Building on President Garibaldi's Legacy

Pres Garibaldi with two students outside

Positioning For the Future

When Dr. Garibaldi joined Detroit Mercy, he set the institution on a path to achieve the following ambitious goals:

  • Establishment of a dynamic strategic vision for Detroit Mercy's future; 
  • Increase governmental grant funding and philanthropic support to enhance programming and drive the University endowment to record levels; 
  • Expand student enrollment and engagement; and
  • Continue to strengthen the University's mission and identity. 

Strategic Vision

Detroit Mercy has made exceptional progress toward our strategic planning goals.

The University’s Strategic Planning Committee diligently worked and met with colleagues across the three campuses and completed a draft Five-Year Plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees that summer. That initial plan and the current five-year plan, Boundlessly Forward: Detroit Mercy 2019-2024, have been the guideposts for our achievements and aspirations.

Philanthropic Support

In summer 2011, the Detroit Mercy's endowment was a modest $25.9 million. Planning for a feasibility study and a major campaign began immediately. Despite an external analysis and recommendation that the University could achieve a campaign goal between $40 and $60 million, a $100-million goal was set and achieved one year early in December 2019. At the conclusion of this Build a Boundless Future: The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy, the final amount raised was $114.6 million – the highest in the University’s history. Many alumni responded overwhelmingly to the campaign with more than three-fourths of the gifts coming from alumni, including more than 33 gifts of $1 million or more. Today’s endowment is nearly $94 million – a 360% increase since 2011. Because of the generosity of alumni and the current bridge campaign, an endowment of $100 million is achievable and not far away.

Student Enrollment and Engagement

The University has also made major advances in increasing enrollment, retention and graduation rates through significant changes in how Detroit Mercy recruits and retains students, provides financial and academic support to them so they can enroll and be successful, and receive employment and attend graduate and professional school at high rates.

In 2011, the University welcomed a first-year class of 465. Over the last several years, freshmen classes have averaged around 525 students. This fall, Detroit Mercy welcomed a first-year class of more than 570 students, the largest in 12 years. These enrollment increases are the result of many innovations and changes made by the Admissions office over the last eight years, as well as specific programs we designed to attract more students: the establishment of the University of Detroit Mercy Catholic Education Grant in 2014; the 2016 rebranding campaign Build a Boundless Future; the 2017 Assure Your Boundless Future Tuition Reset when the University reset undergraduate tuition from $41,000 to $28,000; the 2019 Graduate Tuition Reset in Business, Engineering, Architecture and Nursing and several first-ever institutional federal grants, including the Strengthening Institutions Program, Student Support Services, Upward Bound, The Science and Engineering Equity Development (SEED) program, ReBUILDetroit and many others that have increased enrollment in numerous academic fields.

Community Engagement

Detroit Mercy’s service and relationships with the community have also significantly increased and expanded through every one of the seven academic schools and colleges’ multitude of clinics and service-based efforts by its students, faculty, staff and alumni. Detroit Mercy students have also created programs that assist children, youth and adults in the surrounding neighborhood. And the institution's 27-year-old Detroit Collaborative Design Center in the School of Architecture + Community Development continues to make significant contributions to neighborhoods across the city and the country. As the 2022 Economic Impact Brochure (pdf) indicates, Detroit Mercy’s collaborations and specific initiatives are numerous. One of the most important ones is the co-founding of Live6 Alliance with The Kresge Foundation in 2015. The Kresge Foundation and Dr. Garibaldi have held dozens of meetings and discussions over the preceding four years, including during the city’s bankruptcy, before co-founding this vibrant economic development organization, one which has become a major neighborhood advocate and resource for residents and businesses in the McNichols Livernois corridor. Live6 is now a 501(c)3 organization that continues to receive financial and in-kind support from Detroit Mercy and I serve as its board chair.

Mission and Identity

As a Catholic, Jesuit and Mercy University sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the Society of Jesus, Detroit Mercy's mission and identity have been amplified on campus by the dual offices of University Ministry and Mission Integration through numerous programs focused on spirituality, discernment and service. Additionally, the collaborations locally and nationally of these offices with the Conference of Mercy Higher Education and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities have become models for our combined 44 sister-schools.

 Campus Infrastructure

Over the last decade, the University's campus infrastructure has also grown tremendously, with a new 40,000-square-foot Fitness Center in September 2012, the April 2017 addition to the College of Health Professions, major renovations to the School of Dentistry and School of Law and acquisition of a new 40,000-square-foot campus in Novi in 2020. In February 2020, Detroit Mercy announced a $55-million investment to the McNichols Campus facilities that includes major renovations and the expansion of the 66-year old Student Union; demolitions of aging buildings; upgrades to academic buildings, administrative space and residence halls; additional on-campus student apartments and green space; a Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning and other projects. Those critical infrastructure projects will assist in attracting and retaining more students while also making our facilities more efficient and effective.

National Rankings

Finally, under Dr. Garibaldi's leadership, Detroit Mercy continues to be honored with high rankings by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” 2021 edition. Last year the University ranked

  • No. 187 among the top 200 national universities in this newly designated category. Only three other Michigan universities earned a place among the 2020 group.

Additionally, Detroit Mercy received favorable recognition in the special categories of:

  • Best Value Schools, National Universities - No. 34
  • Best School for Veterans, National Universities - No. 136
  • Top Performers on Social Mobility - No. 129
  • A+ Schools for B Students
And Detroit Mercy again ranked among the top 20% of all universities nationwide in The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) 2021 Times Higher Education (THE) college rankings. The WSJ/THE ranked Detroit Mercy No. 180 out of almost 1,000 schools in the United States in 2021. The University has been ranked high since the inaugural release in 2017.


Dr. Garibaldi’s predecessors made the enlightened and courageous decision to have the university remain in Detroit when a distressing array of institutions — religious, educational, business alike — lost faith in the city and chose otherwise. Dr. Garibaldi tripled down on their commitment — with incalculable benefits to the student body, to the faculty, to the surrounding community, and to the city as a whole. But Dr. Garibaldi broke significantly with his predecessors in engaging the university in new and ambitious ways beyond the campus property lines at the corner of Livernois and McNichols in northwest Detroit.

That drive to engage was foremost in Dr. Garibaldi’s priorities when he asked to meet with me shortly after his arrival in Detroit. His passion in that meeting extended beyond the quest for academic excellence and financial stability that preoccupies most incoming university presidents. He wanted to talk about the Livernois-McNichols neighborhood.

Rip Rapson
The Kresge Foundation