I hope you've all had a nice summer and had the chance to take a few days off for vacation. I myself spent a few weeks in Spokane with my family and also went camping at Yellowstone and in the Grand Tetons. It was nice to be off the grid for a few days, but great to come back to campus for the beginning of another school year.
While campus is "quiet" during the summer without our students around, staff and faculty are always hard at work laying the groundwork for the upcoming school year and new initiatives. Just a few weeks ago, we announced the Drake Commitment, which aims to continuously improve the value we deliver to students and differentiate the exceptional Drake education. As you might notice, the experiences we commit to providing are already available to our current students and ones that many benefit from—some of you no doubt enjoyed these opportunities yourself.
The Drake Commitment is our pledge to each incoming Fall 2017 first-year student to provide opportunities that help them achieve their goals after graduation and create a memorable college experience—one that rests on our foundation of integrating a liberal arts and sciences education with professional preparation and our vibrant student life.
This commitment states that each student's Drake education will include:
This approach was developed over several months with the input and support of many areas of campus, including the provost's office and the Office of Admission. It has been endorsed by the board of trustees, and we began rolling it out during Iowa Private College Week—when we welcomed 333 prospective students and their families to campus. In today's volatile higher education market, it's crucial that we implement new and innovative approaches to delivering value and attracting high-caliber students to our campus.
You can learn more about The Drake Commitment at www.drake.edu/commitment.
Beyond The Drake Commitment, we also welcomed a new provost, Sue Mattison. Sue is a great addition to our senior team and an excellent leader for academic affairs. Sue was selected for a number of reasons. Above all is her contagious commitment to the student experience and to the integrity of the University's academic core. Her passion for strengthening academic programs while promoting intellectual vitality will be important in Drake's efforts to achieve our aspirations and to ensure we continue to fulfill the promise of our mission statement. You can learn more about Sue's experience online.
Also in late July, we announced our request for proposals to develop a plot of Drake-owned land along University Avenue. We set expectations that any proposal submitted must be in keeping with the neighborhood's character and beneficial to Drake students, neighborhood residents, and the economic growth of the area. The plans that come out of this process will be a collaborative effort that catalyzes economic development in the area and enhances the student and community experience. Drake is committed to working with partners who will build something that people will be proud of and is befitting of this prominent location. I'm eager to see what the firms come back with and to enhance our integration with and support of the Drake Neighborhood.
Finally, we continue to make way on the construction of our two new buildings for STEM@DRAKE. The Science Connector Building shot up over the summer, with beams being placed to create the basic structure—it's starting to look like an actual building rather than a hole in the ground. Groundwork on Collier-Scripps Hall is almost complete, and we will start to see structure going up this fall. Our commitment to science, technology, education, and mathematics fields is already starting to pay off: Yield (the number of applicants who have made the deposit to attend Drake this fall) in the sciences was up seven percent over last year.
As you can see, we are experiencing quite a bit of change on campus and this fall will undoubtedly bring more. While change can sometimes be difficult, I don't question the ability of our faculty, staff, and students to embrace it and use these transitions to strengthen our University.
As we officially welcome the Class of 2020 to campus, I know that we are prepared and steadfast in our commitment to deliver an exceptional experience—one that will deliver dividends to our students now and in the future and one that they will remember for the rest of their lives. The task of shaping our future leaders is not easy, but it is one of the most fulfilling missions I can think of undertaking.
As always, thank you for your continued support of Drake—your loyalty and generosity makes it possible for us to do what we do. I look forward to seeing many of you at the Francis Marion Drake Society Dinner on Oct. 14 here on campus.