Building on our Momentum | Webster University

Building on our Momentum

Spring Convocation
Loretto Hilton Center
January 10, 2012

President Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble
Provost Julian Z. Schuster

Happy 2012 and welcome to the spring semester at Webster University!

While many individuals are using this time to make resolutions for the new year and perhaps already finding resolving easier than doing, we at Webster can take pride in the fact that we have a vision, we are acting with vision, and we are making a positive difference. 

Today is a day to celebrate our collective success, to mark our accomplishments, and to envision our future in even more challenging ways to inspire every action that brings us closer to our vision of global academic and operational excellence.

Let’s start with an historic accomplishment—the successful conclusion of the Webster Works campaign.

Webster Works: The Campaign for Webster University is the name for the comprehensive $55 million fund raising effort first launched in 2003 and announced publicly in September 2010.

This campaign was designed to enrich the educational experience of Webster students in St. Louis and in the communities throughout the United States and the world where Webster calls home.

The funds raised through Webster Works will transform the way our students learn and work and further the University mission of ensuring high quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.  To accomplish this, Webster Works has focused on three key areas of strategic importance:

Webster Works in the Classroom

The St. Louis campus is essential -to the academic programs throughout the University’s worldwide campus network.

As the competitive environment in higher education intensifies, it is critical that Webster’s St. Louis campus be strengthened with world-class facilities that are considered essential in attracting and retaining students and faculty.

These facilities provide the needed infrastructure to assure global academic and operational excellence.

Our donors have generously provided the funding that has and will support each of these facilities projects:

• East Academic Building

• New facilities for biological and our nationally ranked health sciences programs

• Sverdrup Hall renovations

• New Quad

Webster Works for the Future

Endowed Scholarships

With 92.5 percent of Webster Groves flat fee undergraduate students receiving financial aid, and 34 percent of that aid coming in the form of loans, Webster Works gifts will reduce the financial burden carried by students and their families by creating new endowed scholarships that will benefit future generations.

Endowed scholarships meet a very real need for Webster students. For many, these scholarships determine whether or not students can pursue their education at Webster.

Each spring, we’re reminded of the impact of scholarships on the lives of our students when the Webster community comes together at the annual scholarship dinner.

This campaign has been notable in not only the number of new endowed scholarships that have been created but also the amazing variety—especially those with an international dimension.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the 45 new endowed scholarship funds that have been created during the Webster Works campaign.


A growing endowment is an integral part of Webster University’s ability to carry out our mission. Endowed gifts, permanently restricted for a designated purpose as outlined by the donor provide support in perpetuity, strengthening academic programs, enhancing teaching and faculty research, and expanding co-curricular opportunities for students.

A special emphasis has been made to provide endowment support for the Community Music School at Webster University  and endowment support for scholarships, faculty salaries, and academic programs, knowing that the impact on students now and in the future will be profound.

Let’s again celebrate what has been accomplished with a few examples of endowed gifts:

• Jane and Bruce Robert Professorship in French and Francophone Studies

• Roy Tamashiro gift to establish the Fund for Advancement of Global Citizenship

• Lawrence Jehling Endowed Scholarship for International Students

• Omar Daniel’s (BA ‘91, MBA ‘96) gift to establish an endowed scholarship in Geneva; the FINIAL Capital S.A. Scholarship (the largest gift received from an international campus alum)

Webster Works for Today

At the core of Webster Works represents a deeply rooted commitment to providing high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence. The Webster University Annual Fund is one of the most powerful means of reaffirming and sustaining that mission.

Annual giving is largely unrestricted, meaning that the annual fund gifts we have received typically go to work immediately for the University and its schools and programs. Unrestricted support pays for undergraduate scholarships, student programs, faculty support for research and course development, funding for student participation in scholarly conferences, library acquisitions, and classroom and equipment purchases.

Many of us in this room are annual fund donors.  Not only should we celebrate you but we should also thank you.  So, as we celebrate this component of the Webster Works campaign, we should take a moment to enjoy how good it feels to be a member of a university community committed to our own and our students’ success.

