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Duquesne Applauds Class of 2011 and Outstanding Student Graduation Rates

On Friday, May 6, Duquesne University will send forth 1,615 newly minted graduates. En masse, they illustrate the success story that surrounds a Duquesne graduation.

Nationwide, statistics tracking how many students receive bachelor degrees within six years of starting school show a 53.7 percent graduation rate for public universities and a 68 percent rate for private schools.

Duquesne’s six-year graduation rate stands at 75 percent—thanks to factors including institutional and family expectations and student recruitment—and is significantly higher than might be expected.

“The six-year graduation rate is a measure of the academic quality, preparation and motivation of our students; their engagement and satisfaction with the educational experience; the viability of our academic and student support infrastructure; and the quality of our teaching,” said Paul-James Cukanna, associate provost for enrollment management. “As a whole, it is a measure of institutional and student productivity. And it is the gold standard by which universities are measured by others.”

U.S. News & World Report cites Duquesne as having an “over-performance” factor; our students consistently graduate at a rate a full 10 percentage points higher than the characteristics of the University and its students would predict, according to models educational researchers have developed, said Jim Ritchie, director of institutional research and planning.

The University mission of serving God by serving students, Cukanna said, figures prominently into the excellent graduation rate. “Our culture is one where we expect our students to graduate and to be successful,” he said.

The process starts with recruitment and enrollment. Duquesne is considered “very selective” compared with all institutions, plus it does a good job in “fitting” or matching students with the University culture, Ritchie said.

Other factors that Cukanna sees playing into the graduation rate equation include:

  • Quality of teaching
  • Academic advisement
  • Student life initiatives, including residence hall operations.
  • Expectations of families and the institution.

“Our faculty search committees are very intentional about identifying candidates who can contribute to our mission and who truly exemplify our teacher-scholar model,” said Dr. Alexandra Gregory, associate provost. “As a result, we have an outstanding faculty who make a difference in students’ lives in the classroom, as well as contribute nationally through their scholarly interests.”

Academic advisers, likewise, can positively impact student success.

“Academic advisers are one of the most important factors in student satisfaction, retention and success,” Gregory said. “We’re fortunate to have professionals who understand student needs and work collaboratively to support students as they pursue their degrees.”

Another important contributor to the student graduation rate is life outside the classroom. “Statistics show that an involved student is a successful student,” said Cheryl Knoch, assistant vice president for student life.

Resident and commuter assistants, club and academic advisers, the student-run orientation that is uniquely Duquesne, the Freshman Retention Committee and the University-wide Retention Committee all contribute to personalizing the Duquesne experience.

“There is an intentional effort to make personal contacts with the students,” Knoch said.

The personal response is a Duquesne differentiator and resonates with students. In exit interviews, seniors commonly say they heard “welcome to the Duquesne family” as skeptical freshmen and were most surprised that, by graduation, the phrase was reality.

“Everybody wants to see you succeed,” students commonly tell Knoch.

“Being successful is part of our culture, coming down from above,” Cukanna said. “The president, the provost, the priests, all of them send the message ‘You’re expected to help these kids be successful.’

“These expectations have been translated, in the end, to the improvements in the graduation rates—even though our graduation rates were already above the national average,” Cukanna explained. “It takes a collaborative effort to recruit a student and retain a student through graduation. So it’s not random. It’s part of an overall plan; it’s by intent, not by chance.”

Graduation Details
University commencement
will be on Friday, May 6, at 5 p.m. in the A.J. Palumbo Center. Speaker will be Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services. Hackett and Dr. Lee Shulman, president emeritus of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, will receive honorary degrees

Diploma ceremonies will be hosted by several schools on Saturday, May 7.
• Palumbo•Donahue School of Business, noon, in the A.J. Palumbo Center
• School of Nursing, noon, in the Union Ballroom
• School of Education, 3 p.m., in the A.J. Palumbo Center
• Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, 3 p.m., in the Union Ballroom
• Rangos School of Health Sciences, 6 p.m., in the A.J. Palumbo Center.

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.