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State of the University, 2008-2009

Duquesne University Seal - SmallCharles J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
President, Duquesne University
September 18, 2009

These are great times in the life of our great University.  We have been blessed with a dedicated Spiritan community, an outstanding faculty and staff, bright and eager students, loyal alums, an engaged Board of Directors, a strong financial position, and a beautiful campus in a dynamic American city.  We have moved into the first ranks of Catholic higher education and we are consolidating that position.  The future for us is brighter yet because we are a community of talented and caring people with a clear sense of mission.

Our shorthand for our work together is that we are serving God by serving students.  Not only are we preparing lectures, grading papers, and conducting research, we are serving God.  Not only are we repairing, cleaning, and beautifying our campus, we are serving God.  Not only are we responding to emails, reading spreadsheets, and attending meetings, we are serving God.  A complex academic community such as ours requires the accomplishment of a myriad of tasks each day.  But no matter how routine, how humble, we believe that everything we do at Duquesne is a service to God.

Let me offer some thoughts on what serving students means.  Obviously, in the first case it means passing on to them our learning, skills, and wisdom, the best we have intellectually.  It is also a passing on of the values that are needed to use that learning, skill, and wisdom to individuals’ and society’s best advantage.  That is why it is so important to us that we provide a values-based education, one shaped specifically by the values of our Catholic and Spiritan identity.  At the heart of that identity, is the commitment to respect and to partner with all people of good will who would join us in our commitment to serve students and others.  And we bring with that a special concern for students and others who are among the least well-off.

I find it useful to think of that phrase “the least well-off” not only in its obvious financial sense but also in its broadest meaning.   Students and young people in general are among the least well off intellectually because of their immaturity, lack of knowledge, and limited experience.  Many of our students—perhaps many of us—are among the least well off spiritually because of the poverty of our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with God.  And many of our students—perhaps many of us—are among the least well off culturally since the materialism, shallowness, and selfishness of our times have impoverished our values.  So we are here to use education to help lift up the children of poor and disadvantaged families, to be sure; that was our founding intent in 1878 and the clear motive for many Spiritan efforts around the world.  But just as there are many forms of wealth, there are also many forms of poverty.  Duquesne serves students, with a special concern for every form of disadvantage they may face.

How do we, how should we, best serve our students?  Many of us have faced criticism from students, and sometimes from parents, because of a misunderstanding on this exceptionally important point.  The criticism tends to come when a student does not get what he or she wants—not the grade they want, not the room assignment they want, not the parking spot they want, for examples.  Or sometimes it comes when a student must face discipline as a consequence of his or her actions.  In these and other cases, many of us have been assailed with a charge of hypocrisy:  “You say you serve God by serving students, but you’re not serving me.”

But we must be clear that our commitment to serving students is not service to what they want in the present.  That would be an impossible standard.  Perhaps more importantly, to think of our service to students as service to their present wants would fuel the very worst tendency in our contemporary culture.  It would reinforce the narcissistic notion that everything is about me and my personal satisfactions.

Instead, our service to our students is anchored in our best judgment about what they will need for their long-term success as human beings.  That interest can only be served by high standards, by rules that enforce mutual respect and fairness, and by refusing to serve a student’s present wants when those wants plainly conflict with what the student needs for his or her long-term best interest.  Thus is it extremely important to assign the appropriate grade for student classroom work and not be pressured into grade inflation.  Sometimes assignment of a C or a D, when it is deserved, can serve a student’s long term best interests if it forces the student to live up to high academic standards.  Denial of an unreasonable student demand can serve the student’s long-term best interest when it teaches standards of reasonableness.  Penalties for academic or student life violations can also teach valuable life lessons that will serve a student well throughout the future.  On the other hand, assigning grades that are not deserved, capitulating to unreasonable demands, and shirking our duty to impose appropriate sanctions when they are called for—none of these decisions truly serve our students.

Perhaps the point is captured more easily by saying simply that we serve our students best when we demand excellence from them while providing the guidance and support they need to attain it.  After all, since serving students is our chosen path to serving God we can hardly be satisfied with any standard short of excellence.

