What follows is the text of Father McShane’s fall 2021 State of the University address, as prepared for delivery to the University community on Oct 18.
Welcome back. As you know all too well, the past year was quite a year. It was a year that found people searching for the best adjective to describe it: difficult, taxing, hellacious, perplexing, unprecedented, exhausting, disorienting. Therefore, it was a year that stretched and challenged us at every turn. As a result, it was a year that we would never choose to repeat.
Oddly enough, however, it was also a year that turned out to be a learning experience, a very difficult learning experience, to be sure, but a learning experience nonetheless. (I hope you won’t mind if I get personal at this point, but in light of what I just said about the past year being a learning experience, I think that I should so that you don’t get the impression that I am being cavalier – or, far worse, pollyannish. Since Fordham has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, I thought that I knew it pretty well. I also thought that I loved Fordham as much and as deeply as I possibly could. I was wrong on both counts. Dead wrong.
In the course of the difficult journey that we have been on together, I learned more about the strength of the spirit and culture of the University. Much more. I have also come to love it more than I already loved it. Far more. And just what is it that I learned in the course of the past year? I have come to believe that Fordham is not a “what” or a thing. Rather, I have come to believe—actually know— more deeply than ever before that Fordham is not an inanimate object. Rather, it is a community and a rich, rare, varied, and lively community at that. Therefore, I have also come to know that the people who comprise that community are our strength. All of them: our faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni, and all who love Fordham. All of its members are bound together by a shared vision, a strong devotion to mission, and a deep love for one another and for our shared enterprise.) Moreover, during this past difficult year, the values that have always defined us and united us became both clearer and stronger. For Fordham, then, the past difficult year was marked by heroism, creativity, determination, flexibility, devotion, and deep and discerning love. Therefore, as I stand before you this day, I find myself filled with deep gratitude to all of you for all that you did to enable our beloved community to emerge from the many challenges it faced with such strength.
Of course, I am no fool. I understand that many hurdles lie before us as we continue to wrestle with the challenges created by the pandemic. I also understand that we are all still more than a bit wary, tentative, and yes, fearful. On the basis of all that we were able to achieve in the past eighteen months, however, I am confident that we will be able to weather whatever storms come our way this year.
And so, my dear friends, welcome back. This year is a year that is filled with anniversaries: the 180th anniversary of the founding of the University, the 175th anniversary of the receipt of our charter from the State of New York, and the 175th anniversary of our becoming a Jesuit institution. (In addition, the wider Jesuit world is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the conversion of Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Therefore, you will not be at all surprised if I tell you that the University will both host and participate in a number of events celebrating what Jesuits call an “Ignatian Year.”)
In the course of our time together today, I would like to cover the topics or areas that I normally cover in the State of the University address, namely: New Appointments, Admissions, Fundraising, Diversity Efforts, and Initiatives,
Rankings and Accomplishments, and Finances, most of which are covered in greater detail in the customary letters that I send out at the beginning of every academic year.
New Hires and Appointments:
Dr. Jose Luis Alvarado: Dean of the Graduate School of Education:
Dr. Alvarado comes to Fordham having served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State Los Angeles, the founding dean of the College of Education at California State University Monterey Bay, and associate dean of the College of Education at San Diego State University. Dr. Alvarado earned a Ph.D. in education, with a specialization in special education, from the University of Virginia; a master’s degree in special education from San Diego State University; and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Diego State University.
Fr. John Cecero, S.J. Vice President for Mission and Ministry:
Father Cecero was appointed this summer, following six years of service as the provincial of the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus. He is also a tenured member of the psychology department at Fordham, having served as an associate professor from 1998 to 2013 and rector of the Fordham Jesuit community from 2007-2013. A native of Philadelphia, Father Cecero entered the Society of Jesus immediately following graduation from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School. He did his collegiate studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, and he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from George Washington University.
Mr. Anand Padmanabhan: Vice President for IT:
Fordham is Anand’s return to higher education. He came to us from Whittle School & Studios, a global institution for students ages 3 to 18. Prior to working at Whittle, he served as the senior vice president and chief information officer for the New School in Manhattan. Anand has an M.B.A. from NYU Stern School of Business, a master’s in computer engineering from Louisiana State University, and a bachelor’s degree in electronics and telecom engineering from Madras University.
