By Will Dancer
With the 2018-19 school year winding down, Roosevelt University hosted its annual State of the University address. With statements from Student Government Association President Brandon Glynn, University President Ali Malekzadeh and various pre-filmed presentations from program leaders, the consensus seemed to be that Roosevelt is seeing improvements and growth in all areas of operation.
Positive reports from the President and various other Roosevelt leaders regarding student retention, involvement rates, new educational programs, corporate partnerships and steady finances permeated much of the event and significant time was dedicated to highlighting specific individuals for the “2019 Presidential Awards for Social Justice.” Campus safety and maintenance was thanked for their work during the polar vortex earlier this year.
SGA President Glynn began the event with a speech in which he reflected on the changes he has witnessed take place throughout his term. Glynn singled out institutional changes, such as a re-drafted SGA constitution, open office hours for student interaction with SGA members and the success of the newly implemented Food and Toiletry Pantry and Career Closet as steps in strengthening the student voice at Roosevelt.
“With these changes, we hoped to have redeveloped a student government which actively adjusts to suit the needs of the students we are charged with representing, building a foundation in which the students that come after us can succeed,” Glynn stated.
He went on to elaborate that the re-drafting of the SGA constitution was in order to “simplify processes and be gender neutral,” and that open office hours work to help “contribute student perspectives during administrative meetings.”
Glynn introduced President Ali Malekzadeh to the stage.
Stating that this was his fourth State of the University address, Malekzadeh begins by expressing his satisfaction with the “Stronger Roosevelt Plan.”
“We knew that a turnaround was possible when we started down this path and we focus on improving everything we do within the university…,” Malekzadeh said. “I would suggest, not only is the state of our university strong, but it is getting stronger all the time.”
However, he went on to explain that the landscape of higher education is always changing and becoming more and more uncertain.
With recent college closings across the nation and in the Chicago and Illinois era, such as the Chicago branch of Argosy University, Malekzadeh said government support continually falls. “We might be one of the few nations in the world that would start disinvesting in our higher education,” Malekzadeh said.
Nearly 50 percent of high school graduates are leaving the state of Illinois, leaving colleges and universities competing over graduates who stay. “Think about that for a minute, 50 percent leaving the state… That’s a major loss of future for us in Illinois,” Malekzadeh said.
However, Malekzadeh highlighted the changes and improvements Roosevelt is taking amidst this uncertainty, explaining that the future of the university’s success lies within the programs that it can offer.
Malekzadeh said Roosevelt is looking to innovate and enhance the availability and flexibility of the school’s educational programs. Specifically, more classes are going to be available for students to take online and new associates, bachelors and masters degrees are being added to the programs list.
One new degree, a bachelor’s in cyber and information security, will be arriving soon and, in the fall, Roosevelt will offer a master’s in cyber security information insurance.
“We sensed it would be the right time to offer this program and it seems like the world needs it. In fact, this program has already been recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as ‘a center of academic excellence in cyber defense.’ We know this issue will become more prevalent moving forward,” Malekzadeh said.
Another new program, health science administration, will also be available for students. This new undergrad program will prepare students for increasing market demands and allow students to receive a degree in the medical field that doesn’t involve becoming a nurse or doctor.
Bonnie Gunzenhauser, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke about the new degree with a video presentation. “We tried to steer a middle way and develop this degree in health sciences administration that provides students with the technical skills they need to be successful in the workplace, but also provides them with broader social contexts in public health and health disparities… to live out the Roosevelt mission to be social conscious leaders in their communities.”
Continuing with the new programs, The Heller College of Business has added a bachelor’s of business administration in real estate and a master’s program in accounting forensics will now be offered online.
Besides these additional programs, the upcoming school year will be aided by new corporate partnerships that will assist the school in growing its visibility and reputation.
The College of Education, in association with Chicago Public Schools, has established an ongoing partnership to provide continuing education to Chicago-era teachers through a teacher residency program.
“This program will provide a year-long student teaching experience with extensive mentoring to current paraprofessionals and teaching assistants, while they complete their coursework, for early childhood and special-ed licensing,” Malekzadeh said.
Another partnership being formed is with the research-based professional developmental organization, Mindful Practices, as well as the Il-Empower program provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. Malekzadeh described it as a program that helps promote purposeful classroom environments. “Together these two agreements guarantee over $200,000 dollars of new revenue to the university,” he added.
Roosevelt also plans to form a partnership with the Health Care Services Corporation, the parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois which will provide their employees “significant tuition reduction” upon earning admission to the university.
“This is the first of many corporate partnerships that Roosevelt aims to create over the next three years,” Malekzadeh stated.
Dean of Education, Tom Philion, in a pre-filmed video, said these partnerships are beneficial for Roosevelt. “One really important way is we are actually living out our mission and we are providing programs of need to other institutions and organizations in the city who are looking to grow either the quality or the quantity of what they’re doing.”
Regarding Roosevelt’s financial status, President Malekzadeh said the “fiscal year 2018-2019 is on track and within approved margins,” but revenue from the summer semester is not yet official. However, he expressed his confidence that the school is “at or better” compared to the Board of Trustees’ approved budget margin.
He credited strong retention, stabilized enrollment, improvement in operating expenses, the sale of the Gage Building and robust gains in housing and dining revenue as important pieces in keeping Roosevelt’s multi-year financial plan on track.
Malekzadeh also mentions that the University partook in a debt restructuring program that provided “five to six” more years to Roosevelt’s financial plan.
Malekzadeh said retention is “absolutely critical to achieving financial goals.” The university’s first year student retention rate is up 9 percent, hanging it at 74 percent overall for the freshmen class. Transfer student retention sits at 81 percent and graduate student retention is at 88 percent.