Remarks by President John J. DeGioia
Faculty Town Hall -- Fall 2010
September 28, 2010
Welcome. It’s a great pleasure, as always, to have the opportunity to speak with you towards the beginning of our academic year. And as with the last several years, it is a period of competing perspectives. We experience a sense of excitement and opportunity, recognizing the promise of a new academic year; and at the same time, we maintain a deep awareness of the challenges that we face in the coming year as a university community.
Chief among these remains our country’s economic circumstances, which continue to be a source of concern for our markets, institutions and our daily lives. I will discuss this community’s response – and our steady ability to weather these economic challenges – at length later on in these remarks. I will also address a number of positive and productive transitions that have occurred on campus since we last gathered, many of which have made Georgetown a stronger institution, capable of looking forward to the future.
Before doing so, I would like us to spend a moment remembering seven colleagues and friends. Their presences are deeply missed, both here today and in countless ways throughout our community. It has been a tough year.
We remember Michael Ragussis, whose extraordinary contribution as a scholar, teacher and colleague in our English department made him a department and campus leader…Michael was my undergraduate advisor as an English major; Carol O’Neill, a much beloved member of our Law Center, who through her empathy, compassion and care touched everyone who was privileged to know her; Steven Goldberg, whose work at the crossroads of law, science and religion helped to define our law school curriculum for more than thirty years; Paul Cardaci, whose dedication to our community could be seen in his teaching, his commitment to the enrichment of a diverse student body, and his enhancement of our Villa program in Florence; Richard Stites, whose pioneering and prolific scholarship in Russian cultural and social history, and long-standing dedication to Georgetown leaves an enduring legacy; Peter Gubser, a great contributor to our Master of Arts in Arab Studies and a humanitarian dedicated to the future of the Middle East. And today, we especially remember Dorothy Betz, a devoted member of our French faculty for 38 years, and a dedicated front-row presence at each of these meetings with her husband, Paul … her knitting needles in hand. Those needles brought a lot of character and meaning to these gatherings. I miss Dorothy’s presence, as we all do, and wish she were here with us today.
It is the inspired gifts of colleagues like Dorothy, Richard, Paul, Carol, Steven, Michael and Peter that make Georgetown a special place for higher learning. I am deeply grateful to each of you for the great passion and individual care with which you live out and embody “the Georgetown experience.”
We have been fortunate over the past few months to welcome several talented individuals to leadership roles at Georgetown, which would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of the many members of the search committees.
Last spring we had the pleasure of naming Professor Carol Lancaster Dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with her in this role and to note that she is the first woman to serve as dean in the school’s 90-year history. We also named Lee Reed our 17th Director of Athletics, who brings the dedication and experience of a rich career in intercollegiate athletics.
This summer we welcomed Bill Treanor, a leading constitutional law historian with an extraordinary record as an educator and pubic servant, as Executive Vice President and Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center.
And we welcome Edward Montgomery as Dean of Public Policy and leader of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. Ed’s extensive leadership in government and higher education will help us extend Georgetown’s reach and roles in the public policy community.
And I am also pleased to report that our search for the permanent Dean in the School of Nursing and Health Studies continues to make progress. I am grateful to Interim Dean, Julie DeLioia, for her leadership and to the entire search committee under the guidance of Dr. James Welsh, Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine, for their ongoing efforts.
Finally, I would like to express our deepest thanks to George Daly as he enters his final year as Dean of the McDonough School of Business. During his tenure, the school has expanded international programs, climbed in the rankings and seen the completion of our state-of-the-art Rafik B. Hariri Building. Provost Jim O’Donnell and I will be putting in place the search committee in the coming weeks. Just before coming over, we had CNBC on and George was there, ringing the bell, the Closing Bell for the day. I’ve heard a few bells here with us… we have enthusiastic representatives of the McDonough School of Business.
Alongside the new leaders on our campus, we welcome a tremendously talented and diverse group of new undergraduates representing 49 states and 45 countries. This includes 54 students at our Doha campus in our sixth entry class there. Our application process for the class of 2014 was extremely selective, with a 20% acceptance rate.
We were especially pleased to see an increased yield among a diverse cross-section of undergraduate applicants, a testament to the work of the Diversity Initiative and the many individuals who have been seeking to strengthen diversity at Georgetown. I am grateful to Charlie Deacon and the Admissions Office for their outstanding efforts last year and every year. We also have welcomed over 375 MBA students, 1,200 Master’s degree candidates and 150 Ph.D. candidates.
The Law Center has received its highest number of applicants ever, with more than 12,400, which is, once again, the most ever received by any law school in history. Applicants increased 7% over last year, compared to a national increase of 2%. We also enjoyed another extremely competitive admissions process at the School of Medicine, with only a 3.6% admissions rate to form a class of 196.
