In State of the University Address, President Joel Recounts Progress, Outlines Challenges and Articulates Renewed Vision for the Future
In his first State of the University address, Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel announced on September 12 that he would accept the Board of Trustees’ offer to extend his term until June 2018 for a planned 15 years in office and outlined his vision for a united and prosperous University, both as an academic and as a communal institution.
“It is here, in this complex and special space, that we can see our future,” said the president before hundreds of alumni, students, faculty and staff in the Gottesman Library Heights Lounge on the Wilf Campus. Hundreds more watched the streaming broadcast of the address online. “If I listen carefully, I hear the murmurings of a consecrated conversation taking place here—a conversation between Torah and the world, between tradition and modernity, between the sacred contents of this beautiful bastion of wisdom and the wide world around it so desperately yearning for the dissemination of those contents.”
President Joel went on to announce that Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women had each welcomed their largest incoming undergraduate classes to date this semester with 270 and 304 students, respectively, with growth at the Sy Syms School of Business, as well. That total includes more than 120 honors students in the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern College and the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College, record highs for both, in addition to the inaugural class of the new Sy Syms Business Honors and Leadership Entrepreneurial Program. With 23 doctoral students, the Bernard Revel Graduate School for Jewish Studies also set a new record this year.
“These numbers are not a blip—they are the start of a trend,” said President Joel to applause. “Over the past nine years we have labored to build a first-rate product here at Yeshiva, and the public perception has finally met that product.”
The president focused on YU’s unique mission, which infuses Torah values and ideals into every aspect of students’ academic careers and experiences, and reminded the audience that as members of this singular community, they had a mandate to matter. “The dream is real,” he said. “We are more than a Yeshiva, more than a University. When we speak about who we are and what drives us, I believe that we must put forth an agenda of shleimut. Of wholeness.”
Touching on the University’s new educational offerings, the president highlighted several new graduate programs recently launched at YU, among them a Masters in Accounting and Executive Masters in Business Administration at Sy Syms and Masters and PhD programs in Applied Mathematics, as well as a Masters in Quantitative Economics, at Yeshiva College. Looking toward the future, he shared the University’s plan to establish a Division of Health Professions in the coming months that would integrate existing undergraduate programs with the advice and support of faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in addition to the launching of graduate programs in speech pathology and audiology in 2013 and physical and occupational therapy in 2014. The Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration will also launch YU’s first full online master’s program this spring.
“We hope these programs will not only benefit our students but serve as choice destinations for others, developing into a new educational and revenue source for the University,” said President Joel.
Citing numerous initiatives of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future across America and the world and the many ways in which its graduate schools and Institute for University-School Partnership continue to give back to both the Jewish and global community, President Joel added, “At Yeshiva, we don’t just prepare students for their professional careers, we train a generation of leaders infused with the value of values and the importance of leading full lives of shleimut, of consequence and integrity.”
Indeed, YU students have taken those values with them into their careers at an impressive rate. Referencing a post graduate survey conducted by YU’s Career Center, President Joel stated that nearly 95 percent of the undergraduate Class of 2011 are either employed or in graduate school. In addition, he noted that 97 percent of law school applicants from Yeshiva were accepted to a school of their choice, well above the national average of 71 percent, and 91 percent of medical school applicants were accepted to schools of their choice, more than double the national average.
Though YU, like many private institutions, was hit hard by the economic recession, President Joel pointed to a culture of determination and commitment to quality education. “This past summer we awarded tenure to ten faculty members, and last night the board of Trustees awarded another two,” he said. “Even as fiscal constraints have forced us to trim, our commitment to investing in our faculty and in tenure remains steadfast. We must dream beyond the apparent confines of our new budgetary reality.” According to President Joel, the YU community around the globe has already done that, donating close to $90 million in the 2012 fiscal year.
Noting that any collaborative culture also requires communication and transparency, the president announced his intention to make his State of the University address an annual occurrence, in addition to the Town Hall meetings he already holds throughout the year on both undergraduate campuses. He said that his office would also launch two new Twitter accounts: President Joel will share personal thoughts and experiences at @PresJoel and Vice President and Chief of Staff Rabbi Joshua Joseph will respond to inquiries and post ongoing updates under the handle @JoshJoseph00. And, for the first time, YU will publish its annual financial statements online for public consumption.
“Knowing the value of our mission-driven institution, we are both resolute and hopeful moving forward,” said President Joel. “The state of Yeshiva University is sound, it is strong, and it is poised for tomorrow.”