Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York  

Transforming Initiative I

Infusing Undergraduate Education with
New Energy, Focus, Rigor and Quality

Fordham seeks to improve undergraduate education through five initiatives: refreshing the core curriculum; establishing living and learning communities to nurture and challenge our students; increasing the quality and diversity of the freshman class; creating challenging programs for gifted and motivated students; and developing interdisciplinary science programs.

Toward 2016 identified specific goals for each of these initiatives, but the plan set one ambitious overall goal against which the University would measure its progress: that Fordham’s undergraduate program would rank in the top 25 nationally.

Each year, U.S. News & World Report (U.S. News) publishes the most well-known rating of undergraduate programs, in which Fordham’s is ranked among universities that provide education from the bachelor’s through the doctoral level. In the last five years, the University’s rank has risen from 84th to 67th. (See Figure 1.)

It is important to note that some of the measures of progress used in this report fluctuate from year to year. The size of changes and the trend over several years are better indicators of progress than annual shifts.

Focus the Core Curriculum more sharply on the primacy of the Ignatian tradition
and support it with a Center for Teaching Excellence.

After soliciting suggestions from students, faculty members and administrators, a core curriculum development committee led by Fred Wertz, Ph.D., professor of psychology and department chair, and Richard Gyug, Ph.D., professor of history, has developed a proposal for a new core, which the faculty has just approved.

In February 2008, the University established the Center for Teaching Excellence, headed by Anne Mannion, Ph.D., associate professor of history. Christopher Toulouse, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of political science and the center’s program director, will oversee its day-to-day operations. The center will assist the faculty by promoting conversations among teachers about effective pedagogy and providing ongoing professional development in the art of teaching.

Supporting Initiative: Create an undergraduate Living and Learning environment
that nurtures students and challenges them to mature academically, spiritually,
and socially.

Between fall 2005 and 2007, the number of students participating in learning communities increased from 148 to 579 at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center. (See Figure 2.) Since 2005, the Offices of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Mission and Ministry collaborated to establish three new residential communities, each with different emphases.

Beginning in 2006, these offices introduced a program at Lincoln Center to integrate commuter and residential students. (The freshman class is equally divided between the two groups.) The program is organized into learning clusters of five students and freshman seminars of four clusters, and commuter students are affiliated with a particular floor of the residence hall. Student surveys indicated that the program developed closer learning relationships among faculty, commuter students, and residents. In fall 2008, the entire entering freshman class will participate in this program.

At Rose Hill, a residential college has operated at Queens Court for more than a decade. Last year, the University introduced a Science Integrated Learning Community (SILC), in which all the participants are enrolled in science courses and are housed on a single floor of Alumni Court South. Fordham has created physical space in which freshman science students can find a support network among their peers, allowing them to form study groups and help each other with class projects and homework. SILC students also benefit from peer mentoring provided by the resident assistants and tutors, who are upperclass science majors or pre-health students. Grades in first year biology and chemistry courses were higher for students in SILC compared with non-SILC freshmen and upperclassmen enrolled in the same course. (See Figure 3.) This year Fordham has expanded SILC by providing sophomores with an opportunity to continue living in an integrated learning environment.

In addition, the University has transformed Tierney Hall, both physically and programmatically, to establish a residential college in which students live and learn in a community that includes staff from the Office of Student Affairs and a chaplain. This learning community is home to a pilot program of 10 innovative “Manresa” seminars taught by some of Fordham’s finest teacher-scholars, who also serve as academic advisers and mentors to the students. Students who join this community choose to take one of these seminars. The University expects to offer the Manresa program more broadly in the future.

Finally, in fall 2009, Fordham will launch an Integrated Learning Community created around the theme of developing global business leaders, open to sophomores at the College of Business Administration and Fordham College at Rose Hill sophomores with business minors.

Become even more highly selective in recruiting the freshman class,
and have a more diverse class.

To train leaders for society, the University must recruit and enroll students who have demonstrated leadership potential through academic, extracurricular or athletic accomplishments prior to entering Fordham. Furthermore, to remain true to Fordham’s historic mission, the University must recruit from the ranks of first-generation students, minority groups and the economically disadvantaged. The University must also increase its geographic diversity by enrolling more students from abroad, and from outside the northeast. The University plans to achieve these goals by raising additional funds for financial aid, strengthening its programs and improving its communications materials to enhance the public perceptions of the University.

Improve Selectivity. Fordham is fortunate to be building on many years of experience developing very successful admissions and financial aid programs. While the number of high school graduates each year has increased by about 33 percent since 1991, applications to Fordham have increased by almost 500 percent, and the University’s acceptance rate has dropped from 76 to 42 percent. (See Figure 4.) Over this time Fordham has improved the academic quality of the entering class: in the last 10 years, the mean SAT score has risen from 1149 to 1223, and the percentage of freshmen who were in the top 25 percent of their high school classes has increased from 68 percent to 78 percent. By 2016, the University hopes to further improve these figures to 1350 to 1400, and 80 percent, respectively. (See Figure 5 and Figure 6.)

Increase Diversity. Over the same period, Fordham has increased the diversity of the entering class. The percentage of entering freshmen from outside New York state has risen from 49 to 53 percent in the last five years. By 2016, the University expects that 30 percent of new students will be from minority or international backgrounds. Since 2002, the percentage of minority students in the freshman class has risen from 23 to 25 percent, while the international representation has increased almost one percentage point to 3 percent.

Strengthen the Financial Aid Program. Financial aid has played an important role in enabling Fordham to make progress on these goals. Seventy-nine percent of all undergraduates at Fordham receive financial aid from some source. Seventy-four percent of all undergraduates receive a scholarship or grant from Fordham.

