Manuel’s inauguration was marked with ceremony and celebration and featured announcements of new investments
President Robert L. Manuel was inaugurated as DePaul’s 13th president at a ceremony on Friday, November 11. Manuel also later sat down with 14 East to discuss what students can expect from his proposals to develop interdisciplinary centers, revamp the university’s digital presence and create an investment fund from DePaul’s endowment.
The ceremony took place at the Holtschneider Performance Center and opened with a procession of faculty, deans and trustees at DePaul with Manuel following behind them.
Throughout the event there was live music played by DePaul School of Music and DePaul Theatre School students. During the ceremony, former university presidents A. Gabriel Esteban and Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider presented the chain of office to Manuel.
Following the presentations, Manuel gave his inaugural address, explaining his journey to DePaul and outlining some of his top priorities.
In his speech, Manuel announced that two weeks ago he and the Board of Trustees set aside $20 million from the university’s endowment fund to go towards interdisciplinary work.
“I propose we connect the strongest parts of our existing efforts and build on that to create interdisciplinary learning and research centers,” said Manuel.
Interdisciplinary education and working and studying across multiple programs is something a number of DePaul students would like to see increase.
Sophomore health science student Jocelyn Torres-Barbosa said that she thinks that research funding is a good idea, as some of the research spaces she has used at DePaul have seemed to be underfunded.
“I think it is needed … it would bring more opportunities for current and future students,” said Torres-Barbosa.
Jana Zivanovic, a freshman health science student, thinks interdisciplinary education would be beneficial.
“[It’d be] good to work outside of our area of study and meet people in other programs,” said Zivanovic.
The Student Government Association (SGA) is also supportive of this investment.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that the university needs, and it’s one of those calls to action that the university asked Rob when he first came to DePaul,” said SGA President Kevin Holechko.
Manuel later spoke with 14 East about his plans for interdisciplinary education, online presence and endowment fund.
What is interdisciplinary education?
“There are things that these centers will create that aren’t yet here. Opportunities for individual research, opportunities to go to graduate school, opportunities to create new programs, opportunities to become a thought leader in certain areas, become an activist in certain areas,” he said.
Manuel also said that he envisions the interdisciplinary centers highlighting faculty work and partnering with corporations and foundations to create change.
DePaul’s Online Presence
“I [will] allocate significant resources from our endowment to reconstruct our entire digital presence so that we can show DePaul’s story to the world rather than just describe it,” said Manuel at the inauguration.
DePaul’s most recent large branding campaign was in 2018, under former President Esteban with the launch of the “Here, We Do,” a campaign that runs advertisements on billboards and across television, radio and social media.
SGA believes a change in DePaul’s online branding is needed once again.
“DePaul does not market itself correctly to the wider Chicagoland community or really the world. And so we are finally addressing some necessary steps that we need to address issues of enrollment, to address who we are as an institution and what does the world perceive of us. So I’m ecstatic about it,” said Holechko.
When asked about DePaul’s current digital presence and website, Manuel agreed that improvements needed to be made. He noticed this need after visiting classes at DePaul and getting excited about the student work and programs he witnessed.
“When I went to the website, I saw how we described how that happens, and my excitement went from 10 to a three. And so we have to find a way to unleash the powerful things about DePaul,” said Manuel.
Some of Manuel’s plans for improvement include creating a website where students can post directly and university marketing can take images from that site to use in DePaul’s marketing.
One thing that Holechko did, however, point out is that it is not clear at this time what the results of these investments will be. It is not known what DePaul’s new digital presence will look like or what the final form of the interdisciplinary centers will be, and these types of investments will take time.
What’s the endowment fund?
Manuel’s final announcement at his inauguration was the creation of a DePaul investment fund from the endowment.
“From those resources, we’ll now be able to present ideas for use of those funds each year, allowing us to have the resources needed to invest in the best and highest initiatives for our day and for our moment,” he said.
The DePaul investment fund would differ from other endowment investments, which tend to be allocated longer term. The new plan would allow the university to have the ability to fund ideas seen by the Board of Trustees as “great” or “necessary.”
The first ideas Manuel has to bring to the board for funding include a poverty center, a sustainability center and the human-computer interaction center. Manuel said those centers are “tied to mission and really of interest to the faculty and students and staff that live here.”
After the inauguration ceremony, there was a celebration at the McGrath-Phillips Arena open to all DePaul students, faculty and staff. Several prominent DePaul alumni were also present at the inauguration and celebration, like Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
The celebration had a party-like atmosphere featuring a DJ, DePaul colored lights, a photo booth and games. Although the inauguration had a limited number of seats available for students, the celebration was more open. Some of the students we spoke to had found out about the event on Instagram, while others decided to stop in when they saw signs outside the arena.
While the event was celebrating DePaul’s new president, it was also welcoming him to the city of Chicago. Manuel previously lived in Indiana while working at the University of Indianapolis. The celebration featured food stations around the gym paying tribute to local neighborhoods and their cuisines. Empanadas for Pilsen, Chicago-style hot dogs for Wrigleyville, pizza for Little Italy and pita with tzatziki for Greektown.
The conversation is still not over
Manuel said in his speech that in his first 125 days as president he had over 1,800 conversations with DePaul community members, and he credits the conversations for the decisions he is making. “There’s an open call for people to raise their hand and come along in the design of what we’re going to do,” said Manuel. “And I’d love to work with anybody that’s interested.”
Header illustration by Julia Hester