Here are just a few examples of annual fund giving accomplishments:

• Faculty and Staff participation—from 21% in 07-08, to 58% in 10-11

• DWS membership—from 173 members in 03-04, to 256 in 10-11, up 48% and the number of DWS members who are Webster alumni has nearly doubled from 53 to 104.

• 239 annual scholarships have been awarded since the DWS Scholarship program´s inception in 2007-2008.

We treasure those who are our most faithful and committed donors, the members of the Daniel Webster Society.  Each year for the past four years we have awarded one of the members the Visionary Award in recognition of their generosity and philanthropy on behalf of Webster University.

 Let’s take a moment to celebrate again each of these Visionary Award recipients:

• Jinny and Larry Browning (2008)

• Ambassador George Herbert Walker  III (2009)

• Marianne and Warren Knaup (2010)

• Conseulo Gallagher (2011)

In April we will plan a major celebration with our donors, we’ll unveil the new donor recognition feature, we’ll enjoy the new bricks and art on the new quad, and we’ll relish what it feels like when a plan comes together.

Oh, perhaps you would like to know exactly how much we raised in the Webster Works campaign? 

Let’s see.

Just over $56.5M for campaign total; donor count is 12,015.

During the campaign, the University received 13 leadership gifts of $1M or more, three in the last 12 months.  This community deserves to celebrate. 

That’s why I have focused my remarks today on our campaign success and accomplishments.  We can all say to each other, “job well done.” 

Let us take one more moment to savor a feeling of pride in Webster and in ourselves. . .

And, now let’s turn our focus to our future. 

I invite Provost and Sr. Vice President Julian Schuster to give us the update on our progress on Fall goals and our momentum as we head into Spring. Julian…

Momentum - Provost Schuster

Thank you, Dr. Stroble. I agree that a good word for this speech is momentum. Because we have accomplished much and are moving forward with swift yet thoughtful speed as we begin a new year.

I begin by updating you on what we are doing to achieve the goals related to Dr. Stroble’s strategic framework.

Let’s begin with Serving Students.

Many times I have been asked what does it mean to “go to the next level.” … It means quite simply, reaching higher and striving for the next level of performance – in everything that we do.

In Fall 1, we increased student headcount by 3.4% worldwide. We increased freshmen enrollment by 12% and were delighted to see our entering class had the strongest combined GPA and ACT scores since 2006. We also accomplished growing the freshman class in size and quality while improving diversity – a feat hard to accomplish by many of our peers.

Why do we care about this? Because this is an example of “taking our student success to the next level.” We know that qualified students will challenge each other and our faculty to succeed at a higher rate. This fall’s class is on the path to graduating in 2015, the year of our Centennial. That year, and this class, represents a transition for the University.

This coming fall, our freshmen will enroll under the new core curriculum – the Global Citizenship Program. This program will impact student success in a significant manner as we prepare our students with the skills necessary to compete on an increasingly competitive global environment.

Just last week, 10 of our faculty members were recognized nationally for their expertise and asked to share the development and insights of the Global Citizenship Program at the 10th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Education. They were able to share Webster’s achievement with 1,500 participants from universities, schools and colleges worldwide from North and South America, Asia, the Pacific, Australia and Europe.

The panels and presentations led by Webster faculty were shown on the Web, and you can still view highlights and testimonials of their work on the Webster Today blog accessible off the homepage.

Another program being recognized as a national model is Webster’s Spring and Fall Delegate’s Agenda.

With this program, senior leaders listen to student leaders and hear their requests and concerns…and then we as senior leaders respond to the students.

This innovative program has been recognized nationally, and a team of Webster Student Affairs staff presented on the program at the NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Annual Conference in Chicago in 2010.

It is this kind of innovative self reflection that will move the university toward a higher standard of excellence.

Administrative program reviews will ensure that our student services are of the highest caliber. This year, we will review financial aid and career services to ensure alignment of services with student needs.

As we move forward, we will strengthen our enrollment management plans to balance undergraduate and graduate enrollments. We will do this by increasing incoming freshman class enrollments; by increasing transfer student enrollment; and by increasing retention and graduation rates.

