In the spirit of information sharing and with a commitment to fostering openness within the St. John’s University community, we are pleased to share some of the topics, highlights, and action items discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting held on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. We look forward to sharing with you additional and timely information on these and other initiatives in the months ahead.
Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs provided updates on the following:
While not finalized, first-time/full-time undergraduate student applications for Spring 2022 have increased by 90% as compared to Spring 2021 and deposits have increased by 83%. For Fall 2022, albeit early, completed applications for first-time/full-time undergraduate students have increased by 5% as compared to Fall 2021, and admitted students have increased by 19%. Student recruitment remains an ongoing challenge and increased partnerships with faculty will be a key student recruitment strategy moving forward.
Core Curriculum Update
Regarding the proposed 39-credit University Core Curriculum, a presentation highlighting changes as compared to the current Core Curriculum was shared. The proposed University Core Curriculum is more relevant, provides increased flexibility for students and incorporates social justice as a subject area. Provost Møller has called for shifting from the current structure of Common Core, Distributed Core, and Additional Liberal Arts requirements to a more simplified structure of a University Core and a College Core. Noting that the Core Curriculum belongs to all members of the University community, discussions with various stakeholders will continue as the Core Curriculum takes shape. The Core Curriculum is a substantial part of the educational journey of our students and moving forward it will be recognized as such. The proposed University Core Curriculum has a planned start date of Fall 2023.
Strategic Planning UpdateChristian P. Vaupel, Ed.D, Vice President for Advancement and University Relations provided an update on behalf of the Strategic Planning Committee. Sharing that the pillars of the plan and working goals for each pillar have been developed, the Strategic Planning Committee is now identifying action items for each of the working goals. Imperatives for the Strategic Plan include:
A survey about the Strategic Plan will be administered to the campus in January. Based on the results of the survey, focus group conversations will take place in January/February. By March, an initial version of the plan will be reviewed by the Senior Management Group. In April, the plan will advance to the Office of the President for further review and consideration. At the Board of Trustees Meeting scheduled for May, the Strategic Plan will be presented for final review and approval.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) UpdateAndré McKenzie, Ed.D, Vice Provost & Interim Chief Diversity Officer, shared an update on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) activities. In September the Inclusivity Resource Center (IRC) celebrated its third anniversary with activities at both the Queens, NY and Staten Island, NY campuses. The Safe Zone Program (LGBTQ+ awareness training) was revamped to now include three participant levels and a Train-the-Trainer component. Our RESPECT Bias Response Team added six new members. Latinx Heritage Month and Native & Indigenous Heritage Month were observed with various guest speakers, events, and activities. The current initiatives of the Academic Center for Equity and Inclusion include the Personnel and Benefits (P&B) Equity Advocates Program and the Institute for Inclusive Teaching. The search for a Vice President for Equity & Inclusion Search has commenced and WittKieffer—an Executive Search Firm—is coordinating the search process.
FY22 Operating Budget Update
At the time of FY22 budget approval in May, we reported that the University’s FY22 revenues were projected to be lower than our pre-COVID (2019) revenue base due principally to the fall 2020 first-year enrollment shortfall, which has placed continuing pressure on tuition and room and board revenues. In combination with larger graduating classes than those recently enrolled, this has contributed to FY22 revenue challenges and will impact the University for several years to come. Due to the significance of the projected revenue shortfall and the need to fund essential “return-to-normal” operations, senior management planned to bridge the projected budget gap principally with federal stimulus funds and a special, Board of Trustees approved draw of up to $30 million from the University’s unrestricted endowment fund.
As of mid-December, we are pleased to report that we are projecting net revenue improvements and expense savings against budget of approximately $17 million, which will allow the University to reduce the special endowment draw. The improvements are principally due to higher occupancy in the residence halls; the resumption of study-abroad programs; financial aid savings; and the anticipated receipt of a one-time substantial unrestricted bequest which will provide operating budget support.
Senior management will continue to implement initiatives which will increase revenues and limit expense growth in an effort to achieve budget equilibrium.
Board Membership Update
The Board of Trustees welcomed the following new members:
Jeffrey D. Alter ‘84CBA, ‘88MBA
Chief Executive Officer, Summit Health
Kevin F. Reed ‘75C
Managing Director (Retired), Citigroup Asset Management
Damon Young, M.B.A. ’93CBA
Director of Finance, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation
Professor of Law Emerita
The Board of Trustees approved that the title of Professor of Law Emerita be conferred upon Margaret Valentine Turano who served at St. John’s University for 41 years from 1979 until her retirement in May of 2020.
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees will be held in early March 2022.