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President’s Convocation Remarks

President’s Convocation Remarks
by Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Good morning, UDM faculty and staff colleagues, and welcome to the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year. I know that most of you have been busy working on the McNichols, Corktown and Riverfront campuses over the summer, but I hope you had a chance to get some rest and relaxation.

As I have done in the past, I have several important items and information that I want to share so that you are knowledgeable about these matters when asked by our students, alumni, friends and citizens of the region. Much will be happening on and around our three campuses over the next 60 to 90 days and there will be more than eight major University activities in September and October, including: UDM Alumni Night at Comerica Park on September 13; Celebrate Spirit on September 15; Decennial Accreditation visit of the Higher Learning Commission; the unveiling of our new logo, brand and tag line also on September 15; our first major Fall Homecoming on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1; the 100th Anniversary of the College of Business Administration on October 28; the potential development of new apartments for upperclassmen south of the campus; a couple of other yet-to-be scheduled announcements related to the Live6 Alliance and the Fitzgerald/College Core neighborhoods; and more. Those activities and initiatives will have a positive and significant impact on our efforts to recruit and retain more students, as well as bring back more alumni to each of our three campuses. You have heard a little about some of these forthcoming initiatives over the past year at our campus-wide quarterly Fiscal Briefings, via memoranda throughout the year, and more recently in the local media; but I will provide more current information this morning. 

Before I share those details and also some positive preliminary enrollment numbers on our first-year class, I want to reflect back to my first convocation five years ago in August 2011.  At that convocation, I talked about how important it was for all of us to begin thinking about advancing Detroit Mercy from “good to great” and how that theme should drive the five-year strategic plan that we were about to develop. I selected the message of “advancing from good to great” as a result of twice hearing organizational theorist Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice that summer at the Mackinac Policy Conference and as the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). After Collins’s keynote speech to the 2,000-plus participants at the NACUBO meeting, he dialogued with the NACUBO board members, which included me, for an hour and a half as we talked about some of the most pressing challenges of higher education:  the rising costs of postsecondary education; declining public financial support of higher education; competitiveness among traditional colleges and universities; for-profit and online institutions; the less than positive public perception of higher education; and more. Collins also pressed us to answer the delicate question of which colleges and universities would survive in the next 10 years.

Five years later, some colleges and universities have not survived and the challenging issues in 2011 still exist in 2016. My message in 2011 was that we must control our own destiny, strive to be “great” rather than “good,” and provide a high quality education at an affordable price. To be successful, our willingness to do things differently would determine if we continued to be competitive with our other local and regional institutions.

Using the theme of “Advancing Detroit Mercy from Good to Great” is a propos to who we are as an institution because having excellent faculty and staff like you, very talented students, outstanding alumni, a national and regional reputation, a strong Jesuit and Mercy Mission are good, but we must aspire to be great. Advancing Detroit Mercy as a “great” institution has been my mantra over the last five years because we must separate ourselves in a state of 116 colleges and universities. We cannot let up, but instead our next five-year strategic goals must be even bolder; and we will be developing those goals during the 2016-17 academic school year. 

And throughout this process, we have to remember Jim Collins’s admonition in his book, Good to Great:  “Good is the enemy of great.”

With the previous comments as background, let me talk about some of the current and impending initiatives that are raising our profile in Michigan and regional higher education.

I lead off with a potential development for Student Housing south of the campus on Puritan, and directly behind Shiple Hall. In 2011 an alumnus approached us with a proposal to build apartment-style student housing that would be very appealing to our students. We were particularly interested in apartments for upperclassmen, graduate and professional students that would be designed suite-style so that small groups of students could live together. The alumnus and the developer are financing the entire project and the 350-bed apartments will be enclosed in the footprint of the campus behind our current residence halls. The developer will operate the apartments and the University's Department of Public Safety staff will be responsible for security. Because an increasing number of students want to live on campus, we are very confident that this will be a successful endeavor. Over the last year, we have been working very closely with the developer and the city's Planning and Development Department to obtain City Council rezoning approval, which was received this summer. At the September City Council meeting, the City of Detroit Director of Housing and Development will request the Council’s final approval for the entire development plan. After the final approval and more planning, we will have a better sense of the project timeline.

