September 14, 2021


Begin Again: University President Discusses Community's Return to Campus

This fall, the DePaul community started more than a new set of classes and work assignments. Students, faculty and staff also began working towards a B.A. — the charge to begin again. Furthermore, DePaul’s President, Dr. Gabriel Esteban, announced earlier this year that he will step down from his role on June 30, 2022. Dr. Esteban joins the podcast to talk about the community's return to campus after learning and working online during a global pandemic, to reflect on his time as president and to outline what's in store for this academic year.



​LINDA BLAKLEY: Welcome to DePaul Download. I'm your host, Linda Blakley, vice president for University Marketing and Communications.

This fall, the DePaul community didn't just start a new set of classes and work assignments. Students, faculty and staff also began working towards a B.A. And I'm not talking about a Bachelor of Arts, but rather, the charge to begin again.

Welcome back to the DePaul Download podcast. With the community back on campus after a year spent learnin​g and working online during a global pandemic, the Blue Demons are adjusting to in-person classes and meetings, and returning to watch athletic events and theater productions. Furthermore, DePaul's President, Dr. Gabriel Esteban, announced earlier this year that he will step down from his role on June 30, 2022.

To kick off season three of the podcast, to discuss DePaul's return to campus efforts and to reflect on his time as president, I'm joined by Dr. Esteban.

DR. GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Hi, Linda! Great to be here.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Dr. Esteban, I'll start with a few reflective questions for you. What has been your favorite thing about Blue Demon life and what do you plan on savoring over the next academic year?

DR. GABRIEL ESTEBAN: We've worked together now for over four years. And my answer I know, will come as no surprise to you. 

My favorite thing actually or not really a thing, but my favorite about university life is the people who make up the university community. I, or rather Jo and I, plan to enjoy being on campus and at events this upcoming year. 

We miss seeing our students at the New Student Welcome and we miss seeing other members of the university community as well as students at Breakfast at Midnight, the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, cheering our teams at athletic events, and music and theater performances and productions. And also, I plan to savor my last commencement. 

We will also miss our alumni, our donors and friends. They are the ones who really are – really make up the university.

LINDA BLAKLEY: As the university continues to return to campus, what do you plan on accomplishing during your last year as president?

DR. GABRIEL ESTEBAN: We have a strategic plan, which we've been following for the past few years. So I hope to continue to push in the health and medical sciences as well as engineering, while working with the provost and faculty leadership to identify and invest and select academic programs.

LINDA BLAKLEY: What are two challenges the university has overcome that will give us more runway to meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff in the future?

 As we all know, higher education is facing really, really strong headwinds from demographics, financial, you name it. We're facing those headwinds. 

But first of all, we've shown that as an institution, if we pull together, we can make a significant difference in our long-term outcome. A great example of this is the record freshman classes we have had two years in a row due to the work - not just of our enrollment management staff - but also our faculty and staff from across campus. There's also the chance we may enroll the largest class in our history this fall. We now need to show the same university-wide effort to our retention, persistence and graduation efforts.

Secondly, we have all heard the saying, "no margin, no mission." We are emerging from the pandemic in stronger financial shape than most of our sister institutions. This will allow us to be in a better position to take advantage of opportunities and also take care of our university community.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Is there one particular thing you hope to drive forward this year?

DR. GABRIEL ESTEBAN: At a university level, we really need to refocus our efforts on the retention, persistence and graduation of our students. You've heard me say this before but when we admit a student, it means we believe they have the academic preparation to graduate. It is our responsibility to provide the support to make that possible. That should be front and center this year.

LINDA BLAKLEY: So when you look back on this academic year, what do you want to be able to say about it?

DR. GABRIEL ESTEBAN: At the end of the day, it's always about the students and how best to serve them. And the question is how can we best unlock their full potential? 

So – I mean, I got into higher ed because I enjoyed working with students and I continue that. And that's why we're all here. It's all about students and unlocking their potential. I've always said that higher ed should be the place where the idealism that the students come when they join us, we shouldn't try and kill that idealism. We should always try and just temper it with pragmatism so they can be very useful citizens moving forward.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Thank you, Dr. Esteban, for joining me today on the DePaul Download and for your years of service to the Blue Demon community. Through your leadership, DePaul has remained committed to providing access to high quality education to a diverse community of learners.

DR. GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Linda. And I look forward to seeing you and the rest of the university community on campus this fall.

LINDA BLAKLEY: I'm Linda Blakley. Thank you for listening to another episode of DePaul Download, presented by DePaul's division of University Marketing and Communications.