This past year, we received and processed 46,160 applications for admission to our three traditional-age undergraduate colleges. We offered admission to 58.3% of those who applied. At the end of the cycle, we enrolled a total of 2,848 students, an increase of almost 800 from last year. The tuition discount rate is 50.7%, similar to last year’s 50.6%. The quality indices for the class are very strong: the average entering SAT for the class is 1392, up 56 points from last year’s average, and the average entering GPA is 3.67. The increase in test scores can partly be attributed to the test-optional policy instituted this year. The number of National Merit Scholars is 67 (up from 43) and the number of National Hispanic Scholars is 38 (down from 57). The number of Presidential Scholars is even with last year at 6.
As for demographic breakdown, the following are our top ten feeder states:
New York: 36%
New Jersey: 13%
In addition, we have 172 international students in the freshman class, up from 111 last year.
As for gender breakdown: the class is 35 percent male and 65 percent female.
As for ethnicity, 44 percent are from traditionally underrepresented groups in
American society (up from 39 percent last year). African Americans or Blacks increased from 76 to 189 while Hispanics grew from 328 to 515.
Finally, we enrolled 91 new students in our HEOP program.
As you may recall, the pandemic had a negative impact on our fundraising during the 2019-20 year. In fact, we were only able to raise $53,338,612 that year, down from the $67 million that we had raised the previous year. This year, however, we rebounded and were able to raise $83,727,733, making the 2020-21 year the University’s best fundraising year ever. Moreover, the amount that we raised last year brought our fundraising total over the past eighteen years to more than a billion dollars.
As I mentioned at Convocation both last year and two years ago, we have been in the quiet phase of our new comprehensive campaign, the third in the course of the past eighteen years. This new campaign (which has a goal of $350 million) has been named Cura Personalis: For Every Fordham Student. As its name suggests, this new campaign is aimed at helping us enrich the student experience in all of our schools. It has, moreover, four central pillars: Access and Affordability (for which we are seeking $100 million), Academic Excellence (for which we are seeking $150 million), Student Wellness and Success (for which we are seeking $70 million), and Athletics (for which we are seeking $30 million), in addition to an overarching thrust: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (for which we are seeking $120 million). The quiet phase has raised slightly over $150 million. The public phase of the campaign will begin at this year’s Founder’s Dinner which will be held at the Glass House in Manhattan on 8 November.
As I mentioned last year, the pandemic caused us to do all of our alumni relations work remotely. That is to say, all of our alumni events were held on (what else) Zoom. This year, however, we are back on the road—with a bit of vengeance. In fact, the development team and I will be flying to London on Sunday evening to spend time with our donors from both the United Kingdom and the Continent. (We will also pay a visit to our London Centre to spend time with our students there, as well as with the new director of the Centre.) That trip will be followed by a rich schedule of visits to our alumni across the country. (This means that we will be able once again to hold “fusion” events to which we invite both our alumni and our prospective students. Since our yield from the student groups who attend our fusion events on the road is around three times higher than our overall yield rate, we believe that this will help us immensely with our admissions work this year.)
Rankings and Accomplishments:
Rankings and ratings first. As you know, we have seen our USNews rankings rise and fall in the course of the past few years. After a rather heartening climb from #74 to #66 in last year’s rankings, this year we fell two places to #68. Our peer assessment score remained constant at 3.3, a historic high that we obtained for the first time two years ago.
Some of the categories in which we declined, retention and graduation rate, and alumni giving, are almost certainly related to the pandemic and the economic dislocation it caused among our students and their families, and among our alumni.
In spite of this disappointing drop, we are still #41 among all private research universities in the country; #7 among the research universities in New York State; #6 among Catholic research universities; and #4 among Jesuit research universities.
Overall: #68 (down from 66)
Best Value: #76 (up from 82)
Undergrad Business: #74 (down from #67)
Accounting: #52 (last year not ranked)
Finance: #13 (up from #14)
International Business: #11 (down from #10)
Entrepreneurship: #12 (up from #15)
Marketing: #17 (up from #20)
Social Mobility: #179 (up from #203). We are now ranked #18 among the top 70, up from #23 last year, and #24 among the top 100, up from #34 last year.
