State of the University 2019

Editor’s Note: After consultation with the Faculty Senate in 2014, the president’s annual State of the University report transitioned from a spoken address to a written account. Below is 2019’s edition.

headshot of CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder

To the Case Western Reserve University Community:

It is difficult to believe that this is my 12th report to the Case Western Reserve University community on the state of the university. Each year, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of the university’s outstanding faculty, staff and students, and each year we have remarkable research, scholarship and other innovative programs to celebrate across the university.

This summer Suparna Mahalaha, assistant professor at the School of Dental Medicine, announced a new initiative of the Lifelong Smiles program with Hough Heritage, a low-income housing facility for seniors. This program helps provide easier access to dental care for seniors and trains our dental students to care for older patients through the Lifelong Smiles van, an impressive high-tech dental office on wheels.

Jonathan Haines, the Mary W. Sheldon, MD Professor of Genomic Sciences and chair of the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, received a $14.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to study Alzheimer’s disease across diverse populations. Haines, who is internationally renowned for his work in identifying multiple genetic links to Alzheimer’s, is collaborating with faculty here and from universities across the country.

Sarah Diamond, assistant professor in the Department of Biology and the George B. Mayer Chair in Urban and Environmental Studies, received a prestigious NSF Career Grant. Diamond’s lab focuses on evolutionary ecology and global climate change, and her Career Grant supports her research on the impact of climate change on migratory habits of butterfly species.

Sarah Gridley is an associate professor in our Department of English and an award-winning poet. Earlier this year, she received the Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press for her manuscript, Insofar, which will be published in 2020. She is donating the $1,000 prize money to a scholarship fund for students in the Department of English.

Andrew Reimer, assistant professor and experienced flight nurse, is leading an NIH-supported study on how medical helicopters are used, especially for transferring patients between hospitals. The increased use of medical helicopters during the last 50 years has saved many lives by moving patients quickly to the emergency room. Reimer and others believe they are being overused in some situations and at great cost to the patient.

Bill Yu, interim chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and the Frank H. Neff Professor of Civil Engineering, has great hope for his chameleon roofs in reducing the amount of energy used to heat and cool buildings. He applies plastic film or spray paint to asphalt shingles, which change colors depending on the amount of natural light they receive.

This spring we celebrated a remarkable $10 million gift, the largest in the law school’s history, from Coleman Burke to establish the nation’s largest endowed environmental law center, the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law. This excellent center will provide our students with both learning and research opportunities in environmental law as well as establish the law school as a leader in this rapidly expanding field. Leading the new center is Professor Jonathan Adler.

Dana Prince, assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, is the lead author of a study looking at whether there is a correlation between the amount state governments spend in federal funds earmarked for transitional housing and the negative outcomes associated with aging out of foster care, such as homelessness.

Anant Madabhushi, the F. Alex Nason Professor II of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics, is an international leader in the detection, diagnosis and characterization of many cancers and diseases by using medical imaging, machine learning and AI. For example, he and his team are using AI to determine which lung cancer patients will benefit from immunotherapy.

These excellent faculty members look forward each year to welcoming our incoming classes. For example, in August, we welcomed more than 1,350 undergraduate students, and the Class of 2023 is the most diverse in our history and among the most academically accomplished. These outstanding students are from 46 states as well as Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and 24 countries. The Class of 2023 boasts 19.5 percent underrepresented students, 17.5 percent Pell grant recipients and 16 percent international students.

The Class of 2023 also includes 10 Cleveland Scholars—nine are from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and one is from East Cleveland—all of whom received full-tuition scholarships. Many of these students are also Emerging Scholars, who receive academic support and advising to prepare them for a successful experience at Case Western Reserve.

We continue our partnership with The Posse Foundation, a nationally renowned organization dedicated to increasing college access for promising urban students from diverse backgrounds. Two years ago, we welcomed the first cohort of 10 students from New Orleans, and this year we welcome another cohort of 10 students. They have received full-tuition scholarships and additional funds for housing and other costs.

Last year, we launched the Student Success Initiative, a more comprehensive approach to increase our students’ opportunities to flourish in all aspects of their undergraduate experiences. I am pleased to report that the Student Success Initiative is making great progress, continuing to evaluate its programs and processes and make necessary changes to serve our students even better. Tom Matthews is now the Associate Provost for Student Success, having served in an interim role while we launched the program, and co-chairs a faculty advisory council with Professor Lee Thompson.

We also marked several milestones in the last year. On Dec. 31, 2018, we concluded our historically successful Forward Thinking capital campaign, raising $1.82 billion. Please know that we have not stopped fundraising—we still have much more to do for our faculty, staff and students. In fact, our attainment for Fiscal Year 2019 was $182.1 million, among the highest annual total in the last decade.

In April, we celebrated the dedication of the Health Education Campus’ main building, the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion, and the Dental Clinic. Throughout the summer, faculty, staff and students moved into both buildings, and now, our medical, nursing, dental and physician assistant students are learning, studying, eating and hanging out together and will revolutionize health education through interprofessional education.

In September, we celebrated the dedication of the East Bell Commons— a beautiful temporary public park that we own jointly with the Cleveland Museum of Art and is adjacent to the Nord Family Greenway. We are working now with the museum on a plan for a joint building on that site. It will extend our collaboration focused on a longstanding joint degree program in art history to one that also includes a broader and more interdisciplinary approach to object study and public humanities.

The following month, we broke ground on phase two of the Maltz Performing Arts Center, which will feature the state-of-the-art Roe Green Proscenium Theater, the Kalberer black box theater, rehearsal studios and a costume and scene shop for students in the Department of Theater. We expect to dedicate this remarkable new space by the end of 2021. 

Over the last year, Provost Ben Vinson III has led the university’s strategic planning process, and I want to thank the many faculty, staff and students who participated in it. The result is Think Big, which outlines four pathways to guide us in functioning as a high-impact research university that aspires to be a community where humanity, science and technology meet to create a just and thriving world. Provost Vinson and his team will continue to work with the campus community on the implementation of Think Big, including strategic investments.

In addition, I want to share our continued accomplishments around diversity and inclusion, while also emphasizing the work we still need to do. About 9,500 faculty, staff and students have participated in Diversity 360, our comprehensive diversity education program. For the eighth consecutive year, Case Western Reserve has received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for our commitment to diversity and inclusion and implementing comprehensive diversity initiatives across campus.

Finally, I want to reiterate that the university strongly supports the many on our campus and across our nation who face uncertainty because of the U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the future of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Launched in 2012, the program has allowed individuals brought to this country as children, known as Dreamers, the opportunity to remain in the United States on a temporary basis. For more information on this case and other immigration-related updates, please visit the new website we launched last month.

I wish you a restful, joyful and peaceful winter break, and again thank you for all that you do for Case Western Reserve.

Barbara R. Snyder
President