The sense of commitment to excellence is all around us at Duquesne.  Sometimes we don’t see it because we are too close to it.  That is why I take this opportunity each year to hold up for our attention some of our collective achievements.  Awareness of the excellence surrounding us increases our pride in our academic community and reinforces our own commitment to excellence.  Let me now review some of last year’s successes that have followed from Duquesne’s commitment to excellence and from so many diligent efforts to attain it.

Let me begin with Mission and Identity. The second edition of Spiritan Horizons was published and distributed to Spiritans around the world.  Significant progress was made in digitizing key Spiritan documents, including the writings of Venerable Francis Libermann and documents that record the early development of the Congregation.  This will no doubt lead to new research and publication on the founding and history of the Spiritans.  American Spiritans had been divided into East and West provinces, but now they have merged.  Thus the religious sponsor of University is no longer the Eastern province but the entire American province.  This is good news for us as it means that more Spiritans will regard Duquesne as their own, and consider working here.  This fall we have the largest number of Spiritans living in Trinity Hall in recent memory.  Because of gifts from an alum and the Women’s Advisory Board our chapel now has a new sound system and the capacity for live webcasting.  Spiritan Campus Ministry hosted our Bishop for several masses on campus last year and arranged a first ever “town hall” meeting between the Bishop and our students.  Last year was the 20th anniversary of Campus Ministry’s annual Spring Clean-Up; over 500 faculty, staff, and students helped to clean up the Southside, Uptown and the Hill District.  There were several cross-cultural service trips last year.  Students again went to Mullens, West Virginia, New Orleans, and Immokalee, Florida.  For the first time, Spiritan Campus Ministry took students to the Dominican Republic where they ran a summer camp for 90 grade school children.  And Campus Ministry helped to celebrate 68 weddings in our University Chapel last year.

Academic Affairs had another strong year.  Admissions just brought in one of the largest freshman classes in University history, a remarkable feat given the recession.  You will recall that we withheld salary increases in this year’s budget because early reports showed a significant downturn in deposits.  That was the prudent choice at the time given the other challenges in our national economy.  I am grateful for your understanding and support of that difficult decision.  But we have more than recovered with this record freshman class and there are no unusual losses among upperclassmen and graduate students.  Therefore, as promised, the salary pool will be restored.  Performance-based raises will be added to salaries beginning on Sept. 23rd.  We had planned on a 2% salary pool.  But because raises were not distributed during the first quarter of this year, the pool has been increased to 2.5%.

Admissions also increased out-of-state enrollment, with particular gains in California and Rhode Island.  Our application volume last fall was a record, up 17% from the year before.  The racial diversity of the freshman class is up 11% from last year and up 57% from 2007, the base year for our current minority recruiting initiatives.  A survey indicated that 90% of our students and parents are satisfied with the service, knowledge and experience of our Financial Aid Office.  And a renewed effort to spend the earnings from our many endowed scholarship funds allowed us to relieve our tuition-funded aid budget by almost $400 thousand dollars.

Last year 470 of our students studied aboard, a 14% increase.  Almost 500 international students studied at Duquesne last year.  Duquesne was named “Best U.S. International Partner” for our training and support of State Department personnel. There were 170 grant applications submitted last year, up 23%.  Awards totaled more than $12 million dollars and produced $1.3 million in overhead payments to the University.  The Office of Sponsored Research hosted the first Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium with more than 55 presenters.  First to second year retention in our Spiritan Division was an astounding 98% last year.  46% of last year’s Division freshman earned a 3.0 of better.  Our Learning Skills Center fulfilled over 650 requests for tutoring generating 2500 hours of assistance.  The Spiritan Division partnered with the Jerome Bettis Foundation for the second year and ran a computer camp for middle school students—our attempt to minimize the infamous “digital divide” in our own community.