Veterans: #37 (up from #38)
Undergraduate Teaching: #42 (up from #44)
Service Learning: #21 (last year not ranked)
Pell Graduation Rate: #55.
#64 in Best Business Schools
#57 in Part-time MBA
#36 in Accounting
#39 in Business Analytics
#14 in Finance
#15 in International
#14 in Marketing
Gabelli was also ranked #25 in Poets and Quants.
#53 in Best Education Schools
#35 in Best Law Schools
#3 in Part-time Law
#18 in Business/Corporate Law
#19 in Clinical Training
#33 in Constitutional Law
#23 in Contracts/Commercial Law
#18 in Criminal Law
#17 in Dispute Resolution
#65 in Environmental Law
#77 in Health Care Law
#19 in Intellectual Property Law
#18 in International Law
#100 in Legal Writing
#39 in Tax Law
#8 in Trial Advocacy
Graduate School of Social Service was ranked #25 in the country.
Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education: #171 (up from #183)
We received the following shout-out/inclusions from the Princeton Review:
We were named one of the:
• The Best 387 Colleges
• Best Northeastern Colleges
• Best Value Colleges
We also received notice/kudos for having:
• Great College Newspaper
• Great College Radio Station
• The Best 387 Colleges
The Faculty’s Scholarly Work: In the past year, our faculty published 195 books and book chapters and 525 articles, with the following breakdown by school or faculty:
Arts and Sciences: 118 Books and Book Chapters, 332 Articles
Business: 9 Books and Book Chapters, 92 Articles
Education: 12 Books and Book Chapters, 27 Articles
Religion and Religious Education: 2 Books and Book Chapters
Social Service: 7 Books and Book Chapters, 30 Articles
Law: 47 Books and Book Chapters, 44 Articles
In addition, our faculty have won grants in the amount of $17.46 million.
In spite of the challenges of the past year, our students were quite active in their pursuit of honors. On the prestigious scholarship and fellowship front, they won 72 Awards, 3 Alternates, 2 Finalists, 21 Semifinalists:
Three Fulbright U.S. Student Program (with three alternates); one Marshall Scholarship, one Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship; two Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowships; two Critical Language Scholarships; one DAAD Research Grant; one Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship; one Lily Fellowship; three National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships; one US Department of State Foreign Affairs IT Fellowship; three Excelsior Service Fellows; one Arrupe Fellow to the US Embassy in Cameroon; one Public Service Fellow to the US Mission to the United Nations in New York; one E. Barrett Prettyman/Stuart Stiller Fellow at Georgetown Law; one RISER Pre-Doctoral Fellowship; one Civil Rights Fellow at the National Education Association; three Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellowships; one Coro finalist.
Acceptances into medical and law schools:
They also shone in their performance in seeking acceptance to medical and law schools. With regard to admission to doctoral Doctoral level health professional schools, eighty students and alumni from Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center applied for admission to doctoral-level health professions programs last year. (These programs include MD and DO programs, MD/Ph.D. programs, dentistry, veterinary, optometry, and other doctoral-level health professions schools.) To date, 73% of those applicants were admitted to at least one program.
On the law school front, two hundred twenty-four students and alumni from Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and the Gabelli School of Business applied for admission to law school. Comparable to last year, 83% were admitted to at least one program. (Fordham’s admissions rate is 13% above the national average.) Among our most recent graduating class, the admissions rate was a full 20% above the national average.
Finances and Endowment:
As a result of the careful policies adopted by the board and a market that proved to be far more bullish than anyone thought it would be in the first months of the pandemic, our endowment passed the $1 billion mark, up substantially from the $830 million at which it stood at this time last year.
As you know all too well, the past two years have been challenging on the financial front. Faced with the uncertainties and shortfalls created by the pandemic, we had to place freezes on both salaries and hiring. We also had to cut operating budgets across the board. With the cooperation of the entire University community, as well as infusions of cash from both the federal government and our donors, we were able to balance the budgets for both of those years. As a result of these same factors, we were able to get through the pandemic without any firings or furloughs. Out of an abundance of caution, the present year’s budget is a conservative one, but one that will still allow us to begin to increase our hiring across the University.