Strengthening Academic Programs

Last fall, I announced Academic and Administrative Program Review and Prioritization. We are progressing on this project. A Program Review Committee of 12, representing faculty from all schools and colleges, the Faculty Senate, library, finance, extended campuses, academic affairs, and deans’ council has convened. We have also convened a steering committee to inventory programs and develop a common data set for all programs.

The Program Review Committee is developing the criteria by which programs will be evaluated and prioritized – taking into consideration what is important to achieve academic and operational excellence at Webster in accordance with Webster’s mission.

This Spring, the Program Review Committee will provide chairs with the data and criteria for chairs to complete their “program questionnaires.” The completed questionnaires from department chairs will be returned to the Program Review Committee, which will apply the criteria to the programs.

As it has with Administrative Review, we expect the program review process will bring clarity to our mission, focus to our vision and guidance to the investments we make on our path to excellence.

Another exciting development that will help us learn about ourselves and our peers, which we learned about last Fall: Webster University was selected to participate in the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Laboratory.

We join seven other institutions as members of ACE’s 2011-2012 cohort. The Internationalization Laboratory will provide the unique opportunity to share best practices with other institutions and to benefit from the expertise of ACE senior staff.

As we move forward, we are committed to learning from ourselves, from our peers, and from our colleagues around the world. An Internationalization Steering Committee has been created to inventory and review our internationalization efforts, analyze them, and develop a strategic plan for long-term success and growth.

We expect this approach will propel Webster to the forefront as a recognized leader in internationalization.

Investing in Infrastructure, Financial Resources, Fund Raising

Momentum – a word fundamentally expressing velocity and acceleration in spite of distractions that might exist externally. While many institutions have slowed down their pace of acceleration in times of economic insecurity, Webster has not slowed down. We see this in our Master Planning process of which we are about 50% complete. So far, Phase I took us through an assessment of our needs and Phase II showed us some innovative recommendations.

We are now in Phase III – assessing those options and documenting our findings. Phase IV will be the presentation of the final plan that will lead us into the next 15 years and beyond. We expect the project to be wrapped up by Fall 2012. This important project will dovetail with a Public Art Initiative led by the Webster University Art Council. This important initiative will help to bring our campus to life creating a sense of place and engagement.

With great anticipation, we mark our calendars for March 28, the public opening of Webster University’s  East Academic Building – a hybrid building with interdisciplinary space that is home to the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology and other programs and services.

The Walker School has moved in, and Spring classes will be held in this location. But it’s not just a proud and stately home for The Walker School – it’s a place for learning and discovery for all students, and it will quickly become a signature icon and gathering place for our campus.

We are proud of this latest addition not only for what it provides, but for what it represents: Forward thinking. The building will be LEED silver certified, and everything from its design to its construction was conducted with sustainability in mind.

Soon, we turn our attention to renovations of the Sverdrup Building – home to the School of Communications. This much-needed expansion for the School will help alleviate cramped quarters and provide for exciting opportunities for the School to grow.

Improving our IT infrastructure is of paramount importance to virtually everything on the strategic framework prism, and this spring we will announce the appointment of the new Vice President for IT and Chief Information Officer.

The IT office is making progress on review of our current data system and has launched into an extensive assessment of our needs in order to identify the appropriate Enterprise Resource Planning system to provide efficiency improvements.

Currently, we are identifying the various ways in which each department uses and captures data. Streamlining the ERP is a monumental task, and thank IT team as we make essential improvements to our IT infrastructure.

Investing in Human Resources

Momentum. Moving fast – this takes skill and efficiency. It takes human resource talent. I’ve already mentioned that we will be naming the new Chief Information Officer. We have also launched the international search for the new dean of the School of Communications. This important search is underway and the search committee expects to have candidates here for on-campus interviews this spring. Additional important searches include:

The search to fill the Endowed Professorship in French and Francophone Studies; and an Associate Vice President to lead a new Office for Military and Government Affairs.

