I enjoyed seeing many of you at the Francis Marion Drake Society Dinner on Oct. 14. More than 300 leadership-level donors were on hand to celebrate our University and the vital role philanthropy plays in enabling us to achieve our mission. It was a lively evening, complete with an impressive speech by Student Body President Thalia Anguiano and an inspiring spoken-word poem from one of our students, Anthony Pawnell. We even had a surprise appearance from a VIP—you can see for yourself who showed up in the video below:
For those of you who were not able to make it to FMDS, your presence was missed, and I offer my sincere thanks for your loyalty and generosity toward Drake.
During the dinner, I had the chance to address the crowd and share my vision for the University. The main theme of my comments was Drake’s commitment to entrepreneurial thinking—to not simply adhering to “business as usual.” This commitment is built on Continuous Improvement Planning (CIP), our new model for strategic planning at the University. There are many goals associated with this model, but perhaps the most important is to drive purposeful, data-driven decision-making. In a nutshell, continuous improvement planning is a flexible, measurable, and ongoing effort to make Drake the very best it can be. With CIP, we will be consistently reexamining our priorities, assumptions, and performance to ensure we are delivering on our mission promise—a process that will pay dividends back to our University and transform the way we approach challenges and opportunities.
With this in mind, I encourage you to explore a new interactive tool that outlines many of the strategic objectives we’ve identified in the areas of teaching and learning, stewardship, reflection, and execution: www.drake.edu/continuous-improvement. You’ll find data showing where we are and where we hope to go, as well as some of the stories behind the numbers. This site will be updated on a regular basis to reflect our progress and share the Drake story with our constituents.
One of the most prominent ways we are rethinking how we operate is our newly announced approach to pricing tuition. The Tuition Guarantee will fix tuition for full-time, undergraduate students’ four years at Drake, starting with next year’s incoming class. This approach has several benefits to prospective students and their families—chief among them enhanced financial clarity—and enables us to stabilize tuition and financial aid distribution. This new tuition price still keeps us more affordable than a majority of our out-of-state peer institutions and several Iowa private colleges and universities. Paired with the great value of a Drake education—outlined in The Drake Commitment, which I touched on in my last Insider post—the Tuition Guarantee positions us strongly in the marketplace and reflects our ongoing dedication to delivering an exceptional experience to our students.
And while the Tuition Guarantee does not apply to our current students, we wanted to ensure we were controlling costs for them as well. Students returning next year will see a 3 percent increase in tuition, compared to our past six-year average of 4.5 percent.
October also marked one of the Drake Board of Trustees’ quarterly meetings. A main focus of this meeting was reviewing the Campus Master Plan. The conversation reviewed the many projects that have been completed over the last decade in accordance with the plan, and kicked-off the process of prioritizing campus capital projects for the future. The board and I will work with campus constituents to better understand our opportunities and challenges regarding new and refurbished spaces, and then will work with the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the board to assess remaining projects and develop a 10-year priority list. In keeping with the goals of the Campus Master Plan, the board also released additional funds to complete the conversion of the old University Bookstore into the new home for the Occupational Therapy Program.
Our rapidly rising STEM@DRAKE buildings are also part of this Campus Master Plan, as they address one of the plan’s main goals to “enhance academic and student life programs and enable growth for generations to come.” STEM@DRAKE remains the University’s top fundraising focus, and we have made excellent headway toward our goal of $30 million. In his report to the Board of Trustees, Vice President for University Advancement John Smith noted total fundraising for STEM@DRAKE now exceeds $22 million.
In other development news, the board also voted to approve a proposal from Nelson Construction & Development to buy a parcel of land on University Avenue and start construction during the summer of 2017. The developer has proposed a hotel with a ground-level restaurant, market-rate apartments with ground level retail space, and urban-style row homes. This will be a great addition to the area and reflects our continued commitment to revitalizing the Drake Neighborhood.
I also provided the board with an update on campus-wide reaccreditation efforts. Most notably, the College of Business and Public Administration welcomed a Peer Review Team from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) earlier this month. After a positive visit, this team is recommending accreditation for the CBPA; the recommendation must still be considered by the Initial Accreditation Committee and then by the full AACSB board in January 2017, at which time we will be informed whether the CBPA will receive programmatic accreditation. This is a promising next step forward, and great credit should be given to Terri Vaughan, dean of the CBPA, and all those who helped position the college for what I am confident will be a successful reaccreditation effort.
As always, thank you for your generosity to Drake University. Your leadership-level investment in Drake allows us to change lives every day and plan for the bright future ahead.