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State of the University, 2007-2008

Duquesne University Seal - SmallCharles J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
President, Duquesne University
September 5, 2008


This last year has been a time of great achievement across the University. From faculty teaching, publications and grants, to the quantity and quality of our student body, to our administrative and staff successes, to the physical and aesthetic improvements of our campus, to our enhanced collective sense of mission—all these are marks of Duquesne’s progress.

These achievements are not, and could not be, the achievements of just a few. They are the achievements of all of us working together for our students and for the common good. Regardless of the roles each of us plays, when we consistently do our jobs with excellence and with a sense of purpose, we are building a greater Duquesne University. So let me say thank you to each of you for the remarkable year we have just completed and for your dedication and creativity. And for all of us, as we celebrate our 130th year, I also express our profound gratitude for the generations who came before us at Duquesne and whose selfless work on our Bluff has made our contributions possible.

Our perception of Duquesne University’s forward motion has been confirmed by others. There were five independent assessments of Duquesne University last semester from five different panels of experts: the NCAA, Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, the IRS, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. All were exceptionally positive. Let me review their main findings.

The NCAA team of visitors complimented our Self-Study and the broad-based participation that led to it. On their key substantive concerns, they found the following:

  • Institutional Control, Presidential Authority, and Shared Responsibility - no issues
  • Rules Compliance - no issues
  • Academic Standards - no issues
  • Gender Equity - no issues

The NCAA does not produce a better set of findings.

Standard and Poor’s gave Duquesne an A- rating with a positive outlook. They cited our “solid financial performance,” “low pro forma debt burden,” “strong history of fundraising,” “stable demand,” and “a seasoned management team with success in achieving strategic initiatives.”

Moody’s gave us an AA rating. They recorded our strengths as a “healthy market franchise,” “consistently favorable operating performance and debt coverage,” and a “healthy growth in financial resources.”

The IRS, of course, will put no praise in writing. But the fact that they appeared without warning to inspect our compliance with not-for-profit standards and closed the case without any additional tax liability on our part or any substantive criticisms—that result is high praise enough.

Our most important inspection was from our accrediting body, Middle States. Because of its significance I quote their report at some length. “Duquesne is a strong university that is making progress in its strategic goal of ‘entering the first ranks of American Catholic higher education by emphasizing [its] Spiritan identity and mission, enhancing the quality of [its] students’ experience, and developing [its] national reputation for academic excellence.’” The on-campus interviews conducted by the visiting team “provided plentiful evidence that Duquesne University is clear and serious about its identity and commitment to its mission…”

Their summary paragraph on the topic addresses us all. “The Board of Directors, the president and his entire leadership team have embraced and promoted the mission; the faculty, staff, and students have enthusiastically and sincerely taken it to heart.  It is also clear that the mission drives many of Duquesne’s goals and objectives, as can be seen in the 2003-2008 strategic plan that places mission front and center.  It is clear that the University community has sought, with considerable success, to imbue all its activities with a sense of mission.”

Yet more good news from an external assessment arrived last month.  The US News and World Report, which had had us in their alphabetized grouping of Tier 3, for the first time has  placed Duquesne University in the ranked first tier of national universities.  Recognition as a Tier 1 national university goes a long way to realizing our vision of entering the first ranks of American Catholic higher education.

We can all take pride in these external experts’ confirmations of our accomplishments.  And we can use them as a spur to set yet higher expectations for ourselves.

This was also the year that we brought the University’s first Board-approved strategic plan to completion.  I reviewed our successes relative to the plan publicly last spring.  Suffice it here to say that in 2003 we set before ourselves an ambitious plan for self-improvement, we carried it out across the University, and we are a much better institution today because of it.  I told you in the spring that diversity was one area where more progress was needed.  Therefore, we brought new energy and commitment to that issue.  I am pleased to report that our minority administrative internship program is now in place.  Since 2004, we have hired 22 minority faculty, more than half of them coming to us as a direct result of our faculty minority hiring program and our strategic plan. And last fall we set a goal of enrolling 20 additional minority students in this year’s freshmen class.  That goal has been more than met.  In fact, we enrolled over 40 more minority students in this freshman class.

Our strategic planning success is evidence that explicit, inclusive planning and determined University-wide implementation is the way forward to increased excellence.  Therefore, even as we are celebrating the successes of our completed 2003-2008 strategic plan, a structured conversation has begun on shaping our next strategic plan.

