2022-2023 Academic Year
BY MONSIGNOR STUART SWETLAND, DONNELLY COLLEGE PRESIDENT
Though the times we live in can often feel gloomy and anxious, I have been encouraging our Donnelly community to live more deeply the virtue of hope and the gift of joy.
For our students, I challenged them to live in hope, which is really asking them to see reality in all its fullness. Every student comes to Donnelly with a story, and that story often involves moments of tremendous struggle. Having persevered through many difficulties and achieving great things as Donnelly students is often a source of hope, not only for themselves, but for their families and communities.
I also asked our faculty and staff to choose joy as they perform their duties at the College. Joy is something that can brighten, buoy and bless the lives of those around us. Like hope, it does not mean that we will not face difficult times. Rather, it helps us approach those difficult times feeling more grounded, for we know storms pass. We also know that, here at Donnelly, there is a community we can lean on.
As Jesus promises us, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
I am filled with hope and joy when I give thanks for the generous donors and supporters who make the vision and mission of Donnelly possible. Some recent highlights demonstrate the impact of these gifts:
- In May we celebrated 119 graduates, including six from our program at Lansing Correctional Facility. Seven more students graduated this summer.
- 82% of our 2022-23 graduates were first-generation college students.
- We are adding an associate to bachelor’s in nursing bridge program and pursuing national accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
- Our 2023 SHINE event raised $970,000 to support our students and mission.
Donnelly also continues to climb in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings:
- In fall 2023, Donnelly was recognized as the most diverse college in the Midwest for the seventh straight year.
- Donnelly ranked 3rd in the Midwest in least student debt at graduation.
- Donnelly ranked 8th in economic diversity and 13th for social mobility of our graduates.
- We also ranked 19th nationally for most students over age 25.
In all we do, Donnelly students and staff continue to achieve excellence:
- For 2022, our practical nursing pass rates were again recognized for exceeding the national average.
- In spring 2023, we hosted a team from the Higher Learning Commission for a comprehensive reaccreditation visit and were unconditionally reaccredited for six years.
Perhaps the best summation of the good work that Donnelly does was made by the visiting HLC team:
“Donnelly College is succeeding at a difficult challenge: enrolling primarily first-generation, minority and low-income students, offering support for students well beyond the norm, setting tuition low and raising funds to support the budget. Faculty, staff, board members and donors are deeply committed to the mission, which makes the extra effort required possible.”
God continues to bless Donnelly College through you. As St. Paul teaches us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all” (Philippians 4:4-5).
We continue to pray at Mass every day for the many friends who have blessed Donnelly College by sharing your resources with us. Because of you, Donnelly students, faculty and staff are seeking truth, building community and pursuing excellence. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!
Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland
Previous President's Reports
Blessed Seelos is correct. Miracles happen ALL THE TIME. For example, every sacrament is a miracle of grace. Some miracles get special attention, like those associated with the canonization of a saint or those that help define an era or an institution.
Archbishop Naumann called our recently completed
new building and master plan “The Miracle on 18th Street.” I do not know if it was in fact a miracle, but who am I to argue with the Archbishop?
But even miracles need our cooperation; after all, grace builds on nature. Donnelly’s miracle was made possible by the skill and expertise of the contractors, architects and artisans who built our campus, as well as the tremendous generosity and support of our wonderful alumni and benefactors, the hard work of our faculty and staff and the enthusiastic support of the wider community.
The transformation of our external campus is an outward sign of the transformational education and formation that occurs inside our beautiful buildings.
Some recent highlights:
- Last year we graduated 100 students, including three graduates from our associate degree program at Lansing Correctional Facility.
- Nearly three-quarters of these graduates (71%) were first-generation college students.
- Fall enrollment grew for the third year in a row and our retention rates continue to improve.
- Our nursing program was again recognized for exceeding the national average for licensure pass rates and we have been granted permission by the Kansas State Board of Nursing to expand our program capacity.
- Four of our students were received into full communion with the Catholic Church last Easter.
- Our SHINE events continue to highlight the success of our students and alumni. Our 2022 event raised $855,000 to support scholarships.
- Donnelly also continues to climb in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings:
- As of fall 2022, Donnelly was recognized as the most diverse college in the Midwest for the sixth straight year.
- For the first time, Donnelly was ranked in the top thirty among Midwest regional colleges, finishing 28th overall and third among the
- 12 Kansas colleges in our division.
- Donnelly ranked in the top twenty for least debt at graduation (7th), economic diversity (12th) and social mobility of our graduates (18th).
- Our new campus was awarded two architectural awards: an Association of Builders and Contractors Heart of America Excellence in Construction Award and a Kansas City Business Journal Capstone Award.
- Donnelly was honored as the 2021 Distinguished Catholic Organization at the Deo Gratias awards by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas.
- Donnelly was recognized as a “plank owner” for our support of the USS Kansas City and its crew.
God has been so good to us! We know that “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland
I began this school year with such a grateful heart. Even with all the difficulties associated with COVID-19, God has been so good to Donnelly College. I can say without a doubt God has blessed and continues to bless our students and mission.
Donnelly College continues to benefit from our enhanced facilities. Our academic building is now a year old, and I am constantly amazed by its bright and welcoming spaces. Donnelly students have benefitted from state-of-the-art labs and technology and the additional space in classrooms has been critical in enabling us to reduce class sizes for social distancing. We simply could not have continued in-person classes during the pandemic if we were still in the old building.
