Dear Northwestern Alumni, Parents and Friends:
Thanks for a great welcome!
As I begin my second year as president of Northwestern, I would first like to express my appreciation for the warm welcome my family and I have received from the Northwestern community. Starting with major alumni events in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and three Florida cities, and then continuing through the most recent gatherings in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, I’ve quickly been made to feel that I’m part of the Northwestern family.
I wanted to spend a good part of my first year as president listening and learning, and I think that has proven to be very useful, as I’ve learned a lot about Northwestern. One of the things that surprised me to an extent was just how strong Northwestern is in so many areas. As someone who has spent his career in higher education, I knew that Northwestern was a great institution, but I didn’t realize what a powerhouse we are in so many areas, including medical and scientific research. With more than $477 million in research grants in 2008–09, it’s clear that Northwestern truly is one of the country’s leading research institutions. That’s important because it enables the University to attract some of the best faculty researchers and students in the country, but more importantly it means that Northwestern is helping to address some of the most critical challenges facing society, such as energy and sustainability, disease treatment and cures, and economic and social issues.
I’ve also learned that Northwestern undergraduate students are a joy to teach. I taught two courses last year, and the students were fabulous — interested, eager to learn and thoughtful. I’ve also been making the rounds of dinners/ firesides in the residence halls, fraternities and sororities and residential colleges, and my experiences there have been equally encouraging. Our students are fully engaged in their Northwestern education, committed to and concerned about societal issues — and smart and a lot of fun. This year, in addition to an economics course in the fall, I plan to co-teach a course this winter with one of Northwestern’s most renowned professors, Slavic languages and literatures
faculty member Gary Saul Morson, Frances Hooper Professor of the Arts and Humanities and master of Willard Residential College. I’m very much looking forward to that opportunity to get to know more students well and learn from one of the masters.
We begin this academic year with an entering class that is truly remarkable. This year we had more than 27,600 applications for undergraduate admission, an increase of more than 70 percent in the last five years. The mean SAT score of the entering class is the highest in our history. African American and Latino/a students make up approximately 15 percent of the entering class, up from 12 percent last year. In addition, the number of low-income students receiving “no-loan” packages and the number of Pell grant recipients have increased significantly, and this year more than 110 members of the entering class are first-generation college students. A Northwestern education is unquestionably valuable; it is our responsibility to make it affordable and accessible to students from families of all economic backgrounds.
We’ve seen similar increases in applications and in the quality of our students in our graduate and professional schools. And encouragingly, we’re also seeing significant increases in interest in Northwestern University in Qatar, our new campus in Doha, where we teach journalism and communication. We’re just about to start our third year there, and construction will begin soon on our own building on the Education City campus. I’ve been there twice, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see students from the Middle East and around the world learning and experiencing a Northwestern education. They’re definitely Wildcats and proud of it.
The globalization of Northwestern, both in terms of where we might want to offer programs abroad and how to provide more international opportunities for our Evanston- and Chicago-based students, is one of the issues we’re looking at as part of an important strategic planning process now under way. We have seven working groups with a total of more than 100 students, alumni, faculty and staff. We’re hoping to have the plan completed by the end of this calendar year, which is an ambitious timetable. The plan needs to be specific, strategic, compelling and realistic — what we don’t want is one that sits on the shelf — so that it can guide us for the next decade. I’m confident that we’ll get that, and I look forward to discussing these plans with you in greater detail in the near future.
I’m also looking forward to meeting more of you in the coming year at alumni events around the country. Or come back to campus for Homecoming, reunions, athletic and fine arts events, or Dance Marathon, Waa-Mu or Dillo Day, which I enjoyed for the first time last year. In the past year I’ve learned something that most of you already knew — Northwestern is an amazing place — so I invite you back to share it again.
President and Professor