Office of the President > Speeches & Communications > 2021–2022 > Our Initiatives for the Year Ahead

Our Initiatives for the Year Ahead

Remarks delivered by President A. Gabriel Esteban at DePaul's 124th Academic Convocation

Sept. 2, 2021


Provost Ghanem, Faculty Council President Professor Soltero, cabinet members, Joint Council, distinguished faculty, staff and guests: thank you for being here today as we start a new academic year.

First, I would like to congratulate our newly promoted and tenured faculty. Please stand so that we may recognize you.

If you are new to our university community, welcome. We are so happy you chose DePaul. To all of our faculty and staff who are returning, welcome back home.

I also would like to extend a special welcome to the members of the Vincentian community, Daughters of Charity and clergy. And I would be remiss if I did not recognize and thank my wife, Jo.

As you know, this academic year will be my last as DePaul's president. This was not an easy decision for me. It required much prayer, reflection and listening. The near conclusion of my time as DePaul's president, however, does not in any way change our goals for the year ahead – nor does it alter my unwavering commitment to our Catholic, Vincentian and urban mission.

We have a lot left to do together. We have made great progress in our strategic plan, and we must keep the momentum going.

As Provost Ghanem said, higher education on a national scale is facing challenges. From demographics to financial stress, we are facing very strong headwinds that existed well before COVID-19 - and the pandemic only increased their strength. But we are battling this tempest, and we have already shown as an institution how much of a difference we can make when we work together.

​A great example is enrolling the largest and most diverse freshman classes for two years in a row. We enrolled these record classes not only as a result of the incredible work of our enrollment management staff – but because of you, our faculty and staff. As of Tuesday, we already exceeded last year's record class with over 2,800 diverse freshmen enrolled while increasing our selectivity and academic profile.  

We also are emerging from the pandemic in stronger financial shape than many of our sister institutions. Last academic year, our generous donors contributed a record $93 million – the highest single-year total in university history and almost 30 percent MORE than the previous high. These funds will be used for scholarships, emergency assistance, career readiness, mental health and access to technology. In fact, our donors committed over $153 million in the last two years or almost half of the amount raised in the last campaign.

Thank you – not only to our Advancement and External Relations staff but also our faculty and staff from across the university. You created a life-changing experience for our students.

We broke all these records because we worked together. Now, we must show the same university-wide effort to our retention, persistence and graduation initiatives.

We are at the halfway point in our strategic plan, and we will continue to use the priorities we outlined as our roadmap. In the year ahead, there are many initiatives we aim to accomplish. These include:

  • Coordinating and advancing our mission-based community outreach efforts
  • Strengthening programs that serve students of color, first-generation students, low-income students and LGBTQIA+ students 
  • Increasing the number of students participating in internships through engagement with employers, alumni and funders 
  • Creating degree-completion programs, with flexible delivery methods, responsive to the needs of adult learners
  • Developing an academic IT strategic plan for technology support of teaching, learning and scholarship that encourages collaboration across colleges 
  • Enhancing and expanding college and university structures that support research, creative activities and technology transfer

We will continue our push in the areas of health and medical science, as well as engineering. We also will continue to work in collaboration with the provost and faculty leadership to identify and pursue academic programs that meet student needs.

I will go into more detail regarding my vision for the year ahead at the State of the University address on Sept. 23.

We are planning to hold an in-person event, and live streaming will be provided. All faculty and staff received an invitation to attend the State of the University yesterday in Newsline. I look forward to seeing you there.

When we admit a student to DePaul, it means we believe they have the academic ability to earn their degree. As a university, it is our responsibility to provide the support to make their dreams a reality. The question is – how do we unlock their full potential?

In my four years at DePaul, I have felt so blessed to be surrounded by faculty and staff who will do anything for our students. Your dedication means everything to me.

I would like to close where Provost Ghanem started – that is echoing a very big, loud thank you. I know how much you give to DePaul. I know how much you care about our students and one another. Thank you for staying the course. Thank you for continuing to push and giving it your all. Thank you for upholding our Catholic, Vincentian and urban mission.

Have a terrific year. Take care of each other, and take care, DePaul.

​​Thank you.