Global Marketing and Communications  will also roll out a new Proud to Serve Scholarship program – this military marketing initiative is  representative of our momentum and embracing new programs to ensure that we maintain our relationship with the Military and become a first-choice for not only Military -  but also for their dependents.

An exciting way in which we are increasing our talent at all levels is through the Global Leadership Academy. This program provides future leaders with professional development opportunities that will benefit them as individuals and the University as a whole. We are happy to have selected the fellows for the 2012 pilot cohort who will lay the foundation for the program. These fellows will truly pave a path for themselves and for future Webster leaders.

I have recently returned from extensive travel abroad. I’ve been to China and to London and I hear this message everywhere: Our students value the real-world experience and expertise that our adjunct faculty members bring to the classroom. So I’m proud to report that this year we implement next steps of Mercer Compensation Study, including an adjunct compensation study.

As part of our Performance Review process, we are implementing reviews based on Management-By-Objectives (or “MBO”) practices. Developed by management expert Peter Drucker, MBO is simply collaborative goal setting, determining course of action and decision making.

Webster will roll out implementation of MBO by first piloting it in IT, with full institutional rollout during the 2012 academic year.

Enhancing Partnerships Locally and Globally

In April, we will welcome our first Global Leader in Residence, Yolanda Kakabadse, the International President of the World Wildlife Fund. Through this Office of Corporate Partnership initiative, each of the Colleges and Schools will host a Global Leader in Residence.

The first residency session will be April 9-12, 2012 and provide opportunities for in-depth discussions addressing the challenges of the next generation and identifying opportunities for sustaining the planet. Steve James, American film producer and director will be on campus during last week of April. Writer, activist and educator Jonathan Kozol will join us in September.

The Global Leader in Residence Program will bring other world-renowned experts to campus to discuss issues of importance to all of us.

Whether here in St. Louis or abroad, partnerships are an essential part of making our university stronger.

That is why we are continuing to explore partnership opportunities in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Here at home, we recently announced another great partnership with the Muny. This agreement will blend the renowned Muny theatre with Webster’s nationally acclaimed Conservatory of Theatre Arts. It shares resources and creates opportunities to develop and train performers and production students for careers in American musical theatre.

This is the first partnership of its kind between a conservatory and a professional musical theatre. It builds on the very successful, longstanding partnerships we have in place with The Rep and Opera Theatre.

Also at home, our long-running relationship with Eden Theological Seminary continues as we work together on projects that will help both of our institutions excel and thrive. These activities are all part of our ongoing campus master planning process.

We already share space for library studies and recreation and this past fall, we made arrangements for our students to be able to attend worship services in the Eden Theological chapel. It may sound like a small step, but it is an important part in a longstanding and evolving relationship.

The Luhr Library, Wehrli Center and the White House are all under consideration as usable space in the campus master planning process.

Enhancing Reputation and Strategic Communications

Last year, we launched a new Global Marketing and Communications administrative unit. The new unit integrated the marketing and communications resources into four primary areas: Creative Services; Digital Marketing and Communications; Strategic Communications; and Public Relations.

Working together with IT, they identified a new Content Management Service Provider, Omni Update, and secured a web design contract with M Stoner, a nationally known website design firm. The project is now underway. Once the new Content Management Platform is in place, we will build the new Webster website, bringing uniformity to all colleges, schools, and locations. The new website design will bring to life our digital brand of local commitment and global connectivity.

Take a look at some of our recognitions that reflect not just good PR – but good programs and services that are being recognized for their quality.

These rankings represent acknowledgement from our peers in higher ed, the industries that we serve, and the region we call home. The recognition ranges from regional to global in scope.

All indications are that this recognition will continue in 2012 as we work to enhance Webster’s reputation worldwide and make sure the world knows about all of the great work all of us at Webster are doing. We intend to continue our Tier-1 ranking and maintain national rankings for selected programs, including being first choice for military.

In closing, I say this. There have been times when I have been told that we focus on too many initiatives – that we are moving too fast. It is only because I have faith in you, my fellow colleagues, and I know we have the ability to accomplish great things.

