Photo of President Eric Kaler on CWRU campus

2022 State of the University

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 the edition for 2022.

To the Case Western Reserve University Community:

The tremendous progress we have made together in 2022 is the direct result of our university-wide efforts to remain focused on our three priorities—to elevate academic excellence, expand our research enterprise and enhance our community engagement—and our capacity to recognize opportunities for improvement. 

Each of you propels Case Western Reserve forward as an innovative, collaborative, engaged, diverse and inclusive university community. Please know how truly grateful I am for each of you and your contributions.

There have been so many positive changes since we shared our State of the University last December. 

In terms of undergraduate enrollment, the fall 2022 application cycle was record-breaking, generating more than 38,000 applications. From that pool, we enrolled our second-largest class of first-year students ever—1,550 first-year students and 65 transfers

This also was our most diverse incoming undergraduate class. A full 26% (up from 20% in fall 2021) identify as an underrepresented minority. Another 24% identify as Asian American and another 14% are international students. 

Likewise, our graduate and professional school enrollment continues to be strong. These students account for more than half of our total 12,201 students—6,184 to be exact. Graduate students and postdocs play a significant role in advancing our research enterprise. We are appreciative of their contributions to our campus community and of their support for undergraduate student learning across all schools and programs.

As demand for a Case Western Reserve education remains exceptionally high, we plan to grow undergraduate enrollment modestly in the next two years. The continued strength of our applicant pool will enable us to expand opportunities to attend Case Western Reserve while maintaining the high caliber of our student body and further diversifying our community.

We’ve already taken steps to accommodate this expected growth. In August, we broke ground on two new residence halls in the South Residential Village. The residential halls will be ready for occupancy in fall 2024 and have the capacity to house an additional 600 students. 

We’ve also hired more faculty in the two undergraduate schools with the biggest growth—Case School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. Some of this hiring has been supported by the Provost Office’s North Star Faculty Opportunity Hires. To date, this diversity hiring initiative has led us to hire six new faculty members at the top of their fields of study.

Despite this good news, we fell two positions, from 42nd to 44th, in the 2022-23 U.S News & World Report undergraduate rankings, tying with Brandeis University, Georgia Tech, Northeastern University and Tulane University. While disappointing, we improved in two areas: nursing rose five spots to fifth and the university was ranked 22nd for undergraduate research and creative projects. 

In the magazine’s graduate and professional school rankings, the university also performed well. The School of Medicine improved one spot to 24th; Case School of Engineering climbed seven places to 45th; the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences retained its ninth-place ranking in social work; Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing improved from 13th to 11th; Weatherhead School of Management’s full-time MBA ranking fell one spot to 82nd; and the School of Law ranked 78th, down six positions. 

While I don’t find much value in these rankings, I do believe its component data can, in some cases, indicate areas for improvement. 

In the past 12 months, we’ve also taken steps to first, measure faculty and staff engagement, and next, to act on the data. We know that organizations whose employees are engaged are more innovative, experience less turnover and enjoy greater productivity, among other positive outcomes. 

In April, all faculty and staff were invited to participate in our engagement survey, which was administered by our survey partner, Gallup. Our goal was to collect data to help us better understand how we are meeting the needs of faculty and staff and, importantly, how we can do better. 

The survey results, released last summer, indicated that nearly one-third of our faculty and staff are fully engaged, half are not engaged and another 18% are actively disengaged. 

The results weren’t as we had hoped; however, they gave us a global picture of engagement university-wide and shed light on specific areas that need attention. In August, we convened an Engagement Committee to serve as liaisons between the committee and the schools and units they represent. Committee members have been discussing engagement at their local levels, developing action steps to enhance engagement at school, unit and university-wide levels, and recently created a section of the Human Resources website that’s dedicated to engagement.

We can and will make this a better workplace for everyone—taking this survey was the first step. 

Similarly, we recognized that the university needed to invest more in our talented faculty and staff to reward your continued excellence and commitment to the university. In March, we announced plans to dedicate an additional $23 million investment in faculty and staff compensation. The historic investment represented an 8% increase in total compensation funding from fiscal year 2022 (July 2021-June 2022).

