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Arcadia University

2021 President’s Report

Dr. Ajay Nair, Ph.D., President

Our Future State

The 2020-2021 academic year brought with it challenges—some that we had anticipated and planned for, and others that necessitated flexibility and innovation. 

What we may not have fully anticipated, though, was how rewarding and fulfilling the academic year would have been, and the successes that 2020-21 yielded.  

The past year has brought more clearly into focus the future state of Arcadia University. It will help to propel us through our Adaptive Strategy, remain innovative and adaptive, and move more quickly than the world around us.

The future state of Arcadia University will showcase our community’s innovation, continue to expand our global perspective both at home and around the world, and will embrace the JEDI and ABRI efforts that align with our lived values and mission. What will remain as true to our core as it ever did is our strategic and values-based approach to decision making, which will keep us on a path that places student success at the center of all we do.

President Ajay Nair


At a Glance

Ranking nationally for study abroad participation by Institute of International Education

PA program’s national ranking


Top 10% for our Department of Physical Therapy

Anti-Black Racism Initiatives developed by the University community

Health and safety messages and COVID updates delivered to the University community during 2020-2021 academic year


Top 25% of Regional Universities by U.S. News and World Report

Our Vision, Our Dream,

Our Passion

Arcadia University’s pioneering, global, integrated, liberal arts, and professional learning experience cultivates leaders who are intellectually fearless and uniquely prepared for life and work. Our highly regarded, values-based learning community reflects the world in which we want to live.

Our Approach:
A Community of Practice

With an understanding of the major disruptions that are occurring within higher education, we have built a community of practice to enable and articulate our shared passions and commitments. We began the paradigm shift in our community by building a shared agenda through our ​mission, vision, values, and strategic themes​. 

Always Guided by Our Mission

Arcadia University provides a distinctively global, integrative, and personal learning experience for intellectually curious undergraduate and graduate students in preparation for a life of scholarship, service, and professional contribution.

Student Success

The senior Capstone experience, conducted in a hybrid format, allowed students to showcase their work on a variety of topics, including on mental health in Black communities and how climate change is affecting forests. Also, Arcadia students researched and produced projects relevant to local and global communities. 

Alejandro Lopez ‘24

Politics, Government and Law major

Civic Scholar Alejandro Lopez ’24 was a speaker at the March for Our Lives in Philadelphia event in March, sharing the stage with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr., Philadelphia City Council members, and other active political speakers. As part of the Civic Scholars program, Lopez is advancing his advocacy and activism skills. The program is designed for Arcadia University students who are interested and passionate about driving social change.

Jill Shaughnessy ’22

Political Science major

Jill Shaughnessy may not have been able to study abroad in the spring semester because of COVID, but through The College of Global Studies’ Virtual Global Internship Program, she interned with the International Network of Street Papers and published three articles that were picked up across the United States. In one piece, she explored the impact that the pandemic has had on college students and what assistance is available to them, including interviewing Arcadia student Tyanna Taylor ’