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SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre

Formalized Graduate School, New Academic and Study Abroad Programs Among State of the University Highlights

By SU Public Relations

SALISBURY, MD---A formalized graduate school; new programs in engineering, music therapy and public communication; and enhanced study abroad initiatives are among the highlights announced by Salisbury University President Carolyn Ringer Lepre during her second State of the University address on Monday, November 13.

These are among the next steps in realizing the “Salisbury Seven,” a blueprint for SU’s future success laid out during her inaugural State of the University address in February. Goals include:

  • Investing in the people who deliver on the promises made to students;
  • A continual commitment to inclusion, diversity, opportunity and equity, and the cultivation of a sense of belonging;
  • Strategically growing to serve the needs of the Eastern Shore, State of Maryland and nation while holding fast to SU’s identity as a student-focused institution that shows it cares about its people through every decision;
  • Furthering SU’s reputation for innovative, high-impact practices and a belief that the University is educating the whole person for a lifetime of civic leadership and community service;
  • Raising the resources needed to support SU’s programs, students and culture; and
  • Strengthening the University’s institutional identity and reputation.

“Nine months ago, I stood right here and shared our collective vision to be a University known for its purpose of transforming lives through academic excellence and its commitment to suffusing life-changing, high-impact practices, inclusion and belonging throughout the educational experience,” Lepre told an audience of campus and greater community members from the stage of the Jackson Family Auditorium of Holloway Hall. “Since then, I have been blown away by your excitement for our path forward.”


Formalized Graduate School

Momentum during that time has included Faculty Senate approval to formalize a graduate school at SU. The new academic unit will take the place of the University’s current Office of Graduate Studies and Research (along with the creation of a new Office of Research and Sponsored Programs), allowing SU to bolster efforts to grow graduate enrollment. Lepre hopes it also will help improve the University’s standing in national rankings while solidifying SU’s national identity and presenting new opportunities for advancement.

New Academic Programs

Lepre announced SU has submitted letters of intent to the University System of Maryland to launch new bachelor’s degree programs in engineering and music therapy. They are the first of what the President expects will be the launch of one new academic program in a high-impact area each year.

“Today, the State of Maryland has more demand for engineers than the capacity to educate them,” she said. “The proposed new bachelor degree programs in coastal engineering and geotechnical engineering are positioned to address the growing needs for the workforce of the Eastern Shore and state.”

The B.A. in music therapy will be the first offered by a Maryland public institution.

“Graduates of this interdisciplinary program can be board certified to use their training in music, psychology and biology to promote wellbeing among those receiving treatment for medical or mental health issues.” Lepre said.

Plans for a third new program, an M.A. in public communication, also are in process. That degree will focus on advanced education for public relations practitioners and analysts in the athletic, health care, commercial, public affairs and political fields, she said.

The goal is to have all three ready for enrollment by the 2024-25 academic year.

SU Global Campus

As part of a continuing effort to become the Maryland public university with the highest number of students who have at least one global experience prior to graduation, SU is expanding its study abroad opportunities through new SU Global Campus programs.

During the winter 2024 term, SU will lease an entire building for student residences in Stirling, Scotland, growing its SU in Scotland Global Campus program at the University of Stirling. There, students will learn both in the classroom and in culturally important locales such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. Three SU faculty also will teach courses at the University of Stirling during that time.

In June, seven SU faculty will follow in their footsteps, teaching classes in English and Spanish during the summer session through the SU In Spain Global Campus program in Málaga.

Strategic Innovation Fund

In February, Lepre announced up to $500,000 would be budgeted annually for a new Strategic Innovation Fund to help finance high-impact practices and programs proposed by SU community members. During her November State of the University address, she announced the first five ideas to benefit from that program (out of more than 40 submitted):

  • Partnering with the Association of College and University Educators with the goal of improving student success through the implementation of the organization’s inclusive teaching practices, with an estimated return on investment of $1.1 million at the end of three years. Project sponsor: Dr. Jessica Clark, assistant provost for faculty success.
  • Establishing a First Gen Sea Gull Scholars Program to enhance the recruitment, retention and graduation of first-generation students through resources and support programs to help them succeed and thrive on campus (41% of this year’s incoming class self-identified as first-generation). Project sponsors: Vanice Antrum, multicultural affairs director; and Dr. Margaret Sebastian, TRIO Student Support Services director.
  • Opening a campus secondhand shop for SU community members, geared toward reducing waste, and helping students and others obtain the resources they need for success. Project sponsor: Rachael Faust.
  • Investing in a program to enhance understanding and implementation of effective strategies to assist students in successfully transitioning off academic probation, aimed to bolster their overall education experience and increase student retention. Project sponsor: Wendy Jin, advising services coordinator for the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business
  • Expanding SU’s flash fundraisers for initiatives across campus, expected to establish an invested base of donors to create sustainable and more successful giving programs. Project sponsor: Michelle Pryor, annual giving and engagement director.

Lepre also cited the need to invest in key initiatives beyond the Strategic Innovation Fund. Going forward, these will include developing a central fund to ensure the ability to provide sign language interpreters at all University events.

The President also announced plans to install pickleball courts on campus, with the first expected adjacent to Sea Gull Square next spring. She said she hoped these will benefit not only students, but faculty and staff, as well, with potential leagues and tournaments to add to the University’s employee wellness programming.

In addition, she discussed a study to determine the feasibility of resurrecting the University’s marching band, originally active from 1972-1982.

Campus Climate

To continue to foster a culture of equity, including and belonging on campus, Lepre announced the development of ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion training programs, as well as the promotion of open dialogues and the implementation of diverse recruitment practices.