The Gumberg Library worked with the Mary Pappert School of Music to renovate a portion of the 5th floor into the Mary Jane Schultz Music Center.  The library added 10 more circulating laptops to keep up with accelerating demand.  There were more than half a million visits to our Library last year, a new record—effectively doubling the use of Gumberg since 1993.  Library resources, of course, are also on line.  Those resources, in and outside the library, supported 1.3 million searches last year by our faculty and students.  The first 50 years of the Duquesne Duke has been digitized and put on line, as has the first twenty years of the Pittsburgh Catholic.  A new core curriculum was adopted last year for our Honors College.  The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized Duquesne for its outstanding commitment to community engagement through service learning and volunteer work; fewer than 120 institutions nationally received this designation.  The Center for Teaching Excellence celebrated its 20th year of service to faculty by hosting 58 events involving over 300 individuals and 41% of Duquesne’s full-time faculty.

In Student Life last year, Residence Life housed the largest number of students in our history: 3,258. This brought us to 102% of capacity—over 100% because of the conversion of lounges to 4 person bedrooms. Our Orientation Program won 3 awards from the National Orientation Director’s Association last year, the most of any American university.  Special Student Services served the highest number of students with disabilities in University history, a 16% increase over the previous year.  Health Services moved into a new modern facility and had a significant increase in student visits—well over 2 thousand per month. Career Services sponsored 3 on-campus job fairs involving more than 700 potential employers.  Total service by our Greek organizations hit nearly 23 thousand hours last year.  DU Volunteers documented 209 thousand hours of service by over 8 thousand students, faculty, staff and alums.  Our new Power Center was heavily used.  There were 180 thousand visits last year and sixty weekly fitness classes were taught to a total of 14,500 participants.  Our Tamburitzans performed last year in 35 states, traveling 40 thousand miles to do so.

In Management and Business, Facilities opened our state of the art ice storage facility and secured LEED certification for the Power Center at the silver level—placing it among the greenest buildings in the City.  Public Safety installed a campus-wide outdoor warning system to augment our emergency notification system.  Human Resources initiated an innovative Administrative Development Internship program to help us recruit minority employees.  This program received the “People Do Matter” award from the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association.  They launched a new sexual harassment prevention training program with an on-line option and a tracking system to insure that we all stay current on these issues. The College Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association gave an excellence award to our Environmental Health and Safety office for their safety newsletter.  Their risk team spearheaded the development of a comprehensive University Pandemic Response Plan.  The Red Ring restaurant ended its first full year of operations in the black and has become an important part of our campus and a popular spot for the community.

Planning and Budget brought us a surplus last year, at a time when many of our peer institutions ran significant deficits.  The last quarter budget cuts helped; so did the cooperation we received from our deans and budget managers across the university, as evidenced by a general restraint in spending.  This positive financial result helped us preserve our running streak of annual surpluses, now at 20 years.  I am proud and grateful that working together we accomplished this result during the worst economy since the Great Depression, and we did it without any budget-related job losses or program cuts.  With the restoration of the salary pool next week, Duquesne University will have weathered last year’s challenging economy with very little damage.

University Advancement also had a remarkable year despite the bad economy and reports of a poor year of fundraising by so many of our peer institutions.  In fact, total gifts last year exceeded 15 million dollars, up 5.5 % from the previous year.  This makes it the second best year of our capital campaign, bringing us now to a total of over 93 million dollars.  Our Legacy fund for need-based scholarships gained more than 5.5 million last year, up 76% from the previous year.  Planned Gifts closed over 6 million dollars last year, an increase of 16%--making it the best year for planned giving in University history.  There was another strong year for gifts and pledges to the Duquesne Athletic Fund, an increase of 37% over the last year.  The three year trend for giving to Athletics is up an astounding 171%.

Part of the reason for these outstanding results is that our fundraising professionals are reaching more people than ever.  Last year, staff conducted over a thousand visits with major prospects, a 57% increase.  Last year there were more visits with foundation leaders than the previous eight years combined.  We added an office of stewardship and produced the first-ever report to all endowment donors, tracking their gifts and naming the students who are benefitting from them.  Last year a Young Alumni Council was begun to involve those who graduated within the last 10 years.  The number of alumni events increased by 39% and participation by 13%.  Coverage of Duquesne in the media increased by 139% last year.  Use of our faculty as experts in the media went up by 45%.

