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Town Hall highlights

Rob Manuel at Town Hall
DePaul President Rob Manuel presents to faculty, staff and students during the University Town Hall. (Photo by Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)

At Academic Convocation, President Rob Manuel promised students, faculty and staff that he would hold Town Hall meetings to share ideas and continue to design DePaul’s future. Manuel hosted the first of these events for the 2023-2024 academic year on Thursday, Oct. 26. Some 534 students, faculty and staff gathered virtually and in-person at the Holtschneider Performance Center to hear updates on the university’s endowment fund, enrollment, faculty support and the following initiatives and areas.

Finances and Enrollment
Manuel presented on the financial health of the university, including an overview of enrollment, retention and tuition income.

Enrollment was strong for fall quarter​, with a 2.1% increase in total headcount in part bolstered by strong transfer and international enrollment. The first-year retention rate also increased by 3 percentage points, with an increase of 4 percentage points for Black students and by 6 percentage points for Hispanic students. At the same time, students were awarded significant financial aid, and Manuel noted that tuition discounts continue to rise.

​​Manuel also explored questions about the university’s endowment, including the difference between the terms of endowment funds and actual usages. Manuel outlined the ways in which the endowment draw has changed to support the increased needs of the operating budget. He also explained how the elimination of the Return to Principal, or RTP, has changed the relationship between usage of funds and the annual budget.

Designing DePaul
Manuel spoke about the Designing DePaul report, recently approved by the Board of Trustees and soon to be published online and in print. This report summarizes more than 50 working sessions and thousands of voices from the DePaul community, creating a framework to incorporate across the university. Manuel highlighted one of the framework’s initiatives: redesigning the university’s digital presence.

With more students eager to engage in technology and AI at DePaul, Manuel highlighted the need to do more to share “the genius happening inside the classrooms” as well as through support services. “Now is a chance for us to be a leader in the use of AI—as a function of support for the work we do, instead of replacing the work that we do,” Manuel said.

The digital version of the final report will be posted on the President's website, and printed copies will be available in mid-November.

Eliminating the Achievement Gap
In response to the Designing DePaul goal to close the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic students, the community submitted feedback urging the university to think broadly about diversity and inclusion.

Manuel discussed “extending capacity to think about how we eliminate the achievement gap for all populations” including students with disabilities, diverse religious backgrounds and LGBTQ students.

Taking student feedback into account, DePaul is conducting a search for a new leader for the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity to spearhead these initiatives and advance the program at the university.

Philanthropic Expansion
Looking to the future, Manuel outlined the opportunities available for more philanthropic initiatives as a strategy to enhance both the academic and athletic departments. These funds will help diversify the portfolio of funding throughout the university, helping to provide more support for both academic and athletic programs. In response to a student question, Manuel shared his vision to support theatre, music and the arts. “If you close your eyes, can you imagine DePaul without music or the arts? I can’t, and I don’t think the world can,” he said.

Manuel highlighted the importance of bringing these advancements to life and enriching the experience for all DePaul students, faculty and staff.

Campus Safety
Manuel shared that campus safety for all students, faculty, staff and visitors remains a top priority. The university is continuing to explore ideas and engaging in conversations with university community members and local officials to enhance safety initiatives, including hiring more safety officers, upgrading lighting and working with local leaders.

At the same time, Manuel acknowledged the balance between increasing security on campus and creating a comfortable environment for diverse student populations. In response to a recent meeting with students from DePaul’s Cultural and Resource Centers, Manuel announced that IDs will no longer be required at the John T. Richardson Library and that a group will be formed to include more student voices in future plans.

This initiative is ongoing, and Manuel will continue to keep the community updated on the Safety & Security section on the Designing DePaul website.

You can watch a video​ recording of the Town Hall here​. You will be asked to log in using your DePaul Blue Key authentication.