It’s become a familiar sight for the Chapman community: President Daniele Struppa standing on stage at the Musco Center, addressing a combined audience of university faculty, staff and university supporters. What was different this year — as has been the case for most events this year — was that everyone in the audience was viewing the address from home.
“I have to tell you it’s a little weird,” said Struppa in his opening remarks to the empty theatre. “I like the State of University day… it’s exciting to see the hall filled with people, with friends, with colleagues. Today, it’s empty. So, this is a different situation. But I’ve seen the numbers. I know you’re watching from your homes, from your offices, and I’m grateful for that.”
Success in a Challenging Year
President Struppa began his presentation with praise for the way everyone at Chapman worked together to keep the university community healthy in the face of the pandemic. Fewer than 400 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed among the combined student body, faculty and staff population.
“The reason for this success frankly is because all of you have taken it seriously,” said Struppa.
Thanks to a phenomenal level of donor support, the university was able to make necessary upgrades to campus to ensure healthy activity during the pandemic, and to provide additional support to students whose families are struggling from pandemic-related economic difficulties. Even facing the financial crisis of 2020, more than $1,557,000 was made in gifts — including 360 first-time donors — making this one of the university’s most successful fundraising efforts ever.
“I’m really proud to say that our finances have been stronger than any one of us could have expected,” said Struppa about the overall financial status of the university. “The institution not only survived, but actually thrived.” While growth of the university’s net assets and endowment was slower than previous years, numbers remained positive despite the challenging economy.
He added, “My proudest accomplishment is really the fact that we went through this pandemic and we didn’t have to fire anybody. We didn’t add to the growing number of people who are out of a job. We didn’t add to the pain that this country is experiencing.”
Making Diversity, Equity & Inclusion a Priority
The university’s efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion was a key theme that President Struppa returned to several times during the presentation. Key metrics presented included the growing percentage of non-white students enrolled at Chapman, along with increased retention and graduation rates, especially among Hispanic students. A decrease in the number of Black students graduating was a notable exception, and President Struppa expressed the administration’s commitment to seeing that trend reverse.
Ongoing initiatives from the administration include increased funding to hire Black faculty, the establishment of the Black Staff and Faculty Forum, the Black Alumni Association and the search to hire a new vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“These are very important initiatives,” said Struppa. “They won’t bring success in a month or in six months or in a year, but you will gradually see the impact, just as we’ve seen in other parts of the campus.”
Forward Momentum on Chapman’s Strategic Plan
During the hour-long presentation, President Struppa reviewed the progress the university has made on all parts of the university’s five-year strategic plan, “Engineering the Future”. Some of the highlights included:
- Introductions to new faculty from across the university, notably at Fowler School of Engineering, where the faculty is now 40% women, an unprecedented number in a field that is traditionally dominated by men.
- The growth of the university’s research agenda, as measured by increased research expenditures and in numbers of citations, along with notable achievements in every field.
- Acknowledgment of Chapman’s Top Employers for 2021, the university’s valued partners in industries across Orange County and the nation.
- A preview of the new facilities coming to Chapman, including a new dance center, renovations to the Hilbert Museum, the expansion of Rinker Campus, and the completion of the Keck Center with the Swenson Family Hall of Engineering.
“In summary, the university is doing very well,” said President Struppa. “We are facing tremendous challenges, but we are coming out of those challenges stronger.”