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Convocation Reflects on Accomplishments Attained through Strategic Plan

The accomplishments achieved by following the footprint of Duquesne University’s five-year Strategic Plan were recapped at a special convocation by President Charles J. Dougherty.

The Strategic Plan, a process new to the University when it was instituted in 2003, served as the overarching vision that guided the University’s overall goals through 2008 and prompted great physical, academic and spiritual growth for the campus community, Dougherty said in his April 14 address.

The Duquesne community had gathered for the occasion, which also marked the University’s 130th anniversary, in the most visible manifestation of the plan on campus today: the new Power Center, a five-level recreation center for students, faculty and staff and neighborhood retail complex on Forbes Avenue. This new construction has enhanced Duquesne in two ways, Dougherty said: by presenting “an attractive and welcoming front door for the University and a contemporary facility for recreation (that) will help us recruit academically talented students to Duquesne for years to come.”

This achievement was one in a trio of “momentous decisions that will profoundly shape the future of Duquesne University for the better” that were not specifically envisioned in the Strategic Plan, but could be accomplished because of the plan’s flexibility. The other two key decisions also greatly improved the quality of life for students: the purchase of land and removal of decades of dilapidation on Forbes Avenue and the acquisition of the former Citiline Apartments, completing Duquesne’s ownership of the Bluff and allowing students to opt for apartment-style living in Brottier Hall.

All three of these decisions fit the Strategic Plan by dovetailing with the University’s ultimate goal of serving God by serving students. Specifically, the plan called for Duquesne to enter the first ranks of American Catholic higher education by emphasizing its unique Spiritan identity, enhancing the quality of student experience and developing a national reputation for academic excellence.

Yet, in discussing some of the many ways the University has grown, Dougherty noted, “We will never finish improving our University. Some issues, like diversity and elevating student conduct, are perennial and will likely show up in our next Strategic Plan and perhaps in all future Duquesne University Strategic Plans. But in essence, we have completed our 2002-2008 Strategic Plan—on time and within the constraints of existing resources.”

For instance, while the faculty minority hiring programs have accelerated, Dougherty called upon academic departments to further improve diversity by adopting something similar to the “Rooney Rule.” The initiative, named for alumnus and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was implemented to increase the diversity among head coaches in the National Football League. The Duquesne adaptation of the Rooney Rule would require at least one finalist for every faculty position to be a minority, as defined by the department and school doing the hiring.

“Only when we routinely bring minority candidates to campus as finalists for open positions will it be possible for us to hire them onto the faculty in reasonably large numbers,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty recognized that the many accomplishments were possible only because they were collective achievements, with widespread input and support from faculty, staff and students who championed the plan and ensured its initiatives were met, for the benefit of theirs and future generations at Duquesne.

“…In our own ways and in many, many ways, we all followed the Plan we set for ourselves and brought it to a remarkably successful conclusion,” Dougherty said. “Together, we planned our future; together we accomplished it.”

In detailing successes of the Strategic Plan, Dougherty discussed the following among numerous achievements:

  • Emphasizing the University’s missions through annual programs for the campus community, and new employee and freshman orientation.
  • Developing a new, faculty-created and approved core curriculum, with a required ethics course.
  • Improving the academic profile of all students, with the greatest strides among minority students. The average freshman SAT score has increased from 1080 in 2001 to 1120 in 2007. At the same time, the University grew increasingly more selective, while the number of freshman applicants rose by 71 percent. The academic profile of minority students has improved even more than that of Duquesne students in general. Various scholarship and internship initiatives are expected to yield greater diversity among students.
  • Increasing need-based financial aide due to the School as Lender program and new University commitments.
  • Creating a new Center for the Study of Catholic Social Thought to provide annual grants for faculty research across all disciplines in the area of Catholic social thought.
  • Establishing the Center for Spiritan Studies to provide an international voice for the Spiritan charism.
  • Instituting an Office of Service-Learning and requiring a service-learning experience of all students. The University has documented that more than 7,000 students volunteered more than 200,000 hours at more than 900 area agencies.
  • Hiring a new athletic director, as well as new coaches in football and men’s and women’s basketball. Football has consistently finished with winning seasons; both basketball programs rated winning seasons in 2007-08. Duquesne athletes are always at the top of the Atlantic 10 in academic measures.
  • Introducing new technology, including Self-Service Banner and SCT, to support advisement and revising the Freshman Transition Summer Program to include more than two hours of meetings with students, parents and advisors.
  • Enhancing most campus classrooms with new technology capabilities.
  • Expanding the number of funded endowed chairs to 11, and adding an endowed chair in biotechnology.
  • Tracking faculty scholarly productivity. The count of reported books, articles and scholarly presentations increased by 87 percent from 2003 to 2007.
  • Increasing, by nearly $2 million, the grant funding received by the University.
  • Completing large-scale physical improvements in Brottier Hall, St. Martin’s Hall, College Hall, the School of Music, the School of Nursing and the Law School. Remodeling is under way in Rockwell Hall, and a total renovation of Canevin Hall will begin this summer. Approximately $23 million has been invested in more than 200 projects in academic facilities.
  • Expanding the Student Health Service area in the Union, and adding a lounge for casual faculty-student interaction and a welcome center for the Office of Admissions.

To celebrate these accomplishments and the University’s 130th anniversary, Dougherty said, Duquesne will add a special, symbolic sculpture to campus. The Spirit of Duquesne, created in steel and glass by Kathleen Mulcahy and Ron Desmett, will depict a flame. It will be erected on the pedestal in the Locust Street circle, a crossroads for the campus.

“The sculpture,” Dougherty said, “will soon become a potent symbol of Duquesne, a beautiful exemplar of the Spirit Who Gives Life. Members of our Duquesne community will enjoy this work of art as an emblem of our mission and will draw inspiration from it for generations to come.”

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.