A number of physical changes are also occurring on campus, the most visible of which is the new Science Center. After breaking ground last spring, we remain on track to open the building in the fall of 2012. The facility will become a home for chemistry, physics and biology and will hold all of the research wet labs and teaching labs that are currently located in Reiss and White-Gravenor.
This is an important step in our long-term efforts to strengthen Georgetown’s excellence of the Main Campus. We are using the $6.9 million economic stimulus grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology as part of the financial plan to cover the cost of construction. I would like to thank the many members of our faculty who continue to offer their support as the building rises from the ground.
Another change centers on wireless Internet access. As many of you know, we have been working over the last months to upgrade the wireless connectivity of our residence halls. I am pleased to let you know that by the end of the academic year, all of our residence halls will have wireless access. Meeting the wireless infrastructure needs of our campus community remains a top priority, and one we will continue to pursue for key academic areas currently limited in their wireless capacity.
I am also pleased to announce the completion of construction of a new home for our School of Foreign Service in Doha. The building includes classrooms, offices, a library and study rooms for more than 200 undergraduate and graduate students. The new facility, which is funded and constructed by the Qatar Foundation, was designed by internationally-renowned architectural firm Legoretta and Legoretta. Sometime this winter, there will be an opening ceremony for the new building in Doha.
Alongside our physical construction projects, we also have dedicated significant time and resources to the once-a-decade process of developing a Campus Plan. Every decade we are required to file a new Campus Plan, which guides the physical development of our campus for the next decade. The goals of our plan are to support the University’s academic mission, strengthen the community, enhance the city and promote environmental sustainability. The plan addresses the potential impacts of the university on the neighborhood in areas ranging from traffic to construction to student conduct. We continue to seek input from the community about provisions in our plan, which will be filed with the Zoning Commission later this fall. Once we have submitted it, a formal approval process will begin.
I do feel that it is extremely important that we redouble our efforts to educate our students about their responsibilities as citizens living in the neighborhoods. To strengthen our educational role, we have established two new community advisor positions, based on the Residence Life Hall Director model, where we have two staff members living in townhouses in Burleith and in West Georgetown. We also are funding nighttime patrols by three Metropolitan Police Department “reimbursable detail” officers in the areas around campus who augment the work and coordinate with our Department of Public Safety. These programs work to promote safety, as well as good citizenship – both on our campus and in our surrounding communities.
Other Campus Developments
There are several other campus developments I would like to note.
At the end of last academic year, we received the final recommendations of the Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative, which was launched to review a range of issues across our community in the spring of 2009. Co-led by Provost Jim O’Donnell and Vice-President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, Rosemary Kilkenny, the initiative established three working groups in priority areas: academics, student life, and undergraduate student recruitment and admissions. Jim and I are grateful for the thoughtful recommendations of each of these groups and with the impressive progress being made towards implementing many of these recommendations.
Middle States Self-Evaluation
We currently are undertaking a self-study process as part of the requirements of accreditation according to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. This process is required by all colleges and universities every 10 years. Our present evaluation will focus its attention on four areas, which represent four of the fourteen Middle States standards. The four we will focus on are planning, institutional assessment, general education, and assessment of student learning.
The complementary nature of these four issues should make for a rich self-study that elucidates both areas of strength and areas in which we can improve. I would like to thank Associate Provost Marjory Blumenthal, Randy Bass, Executive Director of CNDLS and Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning Initiatives, as well as the entire Middle States steering committee for their ongoing self-study efforts.
As many of you know, a number of national rankings of colleges and universities have emerged in the past weeks, each with slightly different angles and methodologies. We know that no ranking can fully capture the quality of our academic excellence or the dimensions of our institutional success. But it is worth noting that in the U.S. News and World Report, we have climbed ahead two places, after six years of being at number 23, we’re now at number 21. This shift in part occurred because the methodology, for the first time, gave weight to the evaluation of public high school counselors, who ranked Georgetown in a five-way tie for 6th place in the country. This news can serve as a reminder of how important Georgetown’s undergraduate excellence is for our overall institutional reputation.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the new NRC rankings on Ph.D. programs have been made public today. In the early 1980s we began a process here to strengthen our Ph.D. programs. The NRC rankings have been produced three times in the past thirty years – in 1982, 1993, and today, which capture data through 2006. We will use this data to evaluate our trajectory and determine how best to proceed as we continue the work of strengthening our Ph.D. programs.
