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State of the University, 2006-2007

Duquesne University Seal - SmallCharles J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
President, Duquesne University
September 7, 2007


During the second half of this academic year and the first half of the next, we will celebrate 130 years since the University was founded in 1878.  Birthdays, especially as we get older, are times to take stock, to reflect, to give thanks.  So it is as well for institutional birthdays.

My own taking stock about Duquesne is often triggered by encounters with our alumni.  In my many exchanges with them, a theme emerges, sometimes explicitly but almost always implied.  Alumni want two things from their Alma Mater.  They want their University to be getting better in all ways, ever improving its quality and reputation in all it does.  But they also want their University to remain always the same as it was when they were students here.

In fairness to alums, we are each subject to the same tension, wanting improvements yet finding change unsettling.  Let me offer a strategy that can do justice to both poles of this tension.

Here is what we will not change. We will preserve our mission as a Catholic Spiritan university, giving our faith and the faiths of others special status and looking at society from the point of view of those who are least well-off.  We will continue to provide an education that intentionally changes lives profoundly and for the better.  We will preserve the personal character of our community, keeping it a place that values each individual, with special focus on the development of our students.  We will continue to focus on first-rate teaching and the learning it produces.  We are committed to Pittsburgh, to our neighborhood and in a special way to our own Bluff.  And we are resolved to maintain the special spirit here that is Duquesne.

This summer I was in New York City at a well-attended alumni event that included alums from as long ago as the 1950s to some who had just graduated last May.  In my remarks to them, I illustrated the sense of spirit on this campus by recalling an incident that occurred as a recent senior class was moving out after graduation.  I was passing a mother on campus while she was speaking on a cell phone.  As I walked by, I heard her say, referring no doubt to her just graduated daughter, “Frankly, I think she doesn’t want to leave.  She just loves it here.”  At that point, one of the older alums at the New York gathering interjected aloud, “That’s just the way it was in the 1950s.”  A second alum added, “And in the ’70s, too.”  Then all the heads in the room nodded agreement that whatever generation they represented, it had been true for them as well.

This is the spirit we will not change.  We have been graced to inherit and, with your continued care and dedication, to sustain a place that students “just love.”  We are resolved to ensure that all future generations will feel that same spirit during their time at Duquesne.

Against that background of our unchanging commitments, we must hold each other accountable to effect change that will make Duquesne an ever better university.  Our aspiration is to be among the truly great American Catholic universities.  We fulfill that aspiration by finding new ways to give meaning to our mission, by offering the best academic programs, by supporting the production of first-class scholarship, by continuously enriching the student experience, by enhancing and beautifying our campus, by always learning to work smarter, and by creating excellence and cultivating a reputation for excellence in everything we do.  And the benefits of these changes are captured and sustained into the future when they are institutionalized, when we make them part of our culture and build them into the fabric of our daily lives.

Several years ago, for example, we made annual performance evaluations mandatory, included in them an assessment of contribution to our mission, and tied merit increases to the outcome of the evaluation.  Admittedly, it was an uncomfortable moment when we first imposed this discipline on ourselves, and we are still feeling our way on the meaning of mission contribution.  But now we have a dependable vehicle for systematic self-improvement as part of our culture, and each of us has an annual moment of reflection on our own relationship to the University’s mission. (Be assured that I face the same annual evaluation—except that instead of hearing from one supervisor, I am assessed annually by the entire Board of Directors.  I’m required to leave the Board meeting and stand out in the hallway while they assess my performance—and while I try to interpret the meaning of the length of the session.)

I ask you to consider by way of celebrating our 130th birthday, how you can help to institutionalize positive change in your department or school.  For example, can you add one annual effort or event that will be your unit’s special way of expressing our mission? Can you build in an expectation of regular attendance at professional meetings so that your area has systematic access to best practices around the nation?  Can you begin a process of long-term planning for your unit and periodically test your progress toward your goals? Can you identify and address needs for ongoing education in your area? Can you review your budget to see if it is being used properly and to our best advantage?  Can you regularly report your area’s accomplishments to Public Affairs so that they can tell our story more effectively to our alums and the public? Can you identify activities in your area that simply cannot be brought to excellence and choose to discontinue them?  Such institutional changes can help ensure that Duquesne is a greater university yet when we celebrate our 135th birthday, our 140th, our 150th.

