DePauw 2020 seeks to improve students, faculty


The buildings, programs and ideals of President Brian Casey's plan for the future of DePauw are ambitious and lofty. But the expectations for the people who will fill those buildings, execute those programs and live those ideals are just as high.

DePauw 2020, the document outlining Casey's goals for the university nine years from now, contains numerous ideas about recruiting quality students and talented faculty to Greencastle. The goals include raising the standards for incoming students and student-athletes as well as new faculty members.

Higher admissions standards

For admissions, Casey wants the most qualified students in the nation to come to DePauw. The ideal student profile for 2020 has a median high school grade-point average of 3.75 and SAT scores of 1350 (out of 1600) in the 75th percentile. Vice President for Admission Dan Meyer said DePauw's academic profile has been increasing at a slow, steady rate.

"We've been running the race, but there's an opportunity to step it up even more," Meyer said.

Meyer believes that once Casey's plan becomes visible, students will be more attracted to the campus and to the strong academics.

"When you execute the plan, it drives up the demand," he said. "We can be more selective in who we choose to enroll and who we choose to extend financial offers to."

Casey hopes there will be many more prospective students applicable for the Edward Rector Scholarship. Funded in 1919 by lawyer Edward Rector, the scholarship was originally intended for the top male valedictorians in the state of Indiana. Now this scholarship is granted to the top 2 percent of applicants, usually with 4.0 grade-point averages and at least a 33 on their ACT. It provides between three-quarters and full tuition.

Meyer said the plan will help the university reach Casey's high academic goals.

"Having more Rector students gives us a stronger academic profile," he said.

Since many DePauw students hail from the Midwest, admissions plans to reach out to public and private schools in states like California, Texas, and Florida to start a trend of prospective students coming from those places every year, Meyer said.

"None of these will have an instant return, but if we do them now, we've paved the road in three years for applications from these schools," he said.

Admissions will have representatives in high schools focusing on the quality and benefits of a DePauw education. They also plan on reaching out to young alumni by asking them to make appearances at college fairs and helping out with the recruitment process.

Renewing and re-energizing the faculty

To cater to intelligent students, the university must have top-quality professors. Kerry Pannell, dean of faculty, said she thinks what DePauw already has is great, but the faculty needs to remain in a constant state of progress. 

"I think the quality of teaching is quite high, but you have to, as a faculty member, re-energize and renew continuously," Pannell said.

DePauw already has a faculty development program, which mentors faculty members and provides support for pedagogical research. DePauw adds a few new faculty members each year, but the university plans to keep them for long periods of time. Meyer said the employment process is meticulous and the professors who are here have paid their dues.

"We do a first cut and look really carefully at the top 40 to 50 applicants," Pannell said. "We interview the top 20 at a conference or on the phone, and then it is three candidates that you bring to campus."

Pannell said the candidates typically visit for a day and a half to meet with faculty and students from their prospective department. They give presentations and meet with the students, then the students "hash it out" to decide who the top contender is.

In looking for the best possible faculty, Academic Affairs also makes diversity a top priority. They're reaching out by going to diverse graduate programs and appealing to fresh Ph.D's, as well as putting advertisements in scholarly journals and visiting conferences. Pannell said she thinks it is crucial to get as many diverse perspectives as possible.

"In terms of having students of color feeling comfortable on a campus, you also want faculty of color," she said.

Once the new faculty members are hired, DePauw intends for them to spend their entire career there. After the recruitment process is over, they receive help on developing new courses and support for new ideas. Pannell said the long-term effect is the most important.

"Students graduate in four years, and the student body is changing faster than faculty," Pannell said, "but you still want continuous renewal and re-engagement for the faculty, with new scholars and new ideas."

Student-athlete recruitment

Another important aspect of recruiting is getting top student athletes from around the country. DePauw strives to get the top scholar-athletes, meaning many have the best high school grade-point averages and play varsity all four years in their respective sport. DePauw is a Div. III school in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and over 20 percent of its population are athletes. Casey wants many teams and individuals to strive to win the North Coast Athletic Conference, once they enter it next year.

Athletic Director Page Cotton said that DePauw was once ranked around 100th out of all 440 Div. III schools, but now it's 28th or 29th.

"It's not like we're starting from square one, but we can realize that setting goals is an important process," he said.

Casey wants to compete with top liberal arts universities, like Williams, Amherst and Middlebury. Those schools are in the top 10, but DePauw is currently in the top 30. Cotton said the goal can be reached, but it will not happen overnight.

"For us to strive as an athletic department to get to the top 10 without the university would be very difficult, so it makes sense that the athletic program would try to move in that direction as well," he said.

To recruit new athletes, Cotton said that they'll be casting a "wider net" when looking at high school profiles. Cotton said athletics should play more of a role when looking at both the academic and athletic aspects of prospective students.

"We're going to have to be prudent on the front end on terms of profiles and who will fit in with the profile as we move forward, rather than sticking with the profile we have now," he said.

The coaching staff, however, will stay the same.

"I think it's more about how we go about doing our recruiting and identifying student athletes," he said.