This was the year that we opened the Power Center.  The fundamental reason for this project was to address the desire of our students—and potential students—for a place to work out.  We have accomplished that goal in noteworthy fashion.  But there have been other benefits for us that are significant as well.  The building with its beautiful ballroom, comprehensive recreation center, and contemporary retail outlets—as well as the sweeping architecture of the Sklar sky bridge—has become a point of pride for all of us.  The project created the opportunity to remove generations of dilapidation from our front door and to dramatically improve the street.  The Power Center has created new life on Forbes Avenue and is a large part of the renewal of Uptown, an important act of economic development, and an outreach to our neighbors.  We were confident in the planning of the Power Center that our students would take to the new facility immediately.  What was more surprising is the widespread use of the rec center by faculty and staff, something good for individuals and for our whole community.  And it is important to note that we managed the construction of this project, the staffing and equipping of the building, and the ongoing operation of the Power Center without any new fees or unusual increases in tuition.

There are signs of revitalization in our academic culture as well.  Last year there was a conspicuous increase in the number of scholarly papers and professional presentations given on campus.  We hosted more conferences and meetings of professional societies.  Invariably, I am told by these visitors or by those of us who hosted them what a positive impression Duquesne made on them.  This is an important part of building our national reputation—having scholars take their good experience of Duquesne back to their colleagues around the country and around the world.  These events do not happen without the willingness of our faculty and staff to go beyond their daily obligations to take on additional obligations.  The University values these activities and we are all grateful for the extra hours and efforts that make them happen.

Despite the rough ride of the markets in the last quarter of last year, the University’s operating budget ended last year in the black.  Thank you to our whole administrative team for your budgetary restraint at the end of last year.  It made a difference, bringing us our 19th consecutive annual operating surplus.

There were significant specific advances across all our units this last year.  Let me begin with Academic Affairs.  We set new records last year in grants and funding from external sources, a total of $13.2m with overhead of $1.4m.  The Center for Teaching Excellence began a pilot faculty learning group on diversity and multiculturalism. Last year 41 courses across the University had a service learning component.  For the second year in a row, Duquesne was named to the national Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service.  A University-sponsored National Symposium on Handgun Violence attracted 700 attendees and was broadcast nationally on C-SPAN.  There were structural initiatives that will yield important results for years to come.  The Center for Catholic Social Thought was inaugurated, and the first annual Fr. Paluse grants for research in this arena were awarded.  Associate vice presidencies were created in the areas of research, interdisciplinary scholarship and programs, and in enrollment management. We enrolled the third largest freshman class in our history—helping us to reach a record overall enrollment and a record residential population. Almost 400 of our students studied abroad last year, a 24% increase.  And, working with the Jerome Bettis Bus Stops Here Foundation, our Learning Skills Center provided an important computer literacy program to middle schoolers from the Hill.

The Division of Student Life opened our new recreation center in January, and 54 group fitness classes were offered each week.  Residential students reached 3,304, 56% of the undergraduate population.  This resulted in a 99% occupancy rate in our housing facilities.  Duquesne University Volunteers—DUV—increased participation by 3% over its record number last year.  The Office of Commuter Affairs began a “South Side Initiative” to improve relations between the longtime residents in the neighborhood and the many upper class Duquesne students living among them.  Of the students who used our Counseling Center last year, 98.5% reported satisfaction—a remarkable statistic.  Our Orientation program received another national award last year—the fifth in the last six years.  And the Division has introduced a new web site for students’ parents, answering the most frequent questions parents have.

The Division of Management and Business is largely responsible for the good results we received last year from Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and the IRS.  They implemented the Minority Internship Program and have hired the first two interns.  A training manager has been added to organize and increase our self-education.  Our first Wellness Fair was held.  The Division implemented the DU Alert System, providing instant messaging in a crisis to all who register.  They began and completed the most aggressive schedule for summer project in anyone’s memory, including the complete renewal of Canevin Hall, reconstruction of the fountain on Academic Walk, new Rooney Field grandstands and new artificial turf, the Gumberg Library bridge and plaza, large-scale and striking renovations in the Student Union, addition of the Palumbo Center to our central heating and cooling system, and the construction and opening of our energy-saving ice storage facility.  We are now the only university in the nation with the twin energy efficiencies of natural gas power cogeneration and ice storage cooling.  Finally, the Division brought the Power Center construction to completion and assumed special responsibility for our Barnes and Noble bookstore, the Jamba Juice bar, and the Red Ring restaurant.

