Building from within: Looking ahead to a year of momentum, excellence and opportunities
August 25, 2023
August 25, 2023
But the April momentum from that night continues to inspire and energize the university. The reward of sustained excellence. The gift of shared sacrifice. One game became the perfect punctuation for President Judy Olian’s Convocation remarks here, a message that was bold, forward-thinking and emblematic of the Quinnipiac community.
“This was not a championship won in 10 seconds, or even in one season,” said Olian, officially launching the university’s 94th academic year. “This was a championship that was earned over decades, through hard work, tenacity, resilience, by overcoming setbacks, by setting a vision of what could be, and by building a team on character rather than on the usual stats.
“That’s a metaphor for Quinnipiac. We are building from within, from the ground up, through character, effort and vision,” she added. “Obviously the hockey program shined, but so did we, so did Quinnipiac — to the world.”
It is this unmistakable ambition with action that Olian cited with last year’s growth and this year’s promise.
Construction of the South Quad is well underway with a new home for the School of Business, a new 417-bed residence hall and a new academic building. Over the last year, 140 staff and 27 faculty members were hired. The vision of University of the Future is crystallizing in profound and discernible ways. The students of tomorrow are already here today.
“Our new first-time class of 1,840 students comes from an applicant pool of more than 20,000, reflecting the diversity of our nation and the world,” Olian said. “Academically, our first-year class is strong, with an average high school GPA of 3.57 and with more than 300 of these admitted students entering our honor’s program. Fifty-eight percent of our incoming class identify as women and a total of 24% of the class self-identify as underrepresented, an all-time high for Quinnipiac.”
Olian credited the faculty, staff and a “terrific admissions team” for recruiting and building such a strong class. Overall, this week, Quinnipiac welcomes more than 3,100 new members to the Quinnipiac family, including first year, transfer and entering graduate students. Another 6,120 returning students will join them in the Bobcat family.
“And here’s a remarkable factoid: In a survey of incoming students, fully 62% of new first-time enrollees indicate that Quinnipiac was their first choice school — 62%! That’s pretty incredible and unprecedented,” Olian said. “Take a bow. Quinnipiac’s attractiveness has grown spectacularly for no single reason, but for many reasons for which each of you should take credit.”
Six of the faculty and staff who share in that credit were announced as this year’s Center for Staff and Faculty Excellence honorees. Together, they were recognized for their dedication to the university and their significant contributions to Quinnipiac. They will be recognized at a special dinner this fall.
This year’s faculty honorees are Julia Giblin, professor of anthropology; Theresa Luersen, senior instructor of chemistry and physical sciences; and Amber Kelly, associate professor of social work. This year’s staff honorees are Jamie DeLoma, director of live channels; Eric Grgurich, executive director of the M&T Bank Arena; and Kristina Lynch, director of CARE.
Olian also cited Grant Crawford, professor of mechanical engineering, and Vince Contrucci, director of community engagement, as role models for this year’s new employees.
Crawford, who has taught at Quinnipiac for nearly a decade, was recently selected as the president-elect of the American Society of Engineering Education, a 130-year old global society that spans all disciplines of engineering education. In the year ahead, he’ll lead those educating the next generation of engineers, people who are training future engineers who will tackle some of the most urgent challenges for society and the planet.
Contrucci, who has worked at Quinnipiac for 17 years, started an LGBTQ+-focused walking tour of New York City so students can learn about key events in the gay and lesbian civil rights movement. He’s also the force behind the campus-wide food drive during finals week each May. Since 2009, thanks to Vince’s leadership, Quinnipiac donates annually about 4 tons of food to the Greater Hamden community.
Olian also welcomed three members of her leadership team. Larry Slater, the new dean of the School of Nursing, comes to Hamden from the University of Memphis after time spent at NYU and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Wayne Gersie, the new vice president of equity and inclusion, joins Quinnipiac from Michigan Tech, after spending most of his career at Penn State. And Dan Kim, the new vice president of marketing and communications, joins Quinnipiac from Brandeis University, and before that at Holy Cross and the University of Michigan.