The McAnulty College opened the new Caulfield Digital Media Center last year.  Students from our Journalism and Multimedia Arts Department were the only students granted press credentials to cover Pope Benedict’s visit to America and the DVD that they produced won a national Telly Award.  The English Department hosted four visiting creative writers last year.  The History Department hosted a forum on “The Confederate Battle Flag: The History and Meaning of a Controversial Symbol.”  The Philosophy Department sponsored its third annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.  The Department of Psychology provided free counseling to members of the military, veterans, and their families.  The Center for Social and Public Policy hosted a national conference on “Energy and the Environment.”  The Department of Modern Languages and Literature inaugurated a human rights film festival.  Last year College faculty published more than 20 books and over 140 articles.

The Palumbo-Donahue School of Business was reaccredited last year by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, keeping us among the less than 5% of business schools worldwide with such accreditation.  The Donahue Graduate School was included in the 2009 edition of The Princeton Review’s Best 296 Business Schools.  Our MBA Sustainability program was awarded the inaugural Page Prize for the best U.S. environmental sustainability curriculum.  The Carfang Commons, a new space for study and group work, was opened in Rockwell Hall last year.

The Legal Research and Writing Program in our School of Law was ranked 17th in US News and World Report.  First time takers of last year’s bar exam passed at the rate of 97%.  A gift of 1.4 million dollars allowed the School to establish one of the largest Loan Repayment Assistance Programs in the nation to aid graduates engaged in public interest law and public service.  Our Trail Advocacy teams won the tournament championship at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.  Law students also won the Buffalo-Niagara trial competition and the American Bar Association regional in Chicago, and received the Best Advocates Award in 3 moot court competitions.  And the School of law hosted an international seminar for lawyers on “Separation of Powers: In the Americas and Beyond.”

The Mylan School of Pharmacy expanded its global pharmacy education by entering into a partnership with the University of Perugia, Italy’s number one School of Pharmacy.  The School submitted 16 grant applications last year, 68% more than the previous year.  Nearly 9 thousand patients were served last year in Wellness and Chronic Disease Management programs in 8 underserved communities in Pittsburgh and among the uninsured and underinsured in 5 counties.  The Muldoon Building at 1000 Fifth Ave. opened last year as a locus of these activities.  Pharmacy faculty published 42 scholarly articles and 13 book chapters last year.  And they set an annual new record for patents at 16.

The School of Education was selected by the University Council for Educational Administration to establish the Center for Leadership and Social Justice.  The School hosted the first training of the inaugural cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Evaluation Fellowship Program.  They hosted a speaker series on “Teaching in Urban Schools.”  The Counselor Education program was named the Outstanding Counselor Education Program from the Pennsylvania Counseling Association.  Several faculty and administrators in the School have been recognized for their scholarly work on behalf of children in Africa.  Faculty in the School published 4 books, 37 articles and book chapters, and made 94 scholarly presentations.  And Canevin Hall was completely renovated over the last year and a half.

Faculty and students in our Mary Pappert School of Music presented over 200 public performances last year, including the new “In Memoriam,” a Lenten collaboration with Campus Ministry.  Last year’s “Summertime Jazz” added soul music to the performances. The School hosted “An Aaron Shearer Celebration,” in recognition of a pioneer of the classic guitar.  “Musique on the Bluff” was launched.  “Celebration Messisean” focused on sacred music. “O Come All Ye Faithful” in St. Paul’s Cathedral has become a Pittsburgh Advent favorite with more than 100 performers from the Pappert School last year.  Music School jazz faculty were invited to the White House where they put on educational performances for 150 middle and high school students.   In addition to the dedication of the Mary Jane Schultz Music Center already mentioned, the School opened the Anthony Triano Woodwind Suite, the William Schrecengost Audio Control Room, and the Mary K. Stellute Opera Collection.