This expanded compensation pool was used to reward merit; to address fairness, equity, and issues of compression; and to make market adjustments to salary levels. Faculty received their adjustments last July. Staff members will receive their adjustments this month. These staff salary adjustments were made following the results of our staff compensation study and represent an initial cost of more than $6 million.

As we prepare to turn the page on another calendar year and enter the second half of fiscal year 2023, we remain in one of our strongest financial positions ever. In fiscal year 2022, our development team raised $175 million in overall attainment, well exceeding its goal. Similarly, the university exceeded our budget surplus of $12.7 million, with an actual surplus of $14 million. 

Buoyed by our financial performance and AA credit ratings, we also were able to issue a $350 million century bond in June. Monies from this bond can be used for strategic purposes and will go a long way to buttressing our infrastructure and growth in key areas.

Leading among these growth areas is our research enterprise. We’ve shared that our goal is to grow annual research expenditures from our current $400 million to $600 million and to accomplish this outcome as soon as we can. I’m confident that the path we’ve established over the past year positions us well to do so. 

Earlier this year, we launched a national search for and hired our inaugural senior vice president for research and technology management Michael Oakes, who joined us in July. We also took stock of our research space, particularly in Case School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. These spaces play a critical role in our ability to attract and retain talented faculty and students and to perform the cutting-edge research that exemplifies our university.

With that in mind, we announced plans to build an Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building (ISEB) on the Case Quad, where Yost Hall stands now. This state-of-the-art research hub will be devoted entirely to research and lab space. Sized at approximately 200,000 square feet, the ISEB will accommodate up to 100 principal investigators. The estimated total cost is approximately $300 million, with $150 million in funding from the century bond and the balance raised by development. We plan to break ground on the ISEB in the fall of 2024 with expected occupancy in the fall of 2026, just in time for the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Western Reserve College. 

This year, the university’s leadership team welcomed several key members in addition to Michael Oakes, including: Yolanda Cooper, vice provost and Lindseth Family University Librarian; TJ Shelton, the James C. Wyant Director of Athletics; Dexter Voisin, dean of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Sciences; Dean Tufts, vice president for campus planning and facilities management; and J.B. Silvers and Andrew Medvedev, interim co-deans at Weatherhead School of Management. In just a short time, the university has benefitted from their leadership and counsel.  

As always, the health and safety of our campus community continues to be a prime concern. Our vaccine mandate remains in place and our COVID-19 operations team monitors weekly COVID data on campus and in Cuyahoga County to determine transmission levels and whether there are any disruptions to campus operations. To date, we have not had to adjust our protocols.

Following the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, our Reproductive Health Task Force and its working groups initiated several measures to safeguard our community and to keep them informed. In addition to hosting webinars and a discussion series, the group set up wellness vending machines that include ibuprofen, condoms, pregnancy tests and Plan B. The Task Force also made reproductive health kits available for free pickup at various locations around campus. 

Finally, we have made significant progress on our priority to enhance community engagement. For years, academia has been associated with the ivory tower—in contrast, our approach is to meet our neighbors where they are and in ways that meet their needs. 

The Neighborhood Advisory Council, which serves as a liaison between our neighboring communities and university leadership, has continued to meet since its founding last fall. Also, we’ve begun to implement the recommendations from our Community Engagement and Impact Task Force, key among them a suggestion to share our engagement stories more broadly. To that end, we re-launched our community relations newsletter in August to spotlight the good work of our community partners and programs, along with students, faculty and staff.

Our FOCUS Group outreach programs for local K-12 students, many of whom attend Cleveland public schools, continue to thrive. And effective Jan. 1, 2023, they will be under the direction of our Office of Government and Community Relations to maximize impact of our engagement efforts. 

Without a doubt, our individual and collective resolve has been tested by global and national challenges over the last few years. Despite them, we’ve learned how to work, live, innovate and collaborate smarter. It is incumbent on us, perhaps now more than ever, to maximize our impact as an institution whose mission is to improve and enrich people’s lives through research and education. 

Again, thank you to each of you for your dedication and hard work as members of this university community. I look forward to what we’ll accomplish together in the year to come. 


Eric W. Kaler