Convocation address by the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.

 

August 31, 2007

Let me tell you about Bill Brannon. Bill had an extraordinary career in the sciences. But when I met him several weeks ago in Denver, that’s not the story he wanted to tell me. No, he wanted to tell me about Franklin Prout, an organic chemistry professor at DePaul whom Bill met in the late 1950’s.

Bill’s story, like those of many of our students, was that he was the first in his family to go to college. What made the difference for him was one professor. Dr. Prout told him to go to Northwestern for his Ph.D. It never occurred to Bill that this was possible. He certainly didn’t believe he could get in, or even really knew how to get in. Dr. Prout showed him and encouraged him. That encouragement made all the difference.

I meet so many people whose stories are similar to Bill Brannon’s. Stories of students who found one person – often a faculty member, but often enough a member of the staff – one person who believed in them more than they believed in themselves. As president, I have a privileged, wonderful job, because I get to receive the gratitude of our alumni. I get to hear their stories first-hand. It’s the gratitude for others who came before us. Staff and faculty at DePaul University who, years ago, poured their lives out for the students.
 
With this convocation, we begin another year. A year of our shared privilege that yet another cohort of students has placed themselves in our hands and said, "Educate me. Help me understand the world. Help me make my way through the world. Make me a contributing participant in the world. Help me to see what you see."
 
Last year was quite a year at DePaul. I’m referring to our collective project to change the university, known as our strategic plan. You will remember that, a year ago at this time, the staff and faculty and board of trustees of this university collectively adopted a new strategic plan, in which we agreed on numerous goals.
 
I’m enormously pleased to stand here today, one year later, and tell you what you’ve already accomplished. Here’s a sampling:
 
    • Our Institutional Diversity Advisory Council was formed and a diversity training component was implemented. New training materials are being developed for faculty and staff searches; an affirmative action plan is in process. 
    • DePaul Central now has two physical locations and a phone presence.
    • We’ve made it much easier for transfer students with the creation of the Transfer Credit Processing Center that has articulation agreements on 26,000 courses.
    • We’ve improved advising with new Web-based tools, including an online degree audit.
    • We created a dynamic new look for our Web site.
    • Premiere DePaul was reengineered to focus on academic success.
    • We launched a first-year writing program and the International Programs Office.
    • Preparation has begun for a new capital campaign.
    • Work on a new campus master plan is under way.
    • New job descriptions are being developed for staff to create better career paths. 
    • 5,400 students signed up for the Blue Crew to cheer on our teams.
    • The Vincentian Mission Institute is well under way.
    • We brought the national Vincentian Studies Institute to DePaul.
    • A $1.5 million campaign for the School of Music has surpassed the $1 million mark.

We made major investments in the past year, including: 

    • The Office of Diversity & Equity office has grown from two staff people to five, and new programs there are being developed.
    • Our ninth college—the College of Communication—has opened its doors.
    • The School of Public Service has been established within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
    • We introduced an advertising campaign titled “Become” as well as a word of mouth campaign.
    • Ground was broken on a new $40 million science building, and we created new facilities in the Loop for the College of Communication.
    • We made new tenured appointments in the Catholic Studies Program.
    • We dedicated a new Catholic chapel in the Student Center.
    • Catholic Campus Ministry was expanded with an endowed retreat program and new staff.
    • The Library budget increased.
    • And in Athletics, we've hired some terrific new coaches.
Enhancing academic quality is key to VISION twenty12’s success. To that end:
 
    • We increased funding for doctoral programs in CTI, psychology and philosophy.
    • A second required course in the Liberal Studies Program that focuses on math and technical literacy was added.
    • The School for New Learning is developing joint degree programs with Commerce and Education.
    • The School of Music has redesigned its core musicianship sequence, and The Theatre School has developed new writing and ethical standards.
    • Commerce is creating an online master’s degree in accountancy, and LA&S is about to introduce a new School of Public Service.​

2006-2007 was an extraordinary year. Most universities would be pleased if only a few of these accomplishments happened in a year’s time. You made all of them happen in one year.

But that’s DePaul. This is a wonderful community of people who roll up their sleeves for the students. Who work across departmental and college boundaries for the students. Who think creatively and are willing to change the way we do things, for the students. Strategic plans are often confused as the pieces of paper they are written on. This past year, at least, no one at DePaul made that mistake. This past year, the university community rolled up its sleeves and went to work. DePaul is better today than it was a year ago, because of you.
 
And people see it. The number of high school seniors applying for admission as freshmen to DePaul this fall increased a remarkable percent, about four times greater than the average increase in applications among comparable Midwest private universities. Given that significant increase in demand, we closed admissions earlier than ever, reducing our admission rate from 70 percent last year to 63 percent— the lowest admission rate in DePaul's recent history. The final class will likely be the same size as last year's class, between 2,500 and 2,550, just as planned.
 
The level of academic preparedness of the class has also improved. The ACT Composite Score of the entering class will likely be up a half-point over last year, a significant gain and the highest in history.
 
While transfer applications at Midwest private universities overall decreased about 3 percent this year, DePaul achieved a 15 percent gain in transfer application this year. We will see substantially greater enrollment of transfers as a result. DePaul continues to be the most popular private university destination for transfer students in the state of Illinois.
 
Graduate applications for the fall quarter are up about 25 percent overall compared to last fall. And they too are an impressive group. This year’s entering Law class, for example, holds the distinction of bringing both the highest median LSAT score and the highest median undergraduate GPA in history.
 
All of that because of the work you’ve done. DePaul is better today than it was even a year ago. Not larger, better. And that’s because of you. Together, this year, we will push ahead further with our plan for academic enrichment. There will be more investment, especially in academic programs. The ideas for these will largely come from you.
 
And so, I ask you to re-familiarize yourself with the strategic plan. I ask you to speak about the plan in your departments and sectors. Use the new short videos that have been created by our faculty colleague from The Theatre School, Joanne Zielinski. They’re meant to stimulate discussion on the plan’s major directions. But most of all, ask what would best educate our students.
 
Together, let us create something wonderful for our students. May we be the faculty and staff who future alumni will remember with gratitude. May we take the promise of DePaul University and make it real for a new generation.
 
I’m enormously proud of this university. I hope you are equally proud of yourselves. Thank you for all that you do. God Bless you and God Bless DePaul.​​​