And we are greater today than we were a year ago for all the accomplishments that you have helped to bring about across the University in the last academic year.  Let me begin a review with the event that so shocked us just eleven days after our last convocation.  We could be remembered today as the University that suffered a tragedy on Sept. 17, 2006.  Instead, it is now clear that we are remembered as the University that used its values in so many public and private ways to overcome a potential tragedy.  We thank the Holy Spirit that virtually all the injuries our students sustained have been healed; this could have been so much worse.  But thanks to our sense of community and focus on the common good, we stood together and stood tall through the aftermath of this senseless violence.  Thank you to everyone of one who played a role in bringing this about.  Special thanks to our Campus Police and to the students who were our first responders to a terrifying scene. Thank you to our Department of Athletics, Campus Ministry, and the Spiritan Community for the paradigm of caring that you were for all of us.  Thank you to our faculty and staff who helped all our students through this—and especially to everyone in the Counseling Center and throughout the Student Life Division. Thank you to our Black Student Union and to the Office of Multicultural Affairs for taking the lead to insure that we would be a more unified campus after this incident and not be divided against ourselves. Thank you to Public Affairs for handling our image so well, when it could have been so easily shattered.  Thank you to our men’s basketball team who despite this unprecedented setback won national recognition for a season of true courage.

By everything we can measure, the University itself was not harmed by that terrible event.  Our freshman enrollment this fall is even stronger than our record enrollment of last fall.  Our retention numbers have stayed at incredible heights.  Our fundraising was unaffected; in fact giving was up 7.2 percent last year compared to the previous year.  We know from remarks by relatives and friends here and across the country—and I hear it from alums constantly—that the general view is that Duquesne University handled this unprecedented challenge about as well as any university could have.  And we left behind, not an image of our suffering but one of our faith, our caring, our strength.  We neither wanted nor caused the circumstances that led to this accomplishment, but it was an outstanding accomplishment for our University nonetheless.  It showed us all, graphically and profoundly, the Spirit giving life to Duquesne.

As is our custom, we formally opened last academic year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit. Organized by Campus Ministry, it had the largest attendance yet; more than 3,000 joined us in prayer.  Later in the year, Campus Ministry gave us our first live Webcast of our advent and baccalaureate masses.  Campus Ministry continued our outreach to New Orleans and led new collaborations in Uptown and the South Side.

Our Office of Mission and Identity inaugurated a Disability Awareness Luncheon last year and took the lead in developing a University Diversity Statement.  A Student Ambassadors for Mission program was started.  The Office produced a new DVD on mission and identity to be used by admissions and in the recruiting of faculty and staff.  A new Board member orientation program was developed and implemented and the Office organized a very successful Board retreat.

Last year included some other very public events.  Duquesne University was named to the top twenty universities for faculty research productivity at schools with fewer than fifteen doctoral programs.  The Center for Spiritan Studies launched a new international journal, Spiritan Horizons.  We hosted our third annual lecture and colloquium on the Holy Spirit, a series that is growing our reputation in theological and religious circles.  We hosted Justice Samuel Alito, the second member of the U.S. Supreme Court to visit Duquesne in the last five years.

