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State of the University, 2004-2005

Duquesne University Seal - SmallCharles J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
President, Duquesne University
September 9, 2005


Welcome to our 2005 University convocation. This is a moment in our year when we celebrate our successes, recognize special achievements, and look to the future together.

Let me begin with our future. The focus of our efforts is defined by our strategic plan, the heart of which contains a vision for Duquesne University. That vision sees us entering the elite of American Catholic higher education. Simply put, we aspire to be the best in our class. This aspiration is yours and mine, but it is rooted in the efforts of generations of members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and their lay partners since Duquesne University began on the second floor of a Pittsburgh bakery in 1878. With the construction of Old Main in 1885, our destiny has been tied to this remarkable Bluff overlooking the Monongahela river. The Bluff is now entirely ours, as is responsibility for realizing our vision.

Our Strategic Plan distributes that vision in three areas, calling for excellence in our mission, in service to students, and in our academic life. Let me say a word about each.

We are a Catholic and Spiritan University. There was a time, and not so long ago, when many academics at Catholic universities were mildly embarrassment by the association. The prevailing view then was that real success as a university required that we deemphasize our religious identity and follow the path of secular institutions. But across the nation, Catholic universities now have a deeper insight: that it is precisely in being Catholic that we can truly excel. And so it is for Duquesne. Our religious identity is part of being distinctive and it gives us a grounding in faith that enriches the meaning of all we do.

We are a Spiritan University, the only one in the world. This places us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and gives us links to the worldwide efforts of the Congregation. It also gives a certain complexion to our Catholic character, placing emphasis, for example, on issues of war, poverty, and interfaith dialogue. And it challenges us to be especially respectful of cultural diversity. We have not yet fully understood all that our Spiritan nature can mean but new efforts such as the Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Center for Spiritan Studies have great potential in this arena.

The heart of our commitment to our students lies in the classroom, so the best way we can serve students in the long run is to maintain the highest standards in faculty hiring and in promotion and tenure decisions. But student satisfaction is a complex phenomenon, involving among other things, the attractiveness of campus, the working conditions of buildings and facilities, the range of activities outside the classroom, and the intangible but exceptionally important sense that we are a community of caring. The first markers of student satisfaction are recruiting and retention, and we are enjoying great success in these areas. But our context is highly competitive and we cannot rest on present achievements.

That is why it is critically important to have Brottier Hall so we can add a new dimension of apartment living on campus. That is why we are investing in a new recreation center so we can meet the needs and expectations of future students. That is why we added a Starbucks in the Union and will open a Barnes and Noble superstore in the rec center—so we can expand our amenities with quality partners.

Our mission commitment and our concern for students come together in the phrase "We serve God by serving students." But it is important to emphasize that we do not serve the immediate wants of students, but their long-term best interests. Often that means denying students something they may want in the present or providing discipline to some that serves the best interests of all. An academic case in point is plagiarism. Aside from anti-intellectualism itself, there is probably not another element of our current culture so potentially damaging to our entire enterprise. We simply cannot tolerate the presentation of another's work as one's own, nor can we accept the exclusive use of testing methods that carry no risk of plagiarism. Students must write and we must be rigorous in the application of our academic integrity standards. I ask our faculty to reflect on these issues with our students and I ask our academic administrators to support faculty members when plagiarism is uncovered.

The third element of our vision is to enhance our national reputation for excellence. Plainly there are two dimensions here—the excellence itself and the reputation for it. Faculty excellence begins with national searches conducted in timely professional manners to insure that we have the best pool of talent to draw from. Rigor in third year review and promotion and tenure decisions are critical. I believe that sabbaticals are exceptional useful for faculty development. But perhaps the most important element in attaining and sustaining academic excellence is cultivating an atmosphere of high expectation and collegiality among faculty members. We must expect the best teaching, research, and service from one another, and we must be ready to help each other attain them.

National reputations are made through publications, by attending national meetings, and by hosting academic meetings here. I ask deans and department chair to encourage all three. But the first step in securing a national reputation is to develop one at home. There are exceptions to be sure, but most faculty members are humble beings, reluctant to call attention to their own achievements. But we cannot build a national academic reputation together unless we make our successes known to one another and, where appropriate, to the press. We cannot impress others with the quality of a Duquesne education unless we are each aware of the full range of the truly impressive things happening here. To this end, I have asked the Provost to publish an annual listing of faculty publications. This can only succeed if you tell us what you have published. And I ask faculty to do so, not for self-aggrandizement, but to advance our common good and to realize our vision for Duquesne University.

These are the three elements of our strategic plan, grounded in our vision. The core of it all is a drive for excellence and a rejection of all things mediocre. There must be high quality in all we do and we should do less if the highest level of quality cannot be sustained everywhere. Quality is real and it shows itself unmistakably over time. But quality begins in a perception of quality. That is why the attractiveness of campus is so important for us. To a first-time visitor our campus makes a statement. It says this is a place of high expectations and achievement. That is why the beauty of campus and its maintenance are high priorities. That is why we have invested so much in renovations in academic spaces and in residence halls.