As part of the latter, she also introduced Sheree Satchell, the University’s new coordinator of recruitment and retention in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, who will focus on developing and implementing strategies and programming, with a cultural lens, to support the recruitment and retention of students from diverse backgrounds.

“I want to reiterate, unequivocally, that Salisbury University is a place where everyone — regardless of ethnicity, race, age, religion, gender, ability or identity — is welcome,” said Lepre.

She also discussed the importance of mental health among the campus community, noting the Student Affairs Division’s significant investment in TimelyCare, a 24/7, external tele-mental health service provider, which offers free on-demand and scheduled counseling for students, as well as assistance with needs such as housing and insurance, and self-care education.

On the employee side, she encouraged faculty and staff to maintain a work-life balance and announced a one-day extension of the University’s winter break for staff.

Institutional Identity

The President also updated the audience on another initiative announced in February: the Centennial Scholars Challenge to create 100 new endowed scholarships in time for the University’s 100th anniversary in 2025. The initiative is nearly a third of the way completed, with 30 new scholarships announced so far.

These include the Thomas H. Draper Scholarship for students on the Delmarva Peninsula planning to enter the broadcast industry, as well as the Smith-Webb Scholarship for M.S.W. students seeking to pursue careers in behavioral health and addictions. These examples help demonstrate “the breadth and strength of the community that supports us,” Lepre said.

Other proposed SU Centennial initiatives include new furnishings for the Great Hall of Holloway Hall (one of the few spaces on campus that has remained relatively unchanged in the past century, she noted) and a special library in the President’s Suite of Holloway Hall to collect the published works of SU faculty.

“As we look ahead, we will capitalize on our centennial celebration to share our story in engaging and powerful ways,” she said. “Together, we will build on what makes Salisbury University so special, and we will continue to serve the Eastern Shore for 100 years more.”

In preparing to begin SU’s second century, the University also will begin developing a new strategic plan, which the President called “a collective effort involving our entire community, ensuring that it is a shared vision for all of us.”

Additionally, capital projects such as the forthcoming renovation of Blackwell Hall into a student service hub will represent investments in the University’s future. The enhanced structure is expected to open in fall 2026 as the first net-zero building on campus (meaning no net greenhouse gas emissions) and one of the first in the University System of Maryland.

New Faces

Lepre introduced several new SU community members during her address. They included Dr. Laurie Couch, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Aurora Edenhart-Pepe, vice president for administration and finance; Monica Polizzi, director of athletics and campus recreation; Dr. Deirdra Johnson, associate vice president of student affairs; and Dalton Deardorff, coach for SU’s new men’s and women’s golf program (with teams set to begin competition in 2024).

Recent Successes

In addition to looking toward the future of SU, Lepre also took time during her State of the University to reflect on the successes the University has seen in the past nine months.

These have included the approval of a new general education program to be introduced next fall. The program focused on the student learning outcomes reflected in SU’s mission and vision, beginning with an academically-centered first-year semester and ending with an experiential learning opportunity for all students. Through this approach, faculty will engage them with the aim of thinking critically and civic mindedly in a diverse world, regardless of their major or chosen profession.

SU also welcomed one of its largest first-year classes in campus history, with nearly 1,400 students, this fall, including more than 530 transfer students and over 320 new graduate students. Hailing from 27 states and 18 countries, almost a third self-identified as coming from underrepresented backgrounds, making this the most diverse class in SU history.

“As we greeted so many exceptional new faculty, staff and students to our flock, I was reminded that we are not just a university,” Lepre said. “We are a family.”

This also included the largest-ever cohort in SU’s Powerful Connections program for new students from diverse backgrounds, with 100 students and 50 mentors.

In addition, the President recapped recent academic successes; local, state, national and international student, faculty, staff and alumni accolades; advances in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; study abroad highlights; and athletics victories both on and off the field.

Of particular note was the announcement of $11 million in external grants and contract awards in 2022-23, representing the largest single-academic-year amount ever received at SU, as well as recognition of the first graduating cohort from the SULead employee leadership development program, which Lepre announced as a new initiative during her State of the University last February.

“Seeing the energy of our campus and our people fills me with optimism as we envision our future,” she said. “As we look ahead toward a new strategic plan and a new century, we will continue to use the Salisbury Seven to strategically grow and drive our University forward with excellence.”

Telling the SU Story

Sharing achievements such as these is vital for advancing the University, Lepre added.

“It is critically important to spotlight our many accomplishments and foster support for the needs of our students and campus,” she said. “We must continue to tell our story. We must celebrate SU, as this reputation is critically important in the age of competition — competition for resources and competition for enrollment.

“We must put time and attention to building our identity and brand — which is built on faculty, staff and student achievement—so that none of us ever have to hear again that we are a ‘hidden gem.’ We will continue to tell our story, internally and externally, to cement our place in the minds of all as a University that is known for impact and excellence.”

Building a Bright Future Together

Lepre closed her address by sharing an account of certainties she has for the future of SU:

  • “I am certain that we will find ways to put our people — our community — first.
  • “I am certain that we will provide impactful academic programs that serve the needs of our students and the world.
  • “I am certain that we will create a place where everyone feels valued and empowered.
  • “I am certain that we will create opportunities for students to be the critical- and ethically-minded leaders of tomorrow.
  • “I am certain that our institution will be a premier example of excellence.
  • “And I am certain that, together, we are building a brighter future.”

A transcript of the full State of the University address will be available online.

Learn more about SU and opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.