Last year was one of significance for Academic Affairs. We inaugurated a study abroad program with the National University of Ireland in Galway.  The University was named to the U.S. President’s Honor Roll for Distinction in Community Service.  One-third of our full-time faculty attended programs offered by our Center for Teaching Excellence, clear evidence of both our commitment to teaching and the effectiveness of the Center.  Faculty were awarded more than $10 million to support research, overhead to the University from those awards exceeding one million dollars.  Six new patents were applied for, two were issued, and 10 patents were licensed to a start-up company.  The University inaugurated a new lecture series on social justice named for alumnus and “labor priest” Monsignor Charles Owen Rice.  The Gumberg Library expanded the Maureen Sullivan Curriculum Center and opened the Fr. Ed Supple, C.S.Sp., Room to house our growing Spiritan collection.  The Library indexed all our collections on Google Scholar. Student use of the Gumberg Library continues to grow, setting a record last year with as many as 4,516 users in one day.

Admissions continued its highly effective, very professional work.  There was a 7 percent national decline in the average SAT score last year due to changes in the test.  For the first time in five years, our average dipped as well.  But since it only went down by three points, we gained another four on the national average.  And the 2006 freshmen class was again one of our largest.  The successes of the last five years have brought the undergraduate FTE number up by nearly 500 and our total FTE student numbers over 10,000 for the first time. Over that period, our undergraduate applications increased by more than 50 percent and our acceptances dropped by about a third.  This brought us to an acceptance rate of 60 percent, a good number for managing enrollment and a selectivity appropriate to the quality of a Duquesne education.  We do not yet have final numbers on this year’s freshman class, but it appears to be slightly larger than last year, with significant gains in Arts, Business, and Science.

This has been a busy year in Management and Business.  We ended the year with another surplus in our operating budget, the eighteenth year in a row.  This is evidence of our self-discipline as a community and of the effectiveness of our budgeting processes and controls.  Banner implementation proceeded with more and more functionality coming on line.  Working with the Hill House, we assembled a partnership of nearly 20 universities, foundations, and businesses to form a Keystone Innovation Zone encompassing Uptown, the Hill and Downtown Pittsburgh.  This is an economic development mechanism for attracting new and expanding biotech companies into the Zone.  We upgraded our security cameras and introduced a series of new safety measures, including bicycle patrols by our police. The Brottier Commons was created last year, adding needed green space and beautifying the main entrance to campus.  I can tell you anecdotally that the number of spontaneous uses of the word “beautiful” to describe our campus increased significantly after the greening of Brottier.  We also took several measures to improve our front door on Forbes Ave. and to create a new entrance in the Forbes garage.  Our dramatic steel and glass pedestrian bridge was completed last year and is the tallest of its kind in the city. Work proceeds ahead of schedule and below budget on our new building on Forbes.  I am pleased to announce today that the building will be named for Duquesne’s first president, Spiritan Fr. William Patrick Power; thus, it will be known as the Power Center.

Once again our Orientation Program in the Student Life division won national awards for their outstanding program, the fourth time in the last five years.  Career Services conducted six job and internship fairs last year.  Our Office of Commuter Affairs worked with members of the South Side Community Council to help insure that our students living in that neighborhood embody the University’s values in their behavior and are held to account if they do not.  This work led to a formal recognition by Mayor Ravenstahl when he named Duquesne as the only local university that brings off-campus student code violations before our internal judicial system.  The Office of Multicultural Affairs held a first and highly successful Unity Banquet.  Last fall, the University set a new record for residential students, with over 3,200 living on campus. The large number of resident students is a social and cultural asset for Duquesne and downtown Pittsburgh, providing critical numbers in support of campus and city activities.  Last year, Duquesne’s Tamburitzans marked their 70th anniversary season with a performance at Planet Hollywood on the Strip in Las Vegas.