Although Quinnipiac has much to celebrate, Olian said, there is still much work to do. In fact, she vowed, the upcoming year can be even more memorable and more impactful.
“Some of our plans for the year ahead build on what we’ve noted already – whether continuing to strengthen enrollments, diversifying learner populations and leveraging the benefits of facilities as they are completed,” Olian said.
“We also have some challenges ahead, many of them from outside the boundaries of our campuses,” Olian said. “But let’s not squander this opportunity. Our university is at a unique moment in time. We are on the precipice of achieving true comprehensive excellence. Let’s capitalize on this moment — on the momentum and energy.”
Some of Olian’s specific goals included a continued commitment to equity and inclusion, a new model of living and learning, and becoming a nationally recognized brand. She is especially concerned about the financial stress faced by first-generation student and students of color.
“We need to offer added financial support not just to equalize access, but to create greater equity in the opportunities available while in college – so that students with additional financial need do not have to work two or three jobs, so that they have the financial freedom to engage in research, service projects or internships, so that they can study abroad, so that they can be relieved of the stresses of economic worry while studying,” she said.
Olian also touted both the immediate and long-term value of Living-Learning Communities at Quinnipiac.
“As we consider the opportunities unleashed through these new spaces, I’d like us to stretch our thinking into what could be. How can we exploit the possibilities embedded in these physical spaces to build audacious new models of living and learning?” Olian said. “Can we blend the two so that creative learning is facilitated in the new residence hall, so that students can access maker spaces and can engage in ideation and creation right where they live, where faculty lead a residential floor or college, where a self-governance model in the residence hall is a preview of community living?”
For Provost Debra Liebowitz, the resiliency and adaptability of the Quinnipiac community has shown itself in addressing the seismic change of technology, automation and artificial intelligence.
“I know it sounds oxymoronic to say this, but I really think that seismic change has become our business as usual. It’s our normal,” Liebowitz said. “But how can you adapt to seismic change as business as usual. In many ways, the level of change that constitutes our normal is, quite frankly, incomprehensible. It's overwhelming ... and certainly we see that in evolving ways, in all kinds of new ways and profound ways in our learners.
“What does this paradox mean for us? What does it mean for Quinnipiac, and why am I so optimistic? Echoing President Olian’s optimism here. I'm a realist. I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of Quinnipiac in the face of these seismic changes. It means that we exist and operate, albeit imperfectly, in the spaces created by this seismic dislocation. We operate in the lacuna in the empty spaces, in the gaps, in the unchartered area. We work together to fill those openings, those spaces that are created through those monumental change.”
Rand Pecknold, head coach of the men’s ice hockey team, also addressed faculty and staff at Convocation. During Friday’s clip of the game-winning goal in the national championship game, Pecknold said he had to look away so he wouldn’t get emotional.
Instead, he pivoted to a parlor-style game.
“I want you to think about a number. Don't blurt it out, but [think about] social media, podcasts, the New York Stock Exchange, Fenway Park — think of everything for men’s hockey this year. Think of views,” Pecknold said. “What number comes up? Just come up with a number in your mind. I do this a lot with people, and they come up with 20 million, 40 million. It’s in the billions.”
Indeed it is — 11 billion impressions, according to analytics.
“It’s a crazy statistic. And now listen, that might be my wife watching it over and over again on YouTube. It could be a lot there, so it's not just one person,” he said. “But that's why we have athletics. That's why we have it. It's a PR machine. It drives admissions.”
For Tom Ellett, chief experience officer, the Class of 2027 represents a connection to community and a commitment to the future. With more than 1,800 first-year students and another 240 new transfer students, this class is both academically strong and broadly diverse.
The new students come from 31 different states and 19 countries to add a particularly global view to Quinnipiac. The top four states that first-year students call home are Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, followed by New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Maine.
Academically, this year’s class has an average GPA of 3.58 and an average SAT score of about 1200, Ellett said.
“The welcome mat will be rolled out for our new students through the great orientation program that the student affairs team and the academic program partners have put together for us,” Ellett said.
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