Last year, the School of Nursing was designated a Center of Excellence by the National League of Nursing—one of only 13 Schools of Nursing in the nation.  The School was among the first group of schools to be awarded Robert Wood Johnson scholarships in the New Careers in Nursing program.  They also received a grant to support graduate students from the Health Resources and Services Administration.  The Nursing School completed 6 years of federal funding for the development of forensic nursing, totaling nearly 2 million dollars.  And the School inaugurated the new Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Students in our Athletic Training program in the Rangos School had clinical education experiences last year with 2 world champions—the Steelers and the Penguins.  Our students had the highest passing grads in the nation on the diagnosis/evaluation and professional development sections of the national licensure exam.  Extramural funding for Physical Therapy reached 3 quarters of a million dollars last year.  Faculty in PT published 18 research reports and made 28 national and international presentations.  They also received final accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education.  The Occupational Therapy program was reaccredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education for the maximum number of years.  Speech Language Pathology faculty and staff provided over 2100 pro bono therapeutic sessions for Pittsburgh clients.

The Bayer School recruited the first class of Bayer Scholars last year; they are here as freshmen now.  That scholarship fund is a partnership with Bayer to increase diversity in the region’s science workforce.  The Forensic Science and Law Program became only the second program in Pennsylvania to be accredited by the Forensic Sciences Educational Programs Accreditation Commission.  Because of a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Bayer School obtained and installed a 1.2 million dollar mass spectrometer.  Overall, Bayer faculty received more than 3.9 million dollars in grants last year.  Last year’s Darwin Celebration was a big success.  The Center for Environmental Research and Education documented that over the last 2 years greenhouse emissions from Duquesne decreased by 13%; this despite growth in our campus and student body.  Faculty in the Bayer School had 87 scholarly publications last year and gave 92 conference presentations.

The School of Leadership and Professional Advancement launched a Professional Coaching Certification Program last year.  They established a formal partnership with the Institute of Professional Studies in Accra, Ghana and attracted a third of a million dollars from the U.S. State Department to fund exchanges between the two institutions.  SLPA was recognized as one of the top 10 military-friendly universities in the nation by AllMilitary.com and GI Jobs magazine placed us in the top 15% of universities worldwide.  The School also created a masters concentration in Global Leadership.

We had a banner year in Athletics.  Our men’s basketball team posted the most wins since 1971, advanced to the A10 championship game, and played in the NIT—our first post season play since 1994.  The women’s basketball team set a record for 20 wins and had their first ever post-season play in the WNIT.  Our football team added scholarships and played in a new, more demanding league.  And academics were not neglected.  Our 20 athletic teams had an average GPA of 3.1.  Fourteen of our athletes earned a 4.0 in the spring semester and 109 student-athletes were named to the A10 Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.

These are just some of the highlights of our successes last year.  But the greatest success at Duquesne last year was virtually transparent.  It appears to us as the ordinary, again because we are so close to it.  But new students and their parents and any visitor to our campus see it immediately.  And that is the extraordinary dedication that each of us brings to our work every day, and the uniquely affirming university community we build as a result.  We are indeed serving God by serving students.  I thank each of you for your role in that most important success of last year.

I began today with a reflection on serving our students.  I would like to conclude with some thoughts on our service to one another as employees.  You may have seen posters around our campus entitled “Expectations of a Duquesne Student.”  If you have not read one, I encourage you to take some time to do so because the twelve simple points they contain carry quite a bit of wisdom.  We all need that kind of wisdom in our own lives, so I want to end my remarks today by adapting that message to students into one for all of us as employees.  Here are twelve short points that might be called “Expectations of a Duquesne Employee.”

  1. Support and live out the University’s mission.
  2. Build on the values you received from those who loved you and those who love you now.
  3. Be diligent, open to learning and change in your work, and always strive for excellence.
  4. Be honest and have integrity in all you do.
  5. Recognize the importance of service to others and to our community.
  6. Grow spiritually; this is your life, not just a job.
  7. Appreciate diversity; be welcoming and supportive of others.
  8. Respect your body; respect all of creation.
  9. Nurture your sense of self and deepen your concern for others.
  10. Cultivate friendships, teamwork, and a sense of community.
  11. Be proud of Duquesne and your unique role in creating an ever greater University.
  12. Be at peace by loving God, your neighbor, and yourself.

My best wishes for a most successful and fulfilling academic year this year.  May the Spirit Who Gives Life bless Duquesne University with another year filled with the life of the mind, the heart and the spirit.  Thank you.