Students Weigh-in on DePauw’s Future: Their Voices Count

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Fourteen students participated in Wednesday’s collaborative planning session focusing on “the renewal and reimagination of DePauw as a 2lst Century liberal arts university.”

Students assessed DePauw’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities so the committee may decide what appropriate changes can be made to distinguish them from peer universities. The intent was to evaluate the academic student life experiences creating a compelling value proposition so that perspective students choose DePauw. 

Two faculty facilitators kicked off the video conference call with an introduction from President Lori White.

White stressed the importance of this community conversation for the reengagement of DePauw’s strategic planning process. She stated that many people are questioning the value proposition of a college degree, especially from liberal arts universities.

DePauw University, along with other liberal arts colleges, are facing enrollment challenges. According to DePauw’s Office of Institutional Research, in the last decade, Tigers have seen total enrollment decline by roughly 16 percent. Between 2005-2010, DePauw’s total student population hovered around 2,400 total students, however, enrollment is currently at the lowest it has been in at least three decades, with only 1,752 students enrolled this fall.

President White said, “Beginning in 2025 there is predicted to be a shrinking population of traditional college age students in the United States.”

DePauw will be competing with other universities from a much smaller pool of students. 

President White emphasized that DePauw is not immune to these challenges and the goal is to ensure that DePauw is positioned to obtain excellent students based upon how the school is market distinctive through its strong value proposition. She claimed the community needs to manifest into a university based on “institutional thriving and institutional sustainability.” President White encouraged the participants to “share your hopes and dreams for DePauw.”

 Students were assured their responses remained anonymous as the facilitators were looking for open and honest feedback to reposition the university. Three questions were asked by facilitators and answered by students:

  1. How can we stay true to the liberal arts tradition and position DePauw to attract and meet the needs of the newest generation of students?
  • Maintain small faculty/student ratio
  • Grow the alumni network
  • Lower tuition or better explain the value add proposition to justify the cost of a degree
  • Develop activities and support for students outside of fellowship programs
  • Gear resources and instruction towards computer science to better match opportunities in the job market
  • Advertise and promote to the incoming first-years the pre-professional and STEM programs offered at DePauw
  1. As compared to other colleges and universities, what do you see as DePauw’s current strengths and biggest challenges?

Strengths:

  • The ability to study abroad, participate in extended studies, as well as off campus internships
  • DePauw’s faculty and staff
  • All athletic programs 
  • Lab space

Challenges:

  • Rebranding the “Gold Commitment,” with its purpose, significance, and importance
  • The library should be an inviting place to study and learn
  • The campus is located in a very small, rural town with limited access to restaurants and shopping
  • Limited social activities for students on campus specifically non-Greek members, resulting in fraternity houses being used as the weekend social escape
  • Most restaurants close and building access ceases at 10:00 p.m. on the weekends 
  • Students are saying that they are being followed by public safety and its feels like an invasion of privacy
  • People would rather sleep at a fraternity versus running the risk of being picked up by public safety
  • DePauw eliminated “safe ride” and now students must wait outside for the bus
  • Students would like more communication from administration not less (More is Better)
  1. What is your boldest idea for reimaging DePauw?
  • Create a specific spot on campus called, “The Social Event Hall,’ with pool tables, ping pong tables, video and arcade games, pin-ball machines, and a food court that could be used for social gatherings
  • Add a nursing school and teaching licenses
  • Plant more trees
  • Create more floor space for intramural, athletic, and exercise activities
  • Provide transportation for international students to and from the airport
  • “Bringing the World to Greencastle,” – speaker series, musicians, concerts, and include an international flair
  • “DePauw Spirit,” – field days, themed dance parties, and social events with alumni

 Shortly after the meeting, participants received an email from Erin Confer-Staggers, events and special projects coordinator at DePauw, inviting them to fill out a survey to share any additional insights or comments.

Information from the session and the survey will be shared with the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, and the suggestions will be divided into thematic working groups for further analysis and development. Findings will be presented to the Board of Trustees in January 2021. From there, the target date to finalize plans is May 2021.