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President’s First "State of the University" Address Highlights Vision

Monday, January 11, 2016

Every member of the academic community has a part to play in ensuring student success—a shared effort that depends upon open communications throughout the University, according to Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., president of St. John’s.

With nearly 1,000 guests in attendance at Carnesecca Arena, and more than 1,000 people viewing an online stream, Dr. Gempesaw opened the 2015–16 academic year with his first “State of the University” address on September 9.

“Sometimes,” he said, “it is in the winds of change that we find our true direction. And I believe that we are finding ours.”

Referring to the four strategic priorities the president introduced at his formal investiture last year, Dr. Gempesaw reviewed the status of those goals: ensure student success; recruit, recognize, and retain the best faculty, staff, and administrators; enhance the teaching and learning environment; and expand global and community partnerships.

He also praised the work of the Strategic Priorities Working Group (SPWG)—a team tasked with developing an integrated action plan for the University.

Faculty, administrators, and students filled Carnesecca Arena for the first “State of the University” Address.

According to Dr. Gempesaw, the University has already benefited from the new strategies put into action over the past 12 months. This fall, the University enrolled its largest freshman class since 2008—3,253 new students. It was, he observed, the largest freshman cohort of any Catholic institution in the United States.

He also offered a dramatic illustration of the University’s strategic commitment to those students: implementation of a tuition savings initiative for the present academic year. “Tuition revenue comes from the hardworking and financially needy families that our Vincentian founders challenged us to serve,” he said. “We are not entitled but rather, we are entrusted with these resources—and we must be mindful of that in all we do.”

Dr. Gempesaw highlighted student and faculty achievements that reflect the strength of the University’s strategic priorities. Six St. John’s students received prestigious Fulbright Awards this past year to study and conduct research at international sites around the globe. A recent graduate was chosen from among more than 600 applicants to serve as a Youth Observer to the United Nations. And, for the first time, more than 1,000 St. John’s students experienced life and learning in other countries.

Recognizing the 29 new professors who joined St. John’s this fall, Dr. Gempesaw added that several University programs enjoyed high rankings from U.S. News and World Report, which also listed St. John’s as the second most diverse campus in the nation. Dr. Gempesaw also discussed current facilities upgrades that will enhance the teaching and learning environment at St. John’s.

Echoing the sentiments of a parent who had made huge sacrifices to send her child to the University, he noted that “a St. John’s education is worth fighting for. As your president, you have my pledge that I will work tirelessly to expand opportunities for all and to promote excellence.”

In six years, said the president, St. John’s will celebrate its 150th anniversary. He asked the University community to join him in the effort to make the University an even stronger institution. He concluded by saying, “I cannot face the winds of change alone…so I ask for your help, your commitment, your passion, your support, in moving this University in the right direction.”