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President's Report

2017-2018 Academic Year 

It is hard to believe that the College is in the midst of our 69th year, and we are already recruiting students for our 70th anniversary year in 2019-2020. I am delighted to share highlights of our mission from the last academic year. And we are always honored to pay tribute to the many supporters that made our work possible. We are so grateful for all of you!

Last year, much was accomplished to ensure Donnelly’s mission can continue to flourish for the next 70 years. Pope Francis validates our mission when he challenges us all to serve those on the margins of our church and society. Donnelly has always done just that. We continue to provide college access to predominantly low-income students, thereby impacting the overall health of our economic, civic and spiritual communities. At a time when public and private – and especially Catholic – colleges are becoming more economically exclusive; the transformational power of Donnelly’s mission is needed more than ever. 

This May, we celebrated one of the largest graduating classes in our history with 97 graduates, 72 percent of whom were first-generation college graduates. Donnelly’s legacy of inclusivity continues and is evident among our graduates and student body. I am proud that Donnelly has been recognized for the second straight year as the “Most Diverse College in the Midwest” by U.S. News & World Report. We know our inclusivity continues to be a reason students attend and succeed here.

Considerable preparation last year also made possible an encouraging re-accreditation visit in September 2018 by the Higher Learning Commission. While we await their final report next spring, we remain very grateful for the tremendous effort from staff and faculty, our board and friends of the college who took time to submit comments about Donnelly. 

Donnelly’s Board of Directors also adopted a new strategic plan to support the College’s vision to “advance the common good by being the most transformative and accessible Catholic College in the U.S.” Significant progress was made in achieving strategic goals, especially related to the Transformations Campaign and Master Plan, increasing student learning outcomes, expanding our academic programs and sustaining our mission. 

So much was accomplished, but I must note a few highlights. Donnelly…

  • exceeded the 2018 Top Performing U.S. Colleges in all five areas of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement 
  • welcomed our inaugural class of Associate Degree in Nursing students in January
  • received a Dept. of Education grant to strengthen our student success in STEM courses
  • implemented new software to better serve and assess our students
  • completed our Master Plan’s Phase II construction and fundraising 
  • received the largest gifts in Donnelly’s history to support Phase III of our campus transformation. 

If you have not made it to campus in a while, we invite you to stop by and see our progress. Our Donnelly family – alumni, donors, volunteers, faculty and staff – are partners in our mission. We pray we can again count on your support in the coming year to help us continue to lay a solid foundation for Donnelly’s future. 

May God bless you in 2019!

Monsignor Stuart Swetland, 

In early September, we were informed by U.S. News & World Report that we were being recognized as the Most Diverse College in the Midwest. I must admit that keeping the honor a secret for a week while it was “embargoed” was extremely difficult! 

This honor is an external recognition of what all those who work at or attend Donnelly College already know. Our College is wonderful and wonderfully diverse. Since its inception 68 years ago, Donnelly has been a model of inclusivity.

This accessibility is needed now more than ever. At a time when racial tensions are rising and both private and public colleges and universities are becoming more and more economically exclusive, the mission of Donnelly College is of vital importance.

This is why we continue to increase our programs and offerings at Donnelly College. Starting in January, we will enroll our first class of Registered Nurse - Associate of Nursing (RN-ADN) students. We have also entered into exciting new grant and scholarship partnerships with University of Missouri - Kansas City, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Avila University, the Kauffman Foundation, KC Scholars, the Department of Defense and the Department of Education.

Perhaps the most exciting news is the approval of our new Campus Master Plan. By the time you read this, our renovation of Marian Hall will be complete and an additional 13,000 sq. ft. of academic and office space will have been added to our college. (Please join us for the rededication ceremony for Marian Hall on January 25, 2018 at 4 p.m.)

Donnelly College must succeed at our mission if we are to fulfill Pope Francis’s call to be joyful proponents of the gospel of life, especially for those at the margins in our society. More than 75% of our students are first generation college students and their average family income is less than $29,000 a year. Most students could not attend college if Donnelly was not here for them.

Our mission is vital at this moment of our nation’s history, but it is not possible without the generous support of our donors. This is a challenging time for us as we diligently work toward our upcoming Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation visit. We know that the HLC will be looking to see how much the community supports our mission. They will examine our fiscal health and the viability to continue to heavily subsidize our students’ Christian formation and education at Donnelly. For nearly 70 years, we have faithfully served our mission, modeling a partnership between dedicated, hardworking faculty, staff and students and a generous community willing to help others to climb the ladder of success and sanctity that all of us hope to ascend.

Monsignor Stuart Swetland

Every year Donnelly College holds a Thanks and Giving celebration on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This year the celebration was held three times to serve our diverse community. The first celebration was at lunch time where, after an ecumenical prayer service, hundreds of students were afforded a traditional Thanksgiving meal prepared and served by our wonderful faculty and staff. The celebration was repeated in the late afternoon for our nursing students and again in the evening for our students who attend night classes. These gatherings allowed me to see, in one day, about all of our students and to celebrate with them. It was, as always, a beautiful and poignant reminder of the importance of the mission of Donnelly College.

The overwhelming attitude that struck me during this year’s Thanks and Giving was the gratitude of our students for the opportunities that Donnelly College provides for them. They know that numerous people- most of whom they do not know – make possible the wonderful education and formation they receive.

Our students indeed are grateful for the opportunity that they have, but they also amaze me by their hard work and efforts. Balancing home life, work and college can be daunting for anyone, but it is particularly challenging for first generation college students like ours. Our incredibly decicated staff and faculty at Donnelly College work tirelessly to serve our students as they try to become “the best version of themselves.” Your support makes possible this wonderful encounter of a wellformed, focused staff with eager, hardworking students.

As you read this report, please know how much we appreciate and need you and your continued investment in our mission, and our students. The work that was begun so faithfully by Bishop Donnelly and Sr. Jerome and their co-workers 67 years ago continues in a new era where it is more needed than ever.

Monsignor Stuart Swetland

After my first year at Donnelly College, I think I understand more profoundly the challenges we face each day.

Like any nonprofit, higher education institution, resources are very limited. Yet I continue to be impressed by the wonderful faculty and staff of Donnelly who so selflessly serve our students, who are equally impressive in their commitment to overcoming obstacles to continue their education.

In spite of the many barriers we must overcome, Donnelly College ranks first in classroom experience out of 670 colleges, based on data drawn from the annual Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). This points to something anyone associated with Donnelly knows to be true — we provide a top-notch, first-rate education to the students who attend.

The mission of Donnelly College is much needed, perhaps more than ever before. Pope Francis has challenged those who serve in the apostolate of Catholic higher education to be particularly focused on those who are underserved or on the margins of our society. He told the people of Rio de Janeiro in July of 2013:

“Our generation will show that it can rise to the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space. This means that we have to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone. If we can do all this, we anticipate today the future that enters the world through the window of the young.”

As I often say, if we are listening closely to Pope Francis, if Donnelly College did not exist, we would need to build it. The good news is that it DOES exist, and has for 66 years, serving thousands of students over the decades.

This President’s Report aims to show gratitude for the support we receive to make it possible to carry out this critical mission, as well as to communicate outcomes of our work from the 2014-15 academic year. We have come a long way in our history but have much work yet to do.

As you read this report, please know how much we appreciate and need you and your continued investment in our mission, our students and our collective future “that enters the world through the window of the young.”

Monsignor Stuart Swetland