University Advancement had a great year as total gifts to the University increased by 7.2 percent.  We have added over six thousand new donors in the last four years.  Over that same period average total gifts annually are up 51 percent from the average of the previous three years before our silent campaign began. We hit $1.7 million in reported planned gifts last year, including the largest irrevocable bequest in the University’s history.  Planned Giving also facilitated estate bequests last year worth $2.2 million.  Other fund-raising successes include a 12.5 percent increase in our Annual Fund and a 10 percent increase in alumni giving.  Faculty and staff giving last year was up 10 percent and giving by parents up 9 percent.  Working with Athletics, Major Gifts has raised just about a million dollars to build grandstands for Rooney Field.  All of this good news puts us on track for an announcement in the near future of the public phase of our capital campaign.  University Advancement also hosted a unique event for alumni and friends at the Italian Embassy in Washington last year.  Alumni Relations established formal alumni chapters in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and in Charlotte.  Because of increased turnout, we moved our annual Downtown Alumni Luncheon to the David Lawrence Convention Center and over 1,000 were in attendance.  And Events designed and successfully implemented a new University-wide spring commencement.

In addition to their good work with the media in the wake of the shooting on campus, Public Affairs has continued to polish our public image.  They dealt with a large increase in media inquiries and helped place articles about Duquesne in 43 outlets, including the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Baltimore Sun, and the Arizona Republic.  They helped build 24 new Websites and substantially improved 15 others.  Our DORI portal went live last year as well as Multipass registration. Major new marketing publications were produced last year and three very well-received television image pieces were produced and aired.  Our DU Magazine won three national awards last year and continues to provoke highly positive responses from alumni.

We had another solid year in Athletics with our student-athletes’ performances in sports and in the classroom.  New University athletics logos were introduced.  Athletics led the assessment that concluded with an announced upgrade in league affiliation for our football program, as well as scholarships for football players with a match in new scholarship commitments to women’s sports.  And we set a new course for women’s basketball with the hiring of a new coach.

Last academic year was exciting in the McAnulty College.  The Departments of English, History, and Sociology each offered a Spring Break Away course, expanding our study abroad options.  Multimedia Arts established a Human Factors Facility to study human and computer interactions.  The College launched a formal undergraduate research program.  A new minor in Peace, Justice, and conflict Resolution was approved.  The College hosted a symposium on the phenomenology of Pope John Paul II that drew over four hundred scholars from around the world.  Other public programs included the second Faith and Politics Symposium and the third Clergy Day.  Despite all this activity and a strong commitment to teaching, College faculty last year produced 29 books, 85 articles in refereed journals, and 34 book chapters.

The School of Law created a position of Director of Bar Services last year and filled it.  They also hired a new Director of Legal Research and Writing.  Enrollment tripled last year in our evening division.  The School of Law helped to coordinate the highly successful visit of Chief Justice Samuel Alito.

There is an exciting new program in the Palumbo Donahue School of Business. Last year, the Donahue School developed a contemporary MBA program focused on business sustainability—financially, socially, and environmentally.  An independent national assessment of ethics content in graduate business programs put only three universities in the highest category: Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Duquesne.  The School also received the Meggitt Ethics Prize for the highest score on the ethics section of a competition on case presentations.  School efforts in the area of cyber-security for small- and medium-sized businesses attracted a Congressional grant of $150,000. Our new online Master’s in Sports Leadership opened in 2005 with an enrollment target of 16 students.  Last fall one hundred students were enrolled from 23 countries.

The Mylan School of Pharmacy still has the only Pharm.D. Weekend Program in the nation and had nearly five applicants last year for every available seat. The School developed a chemical dependence service-learning program last year and brought it to hundreds of students in the Pittsburgh area.  Working with the School of Law, the School hosted its first Pharmacy Law and Ethics Symposium.  Last year, over 3,500 patients received wellness screens and 230 University employees joined the School’s Weight Loss/Walking Challenge.  The FDA chose our Center for Pharmaceutical Technology to develop and deliver new technologies to improve the manufacturing of drugs.  And the School is planning a major role in the development of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education.

Musicians from our Mary Pappert School of Music gave us multiple high-quality programs last year, including Brahms on the Bluff, O Come All Ye Faithful, a summer Guitar Jazz evening, as well as a live broadcast of the Duquesne Symphony Orchestra.  Duquesne Opera Workshop students gave multiple performances in China last year.  The Duquesne Wind Symphony released a new CD.  The Music Therapy Program received a major research grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation.