As we move forward, as we seize the momentum we have created, we do so with purpose. For out there, and around the world, there are great achievements to be made. Achievements that will be a part of Webster University’s history and legacy. Achievements that you and I will live. Achievements that make up the great Webster stories to be told later. Thank you.

President Stroble

In Summer 2009, I arrived as a new member of this wonderful community that we call Webster.  To help you get to know me, I used our first fall convocation together to tell you my story.  And I invited you to tell me yours.

Over the period of a year, I heard and read stories from you, from our students, from our alumni, and from those with whom we partner here and every place that Webster calls home.

Those stories of Webster’s founders and of those who led this university to continue to evolve and thrive as we took education to where we saw need are more than a history to be recounted and treasured.  They are the very stuff of our character and the core of our mission.  Because those stories are ours, and as has been true for many who have come to this university before me, these stories have become mine.

From the examples of the bold and courageous women and men who defined the essence of this university, we draw our own boldness and courage to lead Webster University at the century mark. 

It is our turn to craft the defining story that will be told by future generations.

It is our time to live that story in our words and in our actions.

The Webster University story began almost 100 years ago.  No doubt others before us thought they were living at the climactic period of the Webster story—closing a chapter with perhaps a postscript to follow.  But we know better.

We know that the Webster University we enjoy today has built success upon success, strength upon strength, to be the only Tier 1, private, non-profit,  U.S.-based university providing a network of international residential campuses.  

We can point with pride to over 150,000 Webster alumni from our campus network of metropolitan, military and corporate locations around the world, as well as the traditional campuses in Asia, Europe and North America.

Yet we know that we have not yet fully fulfilled our mission to transform all of our students for global citizenship and individual excellence. We are not yet a premier international university setting a distinct standard in global education.  We are not yet the first choice for servicemen and women and their dependents.

As we collectively create a “better U”, how will we know when this chapter—our chapter-- of the Webster University story has been written?

Provost Schuster and I have created a few word pictures to illustrate the Webster University we envision in 2015, Webster University at one century.

Befitting the quality of our faculty, our students, and our programs, our rankings by U. S. News and World Report should remain in the first tier, as they have for a decade.  What we aspire to is top 25 position, a move upward from our current number 28.

An academically strong institution has at its base strong, diverse, and successful students. We will sustain the strength of our graduate programs while growing the undergraduate population, particularly our residential students.   Here is how we picture Webster University’s enrollment at the century in terms of their entering characteristics and their success.

To make our global vision and mission real, we are working now to further partnerships in the tropics and southern hemisphere, to expand the opportunities for faculty and student exchanges in Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, and India.

We have expanded our partnerships in Italy, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia in ways that will open the world more effectively to Webster and take Webster to more of the world.

Global academic and operational excellence demands that we build upon our successful transformation of general education courses to comprise the global citizenship program.   We must now challenge ourselves to assure that every Webster program—undergraduate and graduate—is global in its content and its outcomes.

What will be different about our Webster campuses?  A great deal, as a new master plan is put into place for Webster Groves.   Here are just a few examples: new science facilities, Vienna campus relocation and a new academic unit focused on market responsive degree programs.

Most importantly, we will build these dreams, act on these words with resources that will be adequate to the challenges we set.  We will not fall victim to trading off one worthy goal or initiative for another. 

We will prioritize and focus in ways that assure our success.  And we will effectively grow the size of the pie—in terms of budget, endowment, alumni giving, and fair and competitive compensation for employees.

We have all the makings of the next great story of Webster University—Webster University at the century.

We hold worthy aspirations grounded in a history of achievement.  We have always known how to evolve and transform ourselves for all the right reasons—to meet the needs of students where they are. 

We seek the very best for our students—that they will be individually excellent citizens of the globe.

We enjoy the generous support of our alumni and donors.

Our momentum is tangible.

Our actions and our vision can and do make a positive difference.

We can and should celebrate, and we have today as we will many times in the coming days.  

Now I call upon us to engage our hands, minds, hearts, and will to create the Webster University the next century needs.  Let us make ourselves and the generations who follow us proud because we were a people who acted with vision to make a difference for them and for the world.