Quinnipiac kicks off new academic year with enthusiasm for the future

President Judy Olian welcomed the official start of Quinnipiac’s 93rd academic year with a Convocation message that highlighted the accomplishments of the past year, ignited the Bobcat community spirit and focused on the future with energy and optimism.

“Quinnipiac is an institution whose story is rooted in some deep DNA of ambition, growth, openness to doing things differently, and a fundamental commitment to our students’ development as young, thoughtful adults,” said Olian. “It’s important that we not lose sight of where we’ve been as we chart our journey for where we’re going.”

The university officially kicked off the start of the 2022-23 academic year on Friday, August 26, with its annual Convocation ceremony for faculty and staff, followed by a BBQ lunch to welcome the Class of 2026 to the Bobcat community. The 2022 Convocation ceremony also included a welcome address by Provost Debra Liebowitz and remarks by Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett.

Building on the Momentum

Olian began her address by honoring the commitment of Quinnipiac’s longest-serving employees, noting the remarkable statistic that 45% of Quinnipiac full-time employees, approximately half of the university’s current staff and faculty, have been with the university for a decade or more, with several approaching their 50-year milestone. Those employees were asked to stand in recognition and were treated to a chorus of applause from their colleagues and friends.

“The unwavering spirit that is here was built by many wonderful people who are still here. You are a huge part of the Quinnipiac story,” she said. “You are Quinnipiac. Your spirit drew me here, and Quinnipiac is what it is today because of you.”

Olian described Quinnipiac as “…poised for takeoff as we unleash the next phase of the university’s evolution.” She recapped the accomplishments of the past year, including the future-forward creation of several new degree programs and certificates to prepare students for emerging careers and the significant leadership contributions of faculty and staff to societal issues and news-related topics.

“This is one of the most consequential years in Quinnipiac's history. Our Board of Trustees has approved unprecedented investments in hiring new faculty and staff, in launching innovative programs, and in upgrading our facilities,” said Olian. “In May, we announced an extraordinary three-year hiring initiative to add 34 new full-time faculty members and 10 academic support staff. This scale of hiring, targeted at emergent fields, is an unprecedented investment in programs and experiences that will add to the academic distinctions of QU, enrich the diversity of our community, expand the opportunities for immersive learning, and increase the size of our faculty and staff – you are the catalysts for student success, and you unlock the exceptional in every student you touch.”

She noted that this year’s incoming class of 1,872 new first-time and transfer undergraduate students exceeded both projected goals. While there are many notable distinctions of the incoming class, Olian highlighted the increase in Honors students from 91 in 2021-22 to 350 entering this year, with 22.6% of Honors students self-identifying as diverse.

According to Olian, “Quinnipiac is bringing to life many immersive, hands-on learning opportunities” through new campus facilities such as the open-air television studio located next to the podcast center that emulates many sports and entertainment broadcast facilities; a Makerspace in Computing and Engineering that serves as an incubating space for students to test their creations; and the new Innovation HUB that fuels interdisciplinary learning and empowers students to crowdsource ideas. In addition, the new Visitor Center, scheduled to open in late September, will feature a 54-foot-long dynamic video screen showcasing life at Quinnipiac.

Focus on Four Key Areas

Building on the momentum of the past several years, Olian outlined several key priorities for the future that will focus on four key areas: Place, partnerships, programs and philanthropy.

“PLACE is not about bricks and mortar; it’s about creating spaces that unleash creativity and foster community, spaces for faculty to conduct research, to advance pedagogy, and to implement immersive learning approaches that model future careers for their students,” said Olian. “It is also about placing our students in environments that mimic how they will ultimately work, collaborate, communicate – and live healthily.”

She highlighted the October 13 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Recreation and Wellness Center and the construction of the planned South Quad, where interdisciplinary teams of faculty and staff have collaborated in the design of the new academic buildings and residence hall that will include spaces to stimulate collaboration, small group brainstorming, research and host community events.

When it comes to PARTNERSHIPS, Quinnipiac will continue to explore and cultivate new relationships with organizations that share a similar value of collaborations as Quinnipiac.

“Earlier this year, our vision for corporate partnerships took a giant leap with Hartford HealthCare,” said Olian. “This is a truly transformational, university-wide collaboration, and an example of how successful strategic partnerships must move beyond narrow transactional relationships and into long-term broad and deep, multipronged, value-added collaboration across organizations.”

