State of the University Address Highlights Vision and Success
When St. John’s celebrated the Investiture of Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., in October 2014, the 17th President outlined a plan to bring renewed success to the University. That success would come from a shared commitment to new priorities based on traditional strengths combined with positive change.
Those efforts are yielding results, Dr. Gempesaw revealed during his second State of the University Address on September 7. The event brought the St. John’s community—faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni—to the Taffner Field House on the Queens, NY, campus. More than 1,200 others watched online via streaming video during and immediately after the talk.
The hour-long address highlighted St. John’s accomplishments this past year, with a particular focus on the University’s continuing progress in implementing the action steps put forth by the Strategic Priorities Working Group in 2015. Those aims are based on the four Strategic Priorities Dr. Gempesaw had identified at his Investiture: ensure student success; recruit, recognize, and retain the best faculty, staff, and administrators; enhance our teaching and learning environment; and expand global and community partnerships.
This fall, Dr. Gempesaw noted, St. John’s enrolled a talented freshman class of more than 3,200 students, the largest entering freshman cohort of any Catholic college or university in the United States. Reflecting their promise, the new students brought a projected 13-point increase in their average SAT score. More importantly, the average high school GPA of the freshman class is estimated at 90. Graduate enrollment is also on the rise, with close to 1,450 new graduate students expected to enroll this fall.
In addition, he indicated that the freshman retention rate for 2015-16 is projected to reach 83.5 percent—the highest rate at the University since 1998.
“The path to academic excellence starts with outstanding faculty,” Dr. Gempesaw declared. With that, he reported the hiring of 71 faculty since 2015, with plans to hire an additional 45 in 2017. He also presented several academic points of pride highlighting the achievements of faculty members. In the past year, faculty presented to the Board of Trustees 10 new graduate programs and plans to introduce 19 new programs over the next three years. “Offering new and innovative programs,” he said, “will definitely help our efforts to enhance academic excellence.”
Student success depends on quality teaching complemented by suitable facilities. Dr. Gempesaw noted the many recent capital improvements made to University facilities, including updates and renovations at Montgoris, St. Augustine, and Bent Halls, as well as the technology driven upgrade of 74 classrooms by the end of this academic year.
Alumni confidence is also high. Gifts to the University totaled over $20.6 million, an increase of $1.6 million from the previous year. Of the 11,369 donors, more than 7,500 were alumni, including over 1,200 new donors. More than 1,000 graduates participated in University-sponsored events, such as the first-ever Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend, held this past June.
St. John’s student-athletes continue to excel both in their sports and the classroom, with 203 Red Storm athletes being named to the 2016 BIG EAST All-Academic Team. On the world stage, alumni student-athletes found success this summer, as alumni fencers Daryl Homer ’13CPS and Dagmara Wozniak ’13C both medaled at the Olympic Games.
As another measure of confidence, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education renewed St. John’s University’s accreditation in 2016.
Consistent with Vincentian values, Dr. Gempesaw asked for the support of the St. John’s community to make the campus more inclusive and welcoming. “This will require all of us to be more sensitive to each other’s perspectives and beliefs,” he said, “to understand the challenges that others face, and to be willing to reach out and help bridge differences.” He will soon announce the formation of a working group to help the University move this initiative as a major strategic priority action step.
In closing, Dr. Gempesaw thanked the St. John’s community for its hard work in helping to make the University better for all. “It is with optimism and gratitude that I begin my third year as St. John’s President,” he said. “I am optimistic about the future of our University because the collective efforts we have undertaken over the past two years to move this University in the right direction have begun to yield positive results.”