Editor’s Note: After consultation with the Faculty Senate four years ago, the president’s annual State of the University report transitioned from a spoken address to a written account. Below is 2018’s edition; readers are encouraged to post questions and comments.
Reflecting on the past year, I am exceptionally grateful to the remarkable faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of Case Western Reserve University. In the last 12 months, we have had much to celebrate, and when faced with a challenge, have come together to support each other.
In 2018, we welcomed new leaders. Provost and Executive Vice President Ben Vinson III joined us in July from George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. An acclaimed historian of Latin America, Provost Vinson also has a faculty appointment in our Department of History. Among his first initiatives are strategic planning and implementation of recommendations from the Provost’s Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE). He has also spent considerable time getting to know our campus community through town halls, group meetings, and even handing out Mitchell’s ice cream to students on the binary walkway.
In the fall, Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan became dean of the Case School of Engineering. Previously, he spent nine years as head of Purdue University’s largest academic unit as well as served as an accomplished researcher in system and control theory. Dean Balakrishnan also has a faculty appointment in our Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
In August, we welcomed more than 1,390 first-year students who are the most academically accomplished and largest class in our history. These students come from 50 different countries and 17 percent are from underrepresented groups. Fourteen of these students are Cleveland Scholars—students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and East Cleveland Schools who have earned full-tuition scholarships. Recently, we heard from first-year nursing student Emily Milner on how her high school experiences, including initially being the first female member of her school’s wrestling team, prepared her for Case Western Reserve.
This spring, we launched the Student Success Initiative to help us increase our students’ opportunities to flourish in all aspects of their undergraduate experience. It is also a first step in addressing one of the CUE recommendations. I was delighted that we could use a $500,000 leadership award I received from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, along with matching funds from our Board of Trustees, as start-up funding for the Student Success Initiative. Under the leadership of Interim Associate Provost Tom Matthews, we have hired 15 navigators who will support our undergraduate students during their entire time at Case Western Reserve, working closely with students’ faculty mentors. Faculty members also are engaged in the Student Success Initiative through a Faculty Advisory Group, an ad hoc committee of the Faculty Senate, and a Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education Subcommittee on Academic Advising, Mentoring and Student Success.
This year, we celebrated our School of Medicine’s 175 years of excellence in education, research and improving the health and wellness of our communities. During almost two centuries, we have seen significant changes to how we educate physicians and physician scientists, and along the way, Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine has remained a leader in advancing curricula and forging exceptional clinical partnerships. In spring 2019, we look forward to opening the Health Education Campus with Cleveland Clinic. Here we will take interprofessional education to the next level by educating together in one building our medical, nursing, dental and physician assistant students. This fall, we launched a search for a central leader of these efforts who will report to Provost Vinson.
The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center celebrated its 30th anniversary of advancing the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. We are proud of how the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center has remained at the forefront of making cancer breakthroughs by bringing together hundreds of top researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals and has secured its role as the driving force in advancing cancer research to benefit patients in Northeast Ohio, nationally and internationally. This year, the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center scored for the first time an exceptional rating, which is the highest possible, from the National Cancer Institute after its review and renewal of its status as a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. We are thrilled to be in the world-renowned company of Memorial Sloan Kettering Center and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Additional milestones include the 20th anniversary of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education, now based at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. This year also marks 50 years of the African American Society, a student group that emerged out of calls from students to improve the experiences of African-American students on our campus. The African American Society then and today has greatly influenced significant and enduring changes on our campus.
Earlier this year, a group of faculty members with expertise in trauma and clinical social work established the Center on Trauma and Adversity. Here they advance trauma-focused research as well as training for social workers so they can effectively assess, intervene and treat individuals and communities affected by trauma.
Now in its fifth year, the Interactive Commons leads the university’s efforts to integrate new technology into our research and educational programs. This year, the Interactive Commons launched a second collaboration with Microsoft focused on quantum computing and its application to a new technology developed here—Magnetic Resonance Fingerprinting.
Our faculty, staff and students continue their impressive research and scholarship and innovative academic programs, made possible through funding from the government, philanthropy and other sources. Examples include:
- Researchers at the Mandel School are examining if the cause of poverty and other social problems in Cleveland stems from bank redlining that started in the 1930s.
- A faculty member and students at the Case School of Engineering are using a Driving Simulation Lab to develop smart sensors for cars to monitor drivers’ heart rates, blood pressure, and eye movements, among other vital signs to identify distracted driving.
- A professor in the Department of Art History and Art recently co-authored a book, The Middle Ages in 50 Objects, and all 50 are from collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
- A report issued by a human rights group co-founded by our School of Law co-dean Michael Scharf calls for action in Rohingya genocide.
- School of Dental Medicine researchers found that smoking leads to weakened immune systems.
- Researchers at the Weatherhead School of Management found that hospitals that adopted electronic health records at the highest standard also discharged patients sooner.
- Our School of Medicine and Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing received a $3 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to extend HIB intervention to prevent heart disease.
- A School of Medicine faculty member is leading a national collaboration to study Alzheimer’s disease across diverse populations through a $14.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. The faculty member is part of the leadership team of the Cleveland Brain Health Initiative, a collaboration of neuroscientists and physician scientists from Case Western Reserve, University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Kent State University, and Northeast Ohio Medical University.
Our Forward Thinking Capital Campaign continues its historic success. For the first time, we raised more than $200 million in one year—$208 million to be exact, and it is the eighth time in the last eight years that we set an all-time fundraising record. Additional good news from our capital campaign includes the opening of the spectacular Nord Family Greenway, a collaborative project with the Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Art and the City of Cleveland and many generous donors. Philanthropist Roe Green generously gave $10 million for the Roe Green Proscenium Theater as part of phase two of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center. A $5 million gift from Marian and Michael Shaughnessy launched the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. And anonymous donors provided a remarkable $20 million challenge grant to establish 20 new endowed professorships in engineering and medicine.
This year, I had many reasons to be proud of the Case Western Reserve community, including when we demonstrated our core values of diversity and inclusion. After a recent tragedy at a Jewish synagogue in nearby Pittsburgh, our campus came together for a vigil to honor those who so tragically died and to support one another. A few weeks later, our campus gathered for a community conversation after anti-Semitic posters were found on our campus. We condemned these acts as cowardly attempts to intimidate and divide, and we oppose prejudice and discrimination of all kinds. We will continue these conversations, and I urge you to reach out to your friends and colleagues and support them.
I want to thank you for all that you do for Case Western Reserve, and I wish you a restful winter break and hope you enjoy time with family and friends.
Barbara R. Snyder