Addressing PROGRAM development, Olian noted that the university would continue to be guided by Quinnipiac’s ten-point plan for racial justice and the commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Several cohort programs are serving as support structures for under-represented students, first as a bridge to transitioning from high school to college, and then as scaffolding for the duration of their years at QU,” said Olian. “Many of these programs are the result of success in attaining contracts and grants from foundations, federal and state government agencies, or individual donors.”

PHILANTHROPIC endeavors have continued to fuel the university’s academic mission, while supporting the needs of students and faculty and helping to offset costs of major capital projects. It is also an initiative that remains critical to increasing access to education.

“The Sawhney Fellows Program is a great example of the impact of philanthropy,” said Olian. “Our programs and philanthropy must also advance our mission to develop ‘enlightened citizens’ by bringing to the community unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable speakers and topics, developing the practice of intentional listening, and of asking probing questions driven by genuine curiosity. This fall, we will launch a new ‘Critical Conversation Series,’ which will bring speakers to campus, prompting us to think outside our comfort zone.”

Celebrating Excellence and Dedication

As she spoke about the importance of mentorship and role models, Olian shared the 2022 winners of the Center for Excellence Awards and asked each recipient to stand to be recognized with a round of applause.

Honorees For Excellence in Service to Students:
  • Noreen Bashta, Assistant Director for Student Accounts, One Stop

  • Heather Stegmaier, Director of Donor Relations and Fund Management, Office of Development and Alumni Affairs

  • Janice Surato, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Office of Human Resources

Honorees For Excellence in Teaching:
  • Ruby ElKharboutly, Associate Professor of Software Engineering, School of Computing & Engineering

  • Robert Engle, Professor of International Business, School of Business

  • Catherine Takizawa, Associate Teaching Professor of Biology, College of Arts & Sciences

Purposeful Community Engagement

Olian concluded her remarks by acknowledging the complex and multilayered environment impacting our local communities, national conversations and campuses across the country.

“As I think about the year ahead, I am incredibly energized and optimistic about the prospects for Quinnipiac. At the same time, I am filled with uncertainty and trepidation about the broader environment,” said Olian. “Yes, we have a bright future at Quinnipiac, but we are not separated from broader society. I cannot pretend that I have answers for these deeply challenging times in which we live, for which we are educating our students.”

A New Year Unleashed

Olian asked the entire Bobcat community to be mindful of several objectives throughout the coming year, including practicing respect and constructive action in the face of disagreement, embracing the role of Quinnipiac ambassador to the greater community, remaining an active voice in planning the future of the university and, finally, to be engaged.

“Engage through campus life in the bigger issues of society,” concluded Olian. “These engagements reinforce a sense of belonging, the joy of being part of a bigger family, reminding us of the uniqueness of QU, and how lucky we are to enjoy this family in which we are all members! It’s a transformational time to be at Quinnipiac, and I look forward to the great things we will accomplish, together.”

As she welcomed faculty and staff to the 2022 Convocation ceremony, Liebowitz spoke about the two major themes, articulated by Quinnipiac students, that will provide insight into the importance of higher education and highlight the significant opportunities for the year. The first is that students have an expectation and excitement for their own personal and professional growth. Second, they articulated a desire for community.

“We have all of the pieces right here at Quinnipiac to transform education and to transform our students lives. We have all of the pieces here at Quinnipiac to create a work environment that feeds and sustains our desire to make a difference,” said Liebowitz, who encouraged everyone to read her recent Provost’s Fall 2022 Update for highlights of new initiatives and upcoming opportunities. “We are well-positioned to manifest for our students what they told me they want—transformation embedded in community—while supporting the quality and commitment that permeates all of what you do. I look forward to a great year and thank you for all you do.”

Before dismissing faculty and staff members to the welcome BBQ picnic, Ellett, concluded the event by summarizing the strength of this year’s incoming class and encouraging his colleagues to engage with students and each other throughout the academic year.

“This year’s entering class has over 1,654 new first-year students and over 221+ new transfer students,” said Ellett. “Every student that is a part of this year’s incoming class has proven academic and in co-curricular experiences, to be successful to meet their dreams and their families’ aspirations for this educational journey. This will be an exciting year for students outside of the classroom, and we hope that each of you will have the opportunity to welcome these students who are exceedingly ready to engage in person with each of you.”


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