Only three universities in the Commonwealth received a grant from the Department of Education to become a Center for Teaching Excellence, and our School of Education was among them.  The School was accepted, along with 21 other prestigious universities, into the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctoral degree, an opportunity to shape the future of graduate education in the field.  Five alums of our School received Golden Apple Awards for Teaching Excellence from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  And last year faculty in our School of Education published six books, 27 book chapters, 38 peer-reviewed journal articles and gave 112 peer-reviewed conference presentations.

Last year, our School of Nursing established a Nursing Research Center. Faculty had 16 publications and gave over 40 scholarly presentations.  The Nurse Managed Wellness Centers, located in five senior citizen facilities, served nearly 5,000 seniors with health promotions and health counseling.  Nursing students participated by providing 66 health education programs to the elderly last year.  Through the generosity of an alum, the School acquired Sim Baby, an advanced computer mannequin that enhances instruction in pediatrics.

Last year our Rangos School of Health Sciences graduated its first Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science.  For the fourth year in a row, Rangos is home to one of the six outstanding students in Allied Health in the U.S.  For the second year in a row, our Athletic Training program is ranked 4th in the nation.  For five years running, this program has had a 100 percent passing rate on the national certification exam.  Last year’s Physical Therapy graduates, our first DPT class, also had a 100% pass rate on their licensure examinations. Occupational Therapy students raised money and participated in “Rebuild the Hill,” rehabilitating the home of an elderly resident.

Last year, the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences’ Department of Biological Science awarded its first Ph.D.  Faculty in Bayer published 89 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and gave 69 research presentations at national and international meetings.  Faculty also received more than $2.3 million in extramural grants to support their research.  The Bayer School added new instrumentation last year, including two nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers funded by the National Science Foundation.  A new master’s degree in biotechnology won approval from the Commonwealth.  And last summer, the Duquesne Undergraduate Research Program enrolled 47 students from 17 different universities.

The School of Leadership and Professional Development developed a new online master’s program for parish managers.  This program is the first of its kind and has the potential to make a major contribution to the Catholic Church worldwide.  Online enrollment in SLPA is growing and last year reached 700 students earning Duquesne degrees across the U.S. and in Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea and Iraq.  Last year, SLPA received a grant to develop leadership training for professionals providing services to victims for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.  Boards-By-Design placed nearly 100 individuals on area nonprofit boards last year.  And one of our students was named the University Continuing Education Association’s Adult Student of the Year in a national competition involving more than 400 institutions.

As many universities do, we use Standard and Poor’s to give us an independent, professional assessment of the overall well-being of the University.  After their most recent assessment, S & P changed their outlook on Duquesne from “stable” to “positive.”  Their rationale for the upgrade cited our successful operating budgets, our low debt ratio, our strong fundraising, and our rapidly improved admissions picture.  They ended with one final observation.  Duquesne University, they wrote, has “a seasoned management team with success in achieving strategic goals.” For this recognition and the success it is based on, I am most grateful to our Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, Department Chairs and everyone who supports our management team.

The achievements of last year that I have cited today are primarily new initiatives or singular results.  By their very nature, they overlook the excellence we achieve every day in the ordinary life of Duquesne University.  I wish I had the time and the information to tell you about every faculty member who went beyond what could be expected last year to improve his or her teaching, every time the interests of a student in need were put ahead of his or her own.  I wish I had the time and information to tell you about every administrator and staff member who took on another project when their plate was already full, who stayed late or came in on a weekend to finish a project for the team.  But most of all, I wish I had the time and information to tell you of every act of caring for one another and for our students that makes Duquesne the special place it is, a place about which generations of student have said and will continue to say that they ”just love it here.”  I cannot do these things today.  But in their place, let me offer each of you, from me and on behalf of the students that we serve, a simple but most sincere, thank you for all you did for Duquesne University last year.

Now let’s give ourselves a 130th birthday present to remember by making this academic year the very best year in this great University’s history.