Another major neighborhood effort that you have probably read about over the last two months in the local media is the Fitzgerald Neighborhood Revitalization Project. Mayor Mike Duggan spoke about this neighborhood initiative at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference and highlighted our collaboration. The Fitzgerald or College Core neighborhood, just to the west and between Marygrove College and Detroit Mercy, is a demonstration project of the Mayor whereby three city residential areas will be developed to become “20-minute neighborhoods.” The intent of this initiative is to rebuild select neighborhoods across the city and that would enable residents to walk or bike to everything they need within 20 minutes. The Fitzgerald neighborhood, which is located across from the McNichols Campus, has been selected as one of three neighborhoods to participate in this inaugural plan. The plan calls for improvements such as:

The enhancements to the Fitzgerald/College Core neighborhood will be extremely beneficial to the surrounding area, especially as we are making significant upgrades to the McNichols Campus. 

Live6 Alliance – It has been almost a year and the Live6 Alliance continues to take the lead on several important projects to further enhance and strengthen our neighborhoods through a variety of neighborhood and networking events such as: Build a Better Block, Drinks x Design and Dine & Development. Along with the activities of the Live6 Alliance and the opening of new restaurants and businesses such as Social Sushi across from the McNichols Campus next to the Bike Shop and Detroit Sip on McNichols and Livernois, progress is happening. 

Knight Foundation Civic Commons Competition – In November, the University partnered with the City of Detroit and Marygrove College to submit a proposal for a major competition sponsored by the Miami-based Knight Foundation.  The Detroit Civic Commons proposal focused on revitalizing the area between Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College, enhancing commercial corridors that support the neighborhoods and the universities, creating a vibrant Main Street with a sense of urban, civic life. The streets would be transformed to be safer and more inviting to pedestrians and bicycles encouraging walkability and greater activity linked together by a revitalized street and neighborhood greenway that promotes an active, pedestrian-oriented public realm that connects into each campus. We were one of 7 semi-finalist cities in the competition and if we are successful, the partnership could garner as much as $10 million or more for facilities-related projects on and near the campus. The four winning cities will be selected a few days after Labor Day.

House Bill 4588 – Over the last five years, we have taken the lead among the private colleges and universities in the state to regain the authority to allow our Public Safety officers to patrol outside of the boundaries of our campuses. With the support of Representative Kurt Heise, who introduced The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) legislation, the bill has passed in the House and is awaiting approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  If approved, this bill would allow the University to have a private security force and would grant our licensed officers, which is almost all of our force, and other private institutions the power to make arrests and patrol within and beyond the geographical boundaries of Detroit Mercy and other officers’ private institutions and within the confines of the law enforcement standards act. This bill would restore to our officers the powers they had prior to the revision of Public Act 330 in 1968, which authorizes our Public Safety Officers to only act within the campus boundaries. This is important legislation for us to assure our prospective students and the neighborhood residents that the University adds increased safety to city public safety officers.

New Brand, Logo and Tagline Unveiling – On September 15, we will officially announce and unveil our new brand, logo and tagline during this year’s Celebrate Spirit! This is the first University brand change since the consolidation 26 years ago, which includes a new logo, tagline, brand guidelines, key messages and new recruitment materials. Later this fall, we will also be unveiling the new University website that will be much more user- and mobile-friendly.

Celebrate Spirit! – As I mentioned, on Thursday, September 15, the Detroit Mercy community will come together at Celebrate Spirit! to officially welcome the new school year for faculty, staff and students. The theme is “Competence, Compassion and Conscious” and this year’s speaker is Ms. Crystal Windham ‘02, Director of Interior Design at General Motors Corporation. The Celebrate Spirit! picnic is sponsored by the College of Business Administration, which is celebrating 100 years! Also, be sure to stop by the picnic to receive a special gift with our new logo.

Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Review The dates of the 2017 Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools visit is scheduled for September 26 and 27, 2016. During the two days that the peer reviewers will be on campus for this reaffirmation visit, they will be meeting with faculty, staff and students from across the University as well as the administration and Board members in both scheduled and spontaneous meetings. The peer reviewers may also wish to visit classes, meetings, and/or observe additional daily activities to confirm our compliance with the re-affirmation standards. This ten-year reaffirmation review is extremely important and it is essential that all members of the University community are available during the two days they are scheduled to visit. Thank you to Provost Zarkowski and Prof. Calleja, Chair, 2016 Steering Committee, for all of their hard work in preparing for this very important visit.

Noteworthy Recent Rankings and Designations – In addition to the preceding initiatives and activities, the University and specific academic programs have maintained outstanding rankings. For the 15th consecutive year, Detroit Mercy ranked in the top tier of Midwest regional universities in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges.”  We are ranked #23. The 2017 rankings will be coming in September. Additionally, Detroit Mercy was also named:

These national rankings reaffirm Detroit Mercy’s quality academic programs, outstanding students and dedicated faculty and staff.