Since most students receive aid from Fordham, it is not surprising that 81 percent of the funds for scholarships and grants to undergraduates come from Fordham resources. A relatively small proportion of aid, 19 percent, comes from the federal, state, or external private sources. (See Table 1.)

Of the Fordham funded grants and scholarships, 84 percent go to need- and merit-based grants and scholarships, 11 percent to athletic scholarships, and 5 percent to tuition remission, a fringe benefit awarded to Fordham employees. (The University counts tuition remission as aid because many recipients would qualify for financial aid.) Most (84 percent) of the Fordham-funded scholarship and grant money given to undergraduates meets financial need, which is the difference between the cost of attending Fordham and the amount that a family is expected to contribute based on its income and assets. The remaining 16 percent is used to create incentives for especially talented students to enroll. (See Table 2.)

Support the most gifted and motivated students.

If Fordham enrolls more qualified students than it has in the past, the University must provide educational programs that challenge them. Here the focus is on three initiatives.

Expand Honors Programs. In fall 2007, the College of Business Administration inaugurated a four-year Global Business Honors Program that will include academic, experiential and personal development and relationship-building components. The highly selective program offers honors courses in both liberal arts and business disciplines, faculty directed research, internships, international travel and alumni and upperclass mentoring.

During the past academic year, the Fordham College at Rose Hill Honors Program made major progress toward its goal of doubling in size, with its entering class having grown more than 75 percent, from 21 students last year to this year’s class of 37. Future growth will be incremental, as Fordham College strives to maintain the quality of the honors experience for the students. The program also expanded in two other ways: in its service to the wider College, by offering for the first time a series of seminars on Ignatian education open to all juniors and seniors; and in its greater involvement of alumni in the life of the program, by inviting them to a series of honors events throughout the year and at Jubilee weekend.

Fordham College at Lincoln Center has focused on deepening the academic experience of honors students. One faculty member advises students in each class through their four years. An innovative, interdisciplinary math/science course in first year has led a number of honors students to become science majors, and the honors seminar room was renovated in 2006 to create a more suitable atmosphere for the program.

Perhaps the best example of the depth of the Honors experience at Lincoln Center can be seen in the sophomore honors seminar on New York City last fall. The seminar focused on the South Street Seaport and resulted in a website addressing the entire history of the seaport from multiple dimensions. A link to the project can be found on the Fordham College at Lincoln Center home page.

Encourage and Support Applications for Prestigious Fellowships. The University has enlarged and strengthened the St. Edmund Campion Institute for the Advancement of Intellectual Excellence, which prepares students with the potential to successfully compete for prestigious fellowships. The number of fellowships that students win has been increasing each year for the last five years. (See Figure 7.)

Improve Pre-Professional Advising Programs. Under the leadership of Donna Heald, Ph.D., director of pre-health professions advising and associate dean for science education at Fordham College at Rose Hill, and Grace Vernon, Ph.D., professor of biology and pre-health adviser at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Fordham has provided more comprehensive guidance to pre-health students early in their undergraduate careers. Advising incoming pre-health students begins even before students arrive for the fall semester, with open house events for admitted students and sessions during freshman orientation. First semester freshman pre-health students enroll in a Pre-Health Symposium allowing them to benefit from weekly advising sessions during their first semester of college. The process continues in group and individual sessions throughout all four years with students receiving very specific guidance on making curricular and timing choices, finding medically related opportunities, gaining volunteer experience and preparing for standardized exams such as the MCAT.

For many years Fordham has operated the Collegiate Science and Technology Entrance Program (CSTEP), a state-funded program to assist New York state residents who are members of underrepresented minority groups or who are economically disadvantaged to gain entry into science, technical, engineering, math fields (STEM) and health and other licensed professions. Of 48 graduates of the program in 2006, 10 immediately enrolled in graduate school, three in medical school, and another in a podiatry program. Thirty students pursued careers in STEM and other fields. Owing to the success of this program, the state of New York doubled its funding to Fordham and enabled CSTEP to open offices at the Lincoln Center campus. At the same time, the University supplemented state funding to extend the resources of the program to residents of other states, greatly expanding its services to minority and financially disadvantaged students throughout the University. Participation in CSTEP has increased from 160 students in fall 2005 to 210 in fall 2007, with 60 enrolling at Lincoln Center. CSTEP expects to graduate 59 students in 2008. Of these, 17 are applying to professional or graduate schools in science, technical and health programs.

Overall, the results of Fordham’s pre-professional programs have been quite encouraging. In 2006, students achieved a 93 percent acceptance rate into medical school, exceeding the University’s goal of 75 percent. Seventy-nine percent of Fordham applicants to law school gained admission, close to the University’s goal of 85 percent. (See Table 3.)

Establish Interdisciplinary Science Programs.

Cross-disciplinary research is an increasingly common aspect of the sciences. To enable Fordham graduates to better compete for entry into master’s and doctoral programs, and to conduct advanced research, the University is developing interdisciplinary science programs: Fordham began offering a course in bioinformatics at Fordham College at Lincoln Center in fall 2006 and at Rose Hill in fall 2007. The science faculty is developing a minor in bioinformatics, as well as a new major in environmental science.

Increase the Graduation Rate

Toward 2016 identifies broad measures of progress for undergraduates. One of these is the graduation rate, which the University seeks to raise to 85 percent. The University’s current graduation rates compare favorably to those of other institutions. Fordham graduation rates for majority students, members of minority groups, and those in the Higher Education Opportunity Program are higher than the averages of other institutions in New York state. (See Table 4.)

Back to top

Return to the Special Strategic Plan Progress Report home page

Copyright © 2008, Fordham University.

Site  | Directories
Submit Search Request