Another key element of high quality in an institution is leadership. Where there is effective leadership, quality becomes the norm. When leadership is ineffective, quality stagnates and dissolves. The most difficult decisions involve changes in leadership, but progress toward our vision and fulfilling the promise of our strategic plan require that we have the right people in the right places. When lack of movement toward excellence indicates a problem with some level of leadership, when it becomes clear that the wrong person is in place then it is irresponsible not to make the difficult decisions. We owe it to one another and to the students we serve. And when we have the right leaders in the right positions—and this is overwhelming true today throughout campus—they deserve our wholehearted support.

Finally, there an intangible that shapes our progress toward excellence and the presence of genuine quality. That intangible is trust. A community of any sort must have levels of unspoken trust, trust that others can be counted upon to play their roles, do their best, fairly give and take. The community of a university is intentional and reflective and so must be our trust in one another. We must always begin with the explicit presumption that our colleagues and co-workers across the hall or across the campus are playing their roles, doing their best, and fairly giving and taking. We must resist the temptation of thinking that I am the only one working hard here, that my department is the only competent one, that only my school or division really cares. Duquesne University is a complex organization. The first intangible necessary to move us to excellence is the belief that we all want this, that we are all working hard for this, and that we are capable of moving toward excellence together. That intangible is trust in one another and in the remarkable community that we share.

I move now to a celebration of the successes of the past year. In academic affairs, a new program review process began, with a focus on graduate programs. The point of this comprehensive review is to assure that we are providing the highest quality in all of our academic programs. Last year the faculty handbook was revised, including the tenure and promotion guidelines. Special thanks to the Faculty Senate for assistance throughout this project. An office of International Programs was created to coordinate efforts and to insure student safety abroad.

An enhanced honors program was launched last fall, with admissions requirements raised from 1200 on the SAT to 1300.

Three successful national searches were conducted, bringing us strong new deans in Business, Law and Education. Outcomes assessment completed a second year of work, helping us better measure educational results. We estimate, and I believe this is conservative, that university faculty published more than 200 books and articles last year and gave more than 175 papers at scholarly conferences. And last fall we opened up a beautiful new campus in Rome, expanding our numbers to 60 students each semester.

Admissions brought in our third largest freshman class last fall, on the heels of the two largest ever. This fall's class is larger than last year, making it now the third biggest and making last year's the fourth. What this means is that the four current undergraduate classes—freshmen to seniors—are the four largest classes in our University's history.

Each one of the last three freshman classes set a new record high SAT average. This year's freshmen class has done it again. Our average SAT score has moved from 1080 in 2001 to 1130 this year, a rise so dramatic that faculty experience it in their classrooms. So our four biggest classes are also our four best classes so far as the SAT goes.

Last year, in the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts sixteen books were published, with an additional seven in press and scheduled to be published during the last half of 2005. More than 100 articles and book chapters were published in scholarly journals and more than 150 papers were delivered at scholarly conferences. This is exceptional productivity. The College created a new Department of Journalism and Multimedia Arts, as well as a newly configured Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies. Faculty in the college brought in over $480,000 in major grants.

The Mary Pappert School of Music was reaccredited last year, with considerable praise from the National Association of Schools of Music, including the observation that " the enthusiasm, high morale, and commitment of the music faculty is significant and one of the greatest strengths of the program." Over 1,400 elementary students from the Pittsburgh catholic schools attended a children's concert by our symphony orchestra. We gained national recognition for hosting summer guitar workshops that have trained more than1300 teachers to implement school based guitar programs. The Duquesne opera workshop performed in Bulgaria.

The A.J. Palumbo School of Business Administration launched a new online graduate program last fall, a masters of science degree in sports leadership with an emphasis on ethics and leadership. Duquesne's Chrysler Corporation Small Business Development Center launched the first national program to educate companies about European Union safety regulations and established a center for international regulatory assistance.

Last year the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences began exit interviews of all its graduating students. Another successful Darwin Day was hosted and the school obtained a new confocal microscope. The Center for Computational Sciences received $100,000 to support development of its supercomputer and a new mass spectrometer was installed with a major grant from the National Science Foundation.

Our School of Education received a grant with the Pittsburgh public school system to educate over 50 city teachers to enhance their use of educational technology. The Counselor Education Program received approval from the state to offer a Ph.D. degree, making us only the second Catholic university in the country to offer this degree. Last year the Educational Leadership and Administration Program, along with the Special Education and School Psychology programs, received national recognition from its standard-setting body.

Our Mylan School of Pharmacy's Center for Wellness and Disease Management Programs provided health screenings to over 4000 individuals. They have taken the lead on the "Lighten Up Duquesne" weight control program. The School initiated a unique post-baccalaureate PharmD weekend program, the first of its kind. Our Center for Pharmaceutical Technology was selected by the FDA to develop and deliver a program on the use of cutting-edge technologies to automate and improved the manufacturing process. And the U.S. News and World Report ranked our program among the top 40 in the nation.