[University Advancement] I will not report the number that our campaign has reached today because I am saving that good news for next month’s public announcement of the campaign. I can tell you that our gift commitments last year were up by 4% from the previous year, despite the challenges of this economy. To name a few of last year’s gifts of note: a $1.5m gift to fund the Laval Chair in the School of Nursing, a Bayer Foundation Gift of $800k for diversity in science, a $1.4m gift for a loan repayment assistance program for law alums in public service law, and an extension of a gift by our Board Chair David Pappert to create a $1m discretionary endowment fund for the Mary Pappert School of Music. There was a major restructuring in Advancement last year which eliminated administrators and expanded the number of frontline fundraisers.  As a result, major gift prospects under active management have tripled from 1,100 to 3,300.  In Alumni Relations, a new online community for our alums went live in June.  New alumni chapters with volunteer leadership were launched in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington, and Charlotte.  Media coverage of the University increased last year— a 123% increase in the coverage of University events and initiatives and a 160% increase in articles featuring Duquesne faculty members.  And our Duquesne University Magazine won the top prize in Western Pennsylvania from the Public Relations Society of America.

In the area of Mission and Identity, our Center for Spiritan Studies has digitized the General Bulletin of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit from 1857-1975, making these valuable records universally available and searchable for the first time.  They also published an anthology of texts from the Spiritan Founders, a long awaited resource for the Congregation.

The result of our NCAA certification confirmed the strength of our Athletics Program.  Our competition was much improved as well.  Men’s basketball had its first winning season since 1994.  Women’s basketball won eight more games under a new coach and qualified for the A10 championships.  Baseball posted its best A10 result ever.  And football won a share of a ninth consecutive MAAC championship.  Two of our athletes were named A10 Student Athlete of the Year, one in basketball and one in lacrosse.  Fourteen of our twenty varsity teams had cumulative GPAs at 3.0 or better.  Duquesne, once again, placed the most student-athletes on the A10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll for a 3.5 GPA or above, both last fall and last spring.

Spiritan Campus Ministry engaged the largest number of volunteers ever in the annual clean-up of Uptown and the South Side.  They receive funding from the Women’s Guild for a first ever service trip to a new Spiritan parish in the Dominican Republic.  And once again the Mass of the Holy Spirit had a record attendance, securing its place as the largest annual mass in the Pittsburgh diocese.

In the McAnulty College, construction began on a state of the art TV/DVD studio.  An annual lecture series on the Catholic Intellectual Life started with a talk by Francis Cardinal George.  Journalism students in the College were the only students in the nation to receive press credentials for the U.S. visit of Pope Benedict XVI.  They filmed the visit and reactions to it in Washington and New York and produced a compelling one-hour documentary.  The Department sent another team to Australia to produce a documentary on World Youth Day.  Last year, College faculty received grants of more than $700k.  The College inaugurated three new annual series—an observance of the assault on German Jews on Kristallnacht, a Human Rights film festival, and an Environmental Philosophy speaker series. The Center for Health Care Ethics developed an online certificate program for members of hospital ethics committees. For the third time, the College and the Department of Communications hosted the annual meeting of the National Conference on Communication Ethics.  And the College created or modified 43 courses in 10 departments to implement the new University core Curriculum.

The School of Nursing developed and received approval to begin a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.  They officially opened a Nursing Research Center.  They expanded and dedicated the Irene Fritzky Nursing Laboratory—populated with computerized teaching mannequins as patients.  A new endowed chair was established—the Jacques Laval Chair in Justice for Vulnerable Populations.  And the Nursing School held a national conference on elder abuse.

Our School of Education and the Pittsburgh Public School created a partnership on an urban leadership and excellence program that will insure that all future Pittsburgh Public Schools principals are trained at Duquesne.  Funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education was increased to make our School one of the Commonwealth’s four Centers of Teaching Excellence. The School of Education partnered with the Bayer School to host a symposium on scholarship and research in science education.  Our School was selected by the Carnegie Foundation on the Advancement of Teaching to host the final convening of a national study of the education doctorate.  And last year faculty in the School published an impressive 4 books, 13 book chapters, 37 peer-reviewed articles and delivered 122 peer-reviewed presentations.

Our Mylan School of Pharmacy remains the only school of pharmacy in the nation with a weekend program, its first class having graduated this summer.  There is a new service-learning opportunity focusing on medication management and serving the Hill District in cooperation with Catholic Charities.  The School ranked 3rd last year of all private schools of pharmacy in the amount of NIH funding.  A new scientific exchange program was begun with a Finnish engineering company.  Pharmacy provided wellness programs to the Duquesne community on tobacco cessation, diabetes management, and weight loss.

