Presidential Message to Open the Fall 2021 Semester
This week, we welcomed our first-year students to campus. It was great to speak to so many of our newest community members and their families. One of my great joys as president is meeting our new students each fall as we embark on a new academic year full of promise and excitement.
At our academic year kickoff event earlier today, our first-year students journeyed the Walk of Pride through an honor guard composed of Arcadia orientation leaders, students, faculty, and staff. The honor guard is another example of the traditions found at Arcadia; indeed, in four years, these same students will be celebrated with a University honor guard at their Commencement ceremonies. The symmetry of beginning and completing their Arcadia student journeys while community members celebrate them speaks to how tight and close-knit this University community truly is.
The past year and a half taught us how vital community strength and support are. In fact, this strength was a main reason that Arcadia enjoyed the University-wide success and achievement that we saw over the past academic year in the face of challenges to which few colleges and universities are immune.
The pandemic accelerated long-term trends that threaten higher education. Declining birth rates mean fewer college students and lower enrollment. State K–12 funding cuts drive high school dropout rates, and research shows that every $1,000 per-student funding cut leads to a 3 percent decline in university enrollment. Wavering public perception of the value of higher education also has impacted colleges and universities. Finally, COVID-induced job losses have taken a toll on college plans, particularly among lower-income families. These forces are not exclusive to small private institutions like Arcadia University. It is our adaptive strategy, ARCADIA2025, that is guiding our path through these challenges and leading us to clear, focused priorities, a shared understanding of success, a data-informed culture, and transparency and accountability. In short, it is providing a roadmap for us to achieve our ambitious goals in building a University for the future.
In the coming weeks, we will reflect on the challenges and struggles we faced over the past year and the critical strategic decisions to become a more resilient, flexible, and innovative institution. We will share the President’s Report, which details the tremendous progress our faculty, staff, and students made in the fiscal year 2021. My office and leadership are planning to host check-ins with campus departments in September and October that will include input sessions about goals, related initiatives, and financial transparency. At the beginning of the next calendar year, we will share our mid-point review and showcase our progress, and we will submit departmental annual reports at the close of the 2021-2022 academic year and into the summer of 2022.
Onward and upward! Next year’s enrollment cycle is off to a great start welcoming a new group of high school juniors and seniors, and guests to our campus. Here’s to a rewarding, fulfilling, and productive 2021-2022 academic year. I’m so glad we’re here at Arcadia together.
Ajay Nair, Ph.D.
Aug. 27, 2021