Last fall our School of Law matriculated its first year class with the best credentials in the school's history. The mean LSAT reached 156. Law School graduates finished in the top half of Pennsylvania law schools in the July 2004 the bar exam and led the state in the February result for first-time takers of the bar. Our law students won the regional trial moot court competition of the National Association of Trial Lawyers last year and advanced to the national competition, finishing among the top eight teams in the United States.

Faculty in our School of Nursing were responsible for more than $200,000 in external grant funding last year. Our bachelor's and master's programs were reaccredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The new community-based undergraduate curriculum was approved by the state board of nursing. Undergraduate enrollment continues to grow, expanding threefold from 2002. Faculty of the school published more than 25 articles in refereed journals and gave over 35 presentations across the nation.

Our Rangos School faculty were responsible for bringing in over $160,000 in grant support last year. They also published over 45 articles and book chapters. Graduates in the class of 2004 placed in the 75th percentile for first-time takers of the Physician Assistant national certification examination. Faculty held leadership positions with the American Chronic Pain Association, American College of Surgeons, the National Athletic Trainer Association, and the Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

In the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement the number of students taking courses at a distance grew more than doubled. Some of these students are animal advocacy professionals in the nation's first online degree and certificate program for people working in the field of animal care and control. More than 150 active duty, reserve, guard, and veterans are in SLPA programs, many of them taking coursework online using professional digital assistants. Boards By Design successfully placed nearly 300 individuals on not for profit boards in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Last year, campus ministry organized more than 500 masses on campus and hosted multiple collaborations around campus. They took the lead in raising funds for tsunami victims and deepened our links to Catholic Relief Services. They lead interfaith efforts involving Orthodox Christians, Byzantine Catholics, and Muslims.

The Student Life Division had a year of accomplishments. Four job fairs were held facilitating more than 750 student interviews. Service and Greek organizations raised more than $15,000 for various health and social service groups. Judicial affairs prepared a major revision of our disciplinary handbook. Our Freshmen Orientation Program received the outstanding website award at the National Orientation Directors Association conference. Working with facilities management, Special Student Services added a dozen electric doors on campus to assist students with disabilities.

Minorities in our fall 2004 freshman class returned for their second semester at a remarkable rate of 97%, and 90% of them returned for their sophomore year. The work of our Cares Program continues to pay off: the number of repeat alcohol and drug offences declined considerably last year and the number of marijuana violations on campus was minimal. Brottier Hall made a successful transition to a living learning center and was filled to capacity.

Last year in Athletics, we had great success with our women's lacrosse team and with men's soccer, football, and baseball. Once again, we led the Atlantic 10 in every measure of student-athletes' academic performance. We hired a new Athletic Director who will help to revitalize our programs and our community outreach. And a significant renovation began in the Palumbo Center that will provide better facilities for our athletes and improve our recruiting.

The Division of Management and Business was busy as well. They completed the acquisition of our new Forbes Avenue property last year and oversaw the demolition of the blighted structures on the block. They developed a supplement to our campus master plan and secured approval by the city, including plans for an exciting new recreation center. An upgraded Blackboard enterprise course management system was implemented by CTS. Work began on ERP, the largest ever upgrade of our central computing functions. We completed the retrofitting of sprinkler systems into the Towers, Saint Martin's, and Brottier Hall. And we had another year of clean financial audits and considerable operating surpluses. In fact, our surplus last June was our seventeenth consecutive year of operating surplus, underscoring the financial health of the University.

It was an exceptional year for the Division of University Advancement. Total voluntary support, cash-in-the-door, was up 30% from the previous year, reaching $12.5 million. Pledges and cash last year hit $17 million, moving us well along in our capital campaign. More than 80 of you volunteered for the campaign committee and over $700,000 of commitments have already been made by university employees. Because a great university has a national presence, I have made a personal commitment to reach out to alums around the country. Last year I visited alumni groups and major prospects in 12 cities from coast to coast. News coverage of Duquesne increased by more than 400% last year. We implemented our first integrated TV, radio, and print advertising campaign targeted directly at prospective undergraduate students.

This is a remarkable list of accomplishments for the year. But of course it understates considerably what was actually done. Much of what we do is not new or noteworthy—except for the extraordinary fact that it is done again and again with care for others, dedication to quality, and commitment to our common mission. So, for all that was accomplished last year, for both what was new and for the extraordinary in the routine, both for the noteworthy and for the quality of the commonplace, I say thank you to every member of the Duquesne community. I thank you on behalf of the students we serve today and those we will serve even better in the future. I thank you on behalf of our 75,000 alums whose degrees you helped to make more valuable last year. And I thank you on behalf of the generations who came before us, reaching back to 1878, for the bonds of trust you have kept with them and their efforts to build a great university on this Bluff.

Duquesne University has many gifts, but first among them are Duquesne's faculty, staff, and administrators.