MY FIRST WEEKS AND MONTHS as Roosevelt University’s sixth president have flown by in a blur of excitement, challenges and surprises. Every day brings a barrage of new information and requests for decisions and solutions to problems. I am very humbled to have been entrusted with this remarkable opportunity to lead one of America’s distinctive universities into the future.
Last spring Roosevelt University celebrated its founding in 1945 when the president and faculty of the YMCA College courageously refused to comply with the prevailing custom of racial and religious admission quotas. Now – as we enter our 70th academic year – we look forward to a new phase of our history. What should we be? What can we be? What will we be?
We know what we are. We are an urban – and suburban – university. We have an unusually racially and economically diverse population of students. We offer the opportunity to study in a variety of programs in one of the greatest cities in the world. We have a first-rate faculty who teach in beautiful and prizewinning buildings. We are the only comprehensive nonsectarian university in downtown Chicago. Our alumni have great achievements in all kinds of domains – including politics, the visual and performing arts, science, health professions, business, education and other fields. We have a long tradition of engaging with the larger community and wrestling with social issues and problems. We have a national and international reputation as an advocate of democratic values, academic freedom, equal opportunity and social justice.
As we enter our 70th academic year, we look forward to a new phase of our history.
We also know that our first step must be to increase undergraduate and graduate enrollment, which is imperative for our financial well-being. We must have the programs in place to ensure higher retention and graduation rates. We must turn to our community for help in raising the additional dollars that support scholarships, laboratories, faculty development and student life. We must carefully examine our structure and operations to make sure we are effective and fiscally responsible stewards of our educational mission. And we owe our community a clear and compelling vision of who we are today and why we are a great choice for students.
Will you help us achieve these goals? Will you participate in our future? We would value your help in many ways – by your presence at University celebrations, lectures and workshops and by your active involvement in alumni chapters and fundraising.
I hope to visit with many of you this next year at these various occasions, and to learn how Roosevelt made a difference in your life.
I also hope you will consider working with me on two new ideas meant to improve Roosevelt student retention and graduation: an undergraduate mentoring program and an undergraduate professional development program. I led both activities in the business college at Kansas State University, impacting thousands of students, and would like to bring these programs to Roosevelt undergraduates to advance their confidence, skills and ability to succeed. But I will need your help. Please watch for announcements as we plan the best way to implement these programs at Roosevelt.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I believe that Roosevelt University can become a great university for new generations of students, with a central role to play in the city of Chicago and in higher education nationally. That is my dream – and I hope your dream too – and I look forward to working together to make it happen.