights on campus happenings with those who make such a difference at this University.
Now, six months into my time at Drake, I’m more excited than ever to be leading this great institution. I’ve met many members of the Bulldog family from students and faculty to donors and parents, and their commitment to the University leaves a powerful impression. I’ve explored Des Moines and discovered a place I’m proud to call home and am eager to see Drake’s role in the community grow. And, of course, I’ve enjoyed cheering on the Bulldogs at events from athletics to the arts.
One highlight in my first months at Drake is the political activity on campus. With the Iowa caucuses just a few days away, to say that Drake has been a hub of political season activity over the last six months is a gross understatement. Through the good work of many on campus—including collaboration with alumni—our University has been a leader in facilitating and hosting important conversations and events related to the future of Iowa and the country.
These events, including the nationally televised CBS News Democratic Presidential Debate in November and a number of campaign stops by Democratic and Republican candidates, have created incredible opportunities for our students. More than 60 undergraduates worked with Twitter, CBS, the Democratic National Committee, CNN, NPR, Yahoo!, and other organizations to orchestrate several events on campus. Plus, our students have made valuable contributions to the national political conversation by asking truly thought-provoking questions of those vying to be the next president. In short, I couldn’t be more proud of our community. Drake University has truly shined on the national stage.
Beyond enjoying an active political season, several important initiatives are underway at Drake, many of which moved forward at the Drake University Board of Trustees annual retreat in Scottsdale, Ariz., Jan. 14–16. The meeting included an alumni reception at the Museum of the West, where we were fortunate to host nearly 200 alumni and other supporters of Drake. Bulldog spirit is certainly alive and well in the Valley of the Sun.
During the retreat, the board approved the operating budget for the 2016–2017 fiscal year, which includes funding for building maintenance and technology improvements. They also took a number of actions that will enhance the University’s role in contributing to the vibrancy of the Drake Neighborhood. One such decision was the formation of a task force to study how the University can redevelop its property south of University Avenue between 25th and 31st Streets so as to improve the campus experience and generate economic development in the neighborhood.
Finally, The Board of Trustees authorized me to enter into agreements to begin construction of the two new buildings—The School of Education building (which will also house the departments of Mathematics and Computer Science) and the Science Connector building—that are part of the STEM@DRAKE project at a maximum project cost of $52 million. They also approved borrowing not to exceed $25 million to fund the construction. The remaining $27 million is being funded through philanthropic efforts. The trustees’ decisions on this exciting project are declarations of optimism for the future of Drake. Construction activities on campus are beginning this week, and we will officially break ground on Feb. 27.
As you can see, we have much to be proud of as Bulldogs. And we are eager to welcome the next class of students to the family—the class of 2021, if you can believe it. As alumni and friends of Drake, I encourage you to share your Drake experiences with the young people you know who are considering colleges. You and I know that Drake is a place where aspirations become reality, and you can share those stories in an authentic way.
I’ll close with one final observation: During the fall semester, I met with faculty and staff across campus, and the most inspiring sentiment I heard was the universal and unwavering commitment to the student-centered foundation of the institution’s mission. In every conversation, the first response to the question of what do we do best was that we care about our students and are intensely focused on their growth and success. That dedication extends to the generous supporters in the President’s Circle, and for this, I am truly grateful. With your continuing loyalty, I look forward to leading Drake in this new chapter of our shared history.