For the first time since March, students returned to campus in mid-August. Their energy and enthusiasm were sorely missed, and it was a joy to welcome them back. I’m pleased to share we have more than 750 first-year students and more than 100 new transfer students joining us this year.
While this semester remains unlike any other in our history, the practices and protocols we developed over the spring and summer have enabled us to deliver on our mission promise and provide an engaging educational experience for our in-person and remote students. While we may encounter new obstacles as the semester continues, I am confident we will rise to the challenge.
Though the pandemic has disrupted our world, we have not lost sight of our purpose and vision as an institution. In early September, we announced the creation of the John Dee Bright College at Drake. Bright College honors the legacy of 1952 graduate Johnny Bright, a committed educator and a celebrated football star. The College will award two-year associate’s degrees in either the integrated arts, sciences, and humanities or in business, organization, and professional studies. Students will attend Bright College as part of a learning cohort to create a strong support system and network.
Bright College furthers our aspiration to be an anchor institution for Greater Des Moines and our commitment to transform lives and strengthen communities. It will make a Drake education attainable for many individuals who may have believed it was out of reach. Students attending Bright College will bring new perspectives, life experiences, and ways of thinking that will benefit the entire Drake community. We will welcome our first cohort of students in fall 2021.
Additionally, we made progress on a number of campus projects during the spring and summer. Hubbell Dining Hall underwent a renovation that added new vibrancy to a vital campus location. The renovations opened up floor space for food stations and created a more efficient traffic flow. Students can now watch their food being prepared in front of them, rather than in the kitchen. A vivid mural showcasing iconic locations from campus and Des Moines stands out as a signature feature. “The Hubb” is open for dine-in service, but also offers grab-and-go options.
The building for the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement is nearing completion on University Avenue. The building will be a model for those who wish to create inclusive and fully accessible workplaces, and its opening will coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We are also putting the finishing touches on Bulldog Plaza in front of Old Main. This photogenic space will greet visitors and feature a bronze bulldog statue modeled after our live mascot, Griff. Thank you to Bob and Pamela Lees, who provided the lead gift for this project.
Finally, our first-year students made their mark on campus during Welcome Week with a refresh of Painted Street. With support from the Student Activities Board, the students collaborated on a large Drake Together mural to celebrate the unity of our Bulldog family.
I am proud of the perseverance and resilience of the Drake community and all we have accomplished so far this year. Though we are facing an unusual set of challenges, Drake University continues to thrive. Your generosity has provided meaningful support that has empowered us to adapt and evolve, and your continued commitment to the University will ensure our on-going success. Thank you for all you do for Drake, and please take care.
President, Drake University