Our Palumbo/Donahue School of Business had a banner year.  The MBA program was ranked 8th in the world and first among schools our size by the Aspen Institute for its integration of social and environmental stewardship into the curriculum and research. The new MBA Sustainability program was widely hailed for its innovation.  The Beard Center conducted a symposium on sustainability and ethical leadership that included corporate leaders from the region and across the nation.  Our Sports Marketing program hosted the national Sports Marketing Association here and attracted 200 industry professionals.  The Center for Corporate and Executive Education launched a program for business women last year. And the School established an investment company, Red and Blue Partners, that is giving students real life experience in portfolio management.

The School of Law improved its bar pass rate last year, coming in second in the state.  The US News and World Report ranked our legal research and writing program for the first time.  Membership in our Law Alumni Association increased last year by 78%.  And our Moot Court teams were finalists in the regional championship and won the Best Advocate Award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

Our Bayer School won a grant from the National Science Foundation allowing us to buy cutting edge spectrometer equipment. The School received a major grant from the Bayer Foundation for an innovative program to attract minority students into science.  Faculty received more than $2.8 million in grants overall last year. The first students were admitted to our new masters in biotechnology.  The state’s Department of Environmental Protection funded the School’s assessment of the environmental impact of a section of bottom land on the Allegheny River.  The Carnegie Science Center is now showing a film on human genes produced in the Bayer School.  We were selected as one of only four universities to host the Summer Research Fellowships for High School Teachers program.  And the Center for Environmental Research and Education produced the first inventory of Duquesne University’s green house gas emissions—and it showed that we are doing a very good job compared with other universities.

Our Pappert School of Music provided multiple professional performances last year.  The wind Symphony was featured in Washington with the President’s Own Marine Band.  The Voices of Spirit performed across Europe.  Our Opera Workshop presented Don Giovanni.  The final Brahms on the Bluff attracted standing room only attendance in our recital hall.  And our new partnership with MCG Jazz brought leading jazz figures to campus for performances and master classes.

Graduates of our Department of Athletic Training in the Rangos School passed their national boards the first time at a rate twice that of the national average.  In fact, we have maintained a 100% pass for our graduates for the last 14 years.  Of the 143 OT programs in the nation, the US News and World Report ranked our program 24th.  The self-study our PT program used for its successful reaccreditation is now a model used nationally for PT program accreditation.  The Physician Assistant program was reaccredited and it developed a course in our Core curriculum on disparities in health care.  Speech Language pathology was also reaccredited and they had a 100% pass rate on their national boards, compared to the national average of 80%.

The School of Leadership and Professional Advancement has developed a new graduate program designed for religious sisters, particularly in the third world where vocations are increasing and there is need for effective congregational leadership.  There are now hundreds of students in SLPA earning bachelors and masters degrees entirely online.  And they completed the first phase of a universal accessibility project, designed to provide disabled students with access to SLPA’s online programs.

I think you will agree with me that this last year, a year that marks our 130th  birthday, was another year of great achievement.  I thank you all for your role in these accomplishments and the many others I could not name today.  I also thank you for the excellence you bring to all our endeavors, most of them not new, but activities we must accomplish faithfully and with excellence on a regular basis.

I want to end on a personal note.  This last year was my seventh at Duquesne.  While I do miss being introduced as “the new president,” every year here with you has brought me clearer insights into the special character of this remarkable academic community.  Part of this special character lies in geography.  Is there another urban campus in America that stands so close to a major downtown and yet is so much an intimate community unto itself?  Part of this is the charism and leadership of the Spiritan Congregation. There is no other Spiritan university in the world; we alone are academic heirs to the Spiritans’ selfless concern for others, ecumenism and inclusiveness, and commitment to academic excellence.  Part of it is Pittsburgh, a big city of small neighborhoods, hard work, and spontaneous hospitality.  Part of it is the culture of care for our students that has been honed on our Bluff for six generations.  And part of it—a very large part, I believe—is captured by our full name: Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit.  Each year here has brought me to a deeper conviction that at Duquesne we are, together, doing the work of the Holy Spirit.

I thank you for your ongoing support; it means a great deal to me.  And I thank you for all you do every day to make Duquesne the great University we are today–and the even greater University we will surely be tomorrow.