Enrollment Projections for 2016-2017 – As of August 15, 542 first-year students have confirmed for Fall.  Last year 525 were confirmed on this date.  This is a 3% increase.  Confirmations of graduates from Catholic high schools total 85, down from the 112 last year; and 71 of the confirmed students are from the Detroit Archdiocesan high schools compared with 85 last year, a decrease of 16%.  Of those students from Archdiocesan high schools, 52% received the $5,000 grant signifying that they completed elementary school and high school at a Catholic institution.  Last year the percentage was 43%.

Our Student Orientation, Advising and Registration program (SOAR) participation rate for this summer is 100%. All students have either attended or are scheduled to attend our orientation program.

The new first-year students have an ACT composite score average of 25 (24 last year) and a high school grade point average of 3.6 (3.49 last year). Twenty-five percent are in the top 10% of their high school graduating class compared with 21% last year, and there are 17 Valedictorians and Salutatorians compared with 11 last year.   Twenty-eight confirmed first-time students have been accepted into the University Honors Program compared with nine in 2015, a 68% increase.

One-hundred and twenty-nine (129) freshmen are the first in their family to attend college (105 last year), and another 90 students (79 last year) will be the first in their family to receive a bachelor’s degree.  Of the 542 confirmed students, 179 or 35% are Pell-eligible (31% last year).

Our first-year students will be coming from 14 states, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan and 3 countries: France, Germany and CanadaFour percent of our incoming students are international students and 88% percent of our incoming students are from Michigan.

Deposits from students who attended Accepted Students Day in March are trending similar to last year’s pace; 153 or 82% (82% last year) of the students who attended the program have deposited.

As of Monday, August 15, 194 new transfer students were registered for the Fall compared with 194 in Fall 2015; and 198 new graduate students registered compared with 200 last year.

There are 24 confirmed students for the new NIH REBUILD Detroit, twenty-one freshmen and 3 transfer students. The second cohort of this program began this summer with a summer bridge program for the students.

With respect to registration for Fall 2016, as of August 15, 2,387 undergraduate students are registered compared with 2,551 in Fall 2015, a 6.4% decrease; and 873 graduate students are registered compared with 935 in 2015, which is a 6.6% decrease. The professional school enrollment is at 1,138, compared with 1,107 last year, which is a 2.8% increase.

The overall preliminary registration total as of today is 4,398 compared with 4,553 at this same time last year, which is a 3.4% decrease. With Term I beginning in two weeks, there is still time for us to increase the enrollment of new students and returning students, especially in those areas where we are observing a decline from last year.  Therefore, I encourage you to refer students to the Admissions, Financial Aid or College/School offices if they are having any difficulty registering.

Our housing registration numbers are 7% higher than last year by 51 students: 773 vs. 722.  About 60% of McNichols freshmen will be residing on campus.

University Advancement and Comprehensive Campaign Activities Update – The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy is entering the third year of its leadership gift phase. A public announcement of the campaign goal will be made in the near future. The campaign has four primary areas of support: Student Financial Aid; Academic Programs and Faculty; Facility Renovations; and Unrestricted and General Support.

Strategic Plan: 2012-2017 Fourth-Year Report – As we have done over the previous three years, the UDM Strategic Plan: 2012-2017 Fourth-Year Report will be distributed electronically over the next couple of weeks. As mentioned earlier, significant progress has been made on each of the goals; but more intensive work is needed to increase our enrollment, retention and graduation of students. With only one more year remaining in the current five-year strategic plan, the Strategic Planning Team has begun the process of developing the next five-year plan.

Academic Accomplishments – During the 2015-2016 academic year, we achieved many noteworthy academic accomplishments as well. With the help of the members of the Academic Leadership Team, I will share a few of their most important accomplishments.

School of Architecture

College of Business Administration 

School of Dentistry

College of Engineering & Science

College of Health Professions/McAuley School of Nursing

School of Law

College of Liberal Arts & Education

Libraries/Instructional Design Studio

Career Education Center


Facility Updates – There have been many significant renovations to all three campuses over the past year. And many of those renovations have contributed to our ability to attract outstanding students and faculty. Even more, those campus improvements are being used to encourage alumni to come back and visit and provide convenient space for outside guests to host their events.

McNichols Campus

Corktown Campus (Dental)

We have much to be proud of, but we have much more work to do this year and over the next five years. Increasing the number of students at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels is critical; engaging more of our 80,000 alumni and encouraging them to be more generous to the University is imperative; and having you, our key constituents, promoting the University and all of the noteworthy accomplishments is very valuable. After all, if you and I do not talk about our aspiration to be “great,” how will we achieve that goal? Good is not good enough; we expect to be and will be great!!

Thank you for your continued cooperation and for all you do for Detroit Mercy!