By Adam Zielonka
On Sept. 28 at 1:30 p.m. in the Trexler Room of the DeSales University Center, Rev. Bernard O’Connor, OSFS presented his “State of the University” address to members of the Student Life staff, an address each major group of faculty, staff and administration receives each year.
O’Connor spent the hour speaking about the university’s current situation and strategic plan, its challenges and its future strategies and goals.
The president began by reviewing the calendar of 50th anniversary celebration events, the four goals of the 2015-2020 five-year strategic plan – enhancing educational distinction, advancing reputation and reach, stewarding and extending resources and partnering for the future – and the progress being made on the Compardo Athletic Complex. After this, O’Connor brought up current enrollment numbers and how directly they related to faculty salary increases.
In the last three academic years, undergraduate day enrollment has totaled 1,620, 1,625 and 1,617, respectively. According to O’Connor, if enrollment stays in the 1,600 range, yearly salary increases will remain at two percent, which has been the steady figure in recent years.
“If we get that [enrollment] number up another 100, then we’re talking three percent salary increases,” O’Connor said.
The five-year strategic plan already calls for DeSales’ full-time day enrollment to reach 1,700 by 2019-2020.
O’Connor identified the expansion of current academic programs and implementation of new programs as the university’s main goals for the future. Specifically, the university will look to add three new advanced-degree programs in healthcare and one each in social sciences, natural sciences and computer science. The plan calls for the addition two new undergraduate day academic programs for each of the next three years; each of the five academic divisions also will be asked to expand one of their current undergraduate programs into a graduate program.
The biggest “current challenge” O’Connor spoke about was the ACCESS program. Enrollment in DeSales’ continuing education program for working adults fell from 721 students in fall 2014 to 657 in fall 2015, an almost nine percent drop. Moving forward, the university will “rethink” the program and may offer more online courses for students as one measure.
“We’re going to continue offering it, rethink it a little bit,” O’Connor said, adding that the university wants to ensure “we have the best product available, one that in the long term is going to prove to be very, very successful.”