Additionally, our campus master plan is nearly complete. Despite supply chain problems, in September, our quad and futsal field were installed. In late October, the futsal field was blessed and an inaugural game was played between staff, alumni and students. The Seelos Chapel was in use as soon as we moved into the building in August 2020, but final touches continued to be added, including stained glass windows retrofitted from Donnelly’s Meeting Room (formerly the Providence Hospital Chapel). Three additional custom stained glass windows were added in September 2021 featuring Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saints Scholastica and Benedict.
Some other highlights from the 2020-21 academic year:
- Growing enrollment is key to our long-term sustainability plan. Whereas colleges across Kansas experienced enrollment declines averaging eight percent, Donnelly’s Fall 2020 enrollment was up 11 percent over Fall 2019, including a substantial increase in freshman class size. We sustained this increase in Fall 2021.
- We received approval from the Kansas State Board of Nursing for an additional cohort of 25 Practical Nursing students who started in August 2021.
- Retaining students is also critical to sustainability. Despite disruptions caused by the pandemic, our fall-to-fall retention was up 10 percent over the previous academic year.
- For the fifth straight year, Donnelly has been named the “Most Diverse College in the Midwest” by U.S. News & World Report. Our bachelor’s degree programs have been recognized as the most affordable in Kansas by Affordable Schools.
- Last academic year, Donnelly faculty and staff worked very hard to prepare our application requesting approval to permanently expand distance learning. In June 2021, we received approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer online programs and expand hybrid courses. This expansion will allow for additional flexibility for current students and opportunities to reach out to new student populations, such as students outside our commuting radius seeking a faith-based education.
- In October, we hosted our annual SHINE event virtually from the new building’s lobby and showcased a virtual tour of the academic facility. A public campus dedication is planned for April 22, 2022 so our donors and benefactors may visit the new building in person.
- We have raised over $34 million for our campus transformation campaign, and we expect to conclude our fundraising by Summer 2022.
- After voting in an official mascot in 2019, last year we took another major step in bringing our mascot to life. We named the mascot “Lux” after Donnelly’s motto Lux Vera. Lux the dragon made his live debut on the first day of classes in Fall 2020.
God has been so good to us! During the academic year, we offer mass each weekday at 12:20 p.m. In gratitude for his goodness, we pray for our students, faculty and staff. We also pray for our benefactors who have graciously shared a portion of their resources to support our mission “to serve those who otherwise might not be served.” As we live out our values by seeking truth, building community and pursuing excellence, we cannot thank you enough for your support, prayers and sacrifice for our mission. You have helped us shine the light of Christ, lux vera, in a time of darkness.
God bless and peace,
Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland
Download a PDF of the 2019-2020 President's Report
As I often tell Donnelly’s talented team of faculty and staff, for our college to continue to grow and thrive, we must “dream dreams and see visions” (cf. Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17). For so long we have been dreaming big dreams, and now we are starting to see those dreams become a reality. If you have not yet had a chance to drive past campus, I encourage you to do so. The new academic building is well underway and on track for a Fall 2020 opening. In fact, at this time we are in the midst of recruiting the first class of freshman that will start their academic journeys at Donnelly in our new home. Part of making the dream of a new academic building a reality has been the overwhelming generosity of our friends, supporters and community. For example, we have received 10 seven-figure commitments to our campaign, completed a $1 million Mabee Foundation Challenge in October and negotiated two New Market Tax Credit allocations that will provide a net investment of $4.5 million in capital improvements. Due to the outstanding response and generosity of our community, we have raised almost $33 million toward our total project need of $34.5 million. We pray that our many alumni and friends will help us cross this important finish line in 2020! These investments made it possible to complete Phase II of our Campus Master Plan, renovating the final two floors of Marian Hall to gain 11,000 additional square feet of academic space. Even more exciting, these investments have allowed us to begin executing the third and final phase of the master plan—demolishing a vacant residence hall, constructing a parking garage and breaking ground for our new 72,000 square foot academic building. Also, during the 2018-19 academic year, we celebrated the following accomplishments:
• We graduated our largest class in the past decade, with 106 graduates, including our first 15 Registered Nursing graduates.
• The Higher Learning Commission reaffirmed our accreditation through 2022-23.
• The College’s first-ever mascot was unveiled— the Donnelly Dragon
I want to say more about our graduates. Our associate and bachelor's degree programs and our Practical and Registered Nursing programs provide our students with a solid academic and spiritual foundation for continued study as well as the skills and credentials they need to secure good jobs and contribute to the community. Of our 2018-19 graduates, 63% said they planned to continue their education, with 46% of those students planning to complete a bachelor’s degree and 41% planning to complete a master’s or doctoral degree.
In addition, 88% of our 2018-19 graduates were employed at the time of graduation and 82% said they would recommend Donnelly College to others. Recent graduates agreed that Donnelly effectively prepared them for working with diverse colleagues, for understanding ethical behavior and social responsibility, and for exercising problem-solving and decision-making skills. With accomplishments like these, Donnelly continues to move closer to our institutional vision of being the most accessible and transformative Catholic College in the country. This progress is only possible with the support of our donors and volunteers, the hard work of our students, and the dedication of our faculty and staff. We hold each of them in our prayers and ask you to do the same. We remain especially thankful for the donors listed on the next few pages who supported our mission and students this past fiscal year. We could not continue to offer affordable Catholic private college tuition rates and top-notch academic programs and support without their generosity. As we continue to dream dreams and see visions, we hope you feel called to join us on the journey. Whether you choose to invest in our mission, partner with our academic programs, host our students as interns or hire our graduates, Donnelly would love to count you as a partner in our work. May God bless you and yours in 2020!
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 course
- 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
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