Finances and Advancement
There is positive news to share regarding the financial status of our University, which remains a central priority in light of the broader, national economic outlook… still defined by volatility in the markets and the unemployment numbers still at 9.6%. The recession clearly has impacted higher education philanthropy, where fundraising was down 12% in fiscal year 2009, the most recent data point, for all colleges and universities. Georgetown was no exception, with fundraising levels declining at a percent equal to our peers.
Yet as you know, since the beginning of the financial crisis, we have all worked tirelessly to secure a degree of economic stability conducive to sustaining educational excellence for our faculty, staff and students.
Early on, we devised a strong plan for responding to the volatility of our economy. We reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring access and affordability by aggressively limiting tuition growth and increasing financial aid; we took a very conservative approach to spending, resulting in the delay or halting of capital projects requiring outside funding sources; we placed special emphasis on fundraising gifts that immediately benefited our operations; and we reallocated investments to increase liquidity in our endowment. We also slowed faculty and staff merit increases in a manner appropriate based on the uncertainty of unfolding economic challenges.
Taken together, these decisions have enabled us to mitigate the worst effects of the recession, to maintain liquidity and access to capital markets, to make targeted investments in academic growth, and to resume a pursuit of break-even operating results. Our endowment is sustaining growth and reached the $1 billion dollar mark as of June 30. Our cash gifts are strong. We are monitoring the growth of financial aid and have not experienced unmanageable levels of increased need. The very conservative approach we take to budgeting based on fundraising revenues has alleviated financial pressure.
The combination of these positive measures has allowed us to shift our focus beyond contingency planning and crisis management to develop a framework for financial management of crucial long-term academic priorities. I would like to say a few words about three of these:
First, from a perspective of financial management, even more important than our progress constructing the Science Center is our progress towards creating a strong financial plan to support the ongoing operating costs of the Center when it opens in 2012. Once the building is complete, capital spending, particularly for capital maintenance, will drop off significantly, in turn strengthening our overall financial picture.
Second, we have made major progress –faculty and senior leaders together – towards developing a proposal for a new faculty salary plan for the Main Campus that is crucial to our academic competitiveness. Jim and I are waiting for a final recommendation from the Main Campus Planning Committee and feel confident that the plan will provide a springboard to create success in sustaining a context for our faculty.
Third, we have designed a strong strategy for sustaining and enhancing our policy of need-blind admissions and meeting the full financial need for all undergraduates. This is a central academic priority: the academic competitiveness of our undergraduate program depends on sustaining this approach and the extraordinary reputation it creates for Georgetown.
I mentioned earlier that higher education fundraising is down across the country, and Georgetown is no exception. But, as I will discuss momentarily, even in hard times, the many positive developments we see in our fundraising bodes well for our financial future.
As you know, we recently announced the largest philanthropic gift in our history, an $87 million fund to endow support for medical research at our Medical Center. The gift originated in a $1.2 million charitable trust established in 1965 by the will of the late Harry J. Toulmin. Mr. Toulmin’s widow, known to many members of our community, the businesswoman and philanthropist Virginia Toulmin, managed the trust for the following 45 years and grew it to its current value.
Together with the extraordinary gifts we have received from the estates of Robert McDevitt and Robert McDonough over the past eighteen months, the Toulmin gift is testament to our community’s ability to create relationships with young people that deepen in their meaning throughout the course of their lives.
I am encouraged by a number of other results, including an increase in the number of total donors to the university annual funds, a strong response to our 1789 Scholarship Imperative, and a meaningful increase in the number of gift proposals made in the first two months of this fiscal year. We also have seen contribution levels of over $600 million to date for our capital campaign, which remains in its quiet phase.
The work we have done with our philanthropic community over the past year has allowed us to conclude that we will launch the public phase of our capital campaign next year at this time. The public phase of any capital campaign is always about mobilizing support, but it’s never only about that… A campaign allows a community to express its hopes and aspirations, to create a strong, compelling vision for the future, and to draw together in the spirit of teamwork and mutual expectation to make a disproportionate difference.
I briefly discussed the extraordinary gift of Harry and Virginia Toulmin earlier in these remarks. There actually is a great story here. In large part, the Toulmin gift will fund the Warwick Evens and Mary Mason Washington Evans Medical Research Endowment, a research endowment that Harry Toulmin wanted named for his grandparents. Warwick Evans is a special figure in Georgetown’s history, as the first graduate of the School of Medicine in 1852 and later, a Professor of Anatomy. We now know that Warwick Evans also inspired his grandson to love and trust Georgetown and to support the work of this University today, 158 years after his graduation.
It is the same spirit of generosity, passion, stewardship and care that you instill in students today that will allow Georgetown to flourish throughout this next capital campaign… and far into the future.
Thank you all for being here, and now, as is my practice, I’d be happy to answer any question or any issue of the day.