Before closing, I would like to turn briefly to two areas of ongoing concern for all of us: the pandemic, and our efforts to fight racism and educate for justice.
The Ongoing Impact of the Pandemic:
I think that I speak for everyone at the University when I say that we all wish that the pandemic was over and that both we and the whole world could at last return to the kind of life that we knew and enjoyed before it hit in March of 2000. Sadly, however, that is not the case. To be sure, the advent of the vaccines has made it possible for us to resume many of the activities in which we engaged freely (and exuberantly) before COVID-19 disrupted our lives. But we are still not out of the woods. Therefore, we have to remain vigilant as the coming months (and perhaps years) unfold. Vigilant and cautious.
In this vein, the University has done all it can to create as COVID-safe environment on all of our campuses. Therefore, we have:
-mandated universal vaccination for the entire Fordham community. (Over 99% of our faculty, staff, and student body are now vaccinated. Moreover, everyone entering our campuses must provide us with proof of vaccination.) The very small number of people who have been granted either religious or medical exemptions must be tested every week and are restricted from most communal activities on campus;
-continued to require that all members of the University community submit to daily screening via Vital Check;
-continued to offer testing on both the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses;
-begun to offer booster shots for those who are eligible to receive them;
-mandated the use of face masks for all indoor activities—whether those activities take place in classrooms and labs or in social settings.
-continued to upgrade our ventilation systems on both of our campuses.
As a result of our imposition of these measures, we have been able both to resume robust on-ground, in-person instruction and to keep our caseload down to a minimal level. We cannot, however, become complacent. Far from it. We must remain vigilant, cautious, and conservative as we move forward.
Diversity Efforts and Initiatives:
As all of us know all too well, COVID-19 is not the only pandemic that we are wrestling with. We are also wrestling with racism, a pandemic that sadly will take longer to address and overcome than COVID-19. After all, it has been a feature of American life for 402 years, and a wound that we have not been able to heal in those 402 years. As I said at last year’s Convocation, “Let me be clear: anti-racism, diversity and inclusion are institutional and mission priorities at Fordham, priorities that grow out of our identity as an American, Catholic, and Jesuit institution located in the City of New York. As a result of our roots, our mission calls us to treat not just every member of the Fordham community but indeed every human being with respect, affirmation, reverence, and affection. That same mission calls upon us to confront racism and to educate for justice. (With regard to confronting racism, let us be honest.
This is and will be an ongoing challenge, for we will be called upon to confront both the kind of blatant, brutal racism that was behind the deaths of George Floyd and so many others of our sisters and brothers and the racism of indifference that gives blatant racism its real power: the racism of the blind eye, the racism of silence and the racism of self-absolution.)” I stand by those words. We cannot and will not remain either silent or inactive. We have adopted both an Action for Confronting Racism and Educating for Justice. We have begun to work our way through the roughly forty concrete actions that the plan contains. In addition, we have adopted a Strategic Plan (Educating for Justice) that both grows out of and buttresses the plans and aspirations identified in the Action Plan. In other words, we have made a beginning with and in the work that we are called to. We must give ourselves to that work with focus, conviction, creativity, and love in the coming months and years. If we do so, we will be able to say that we have done our part in working to create a country and a culture in which all of our citizens are truly equal, a nation in which each citizen is treated with dignity, respect, reverence, and supportive affection, rather than with brutality, disrespect, and exclusion.
With your permission and your forbearance, I would like to end my remarks on the same note with which or on which I began them: with gratitude. Please know that my heart is filled with gratitude to all of you. Every day. Your generosity of heart and devotion to the mission of the University astound me and remind me every day that Fordham’s greatest strength is its people, its community. It has been and will continue to be a great grace to work with and for you. May God bless all of you—and the students whom we serve together. May God reward you for all that you do. And may God bless Fordham, the Jesuit University of the Capital of the World, that place where miracles are commonplace, where character has been formed, where talent has been tested, and where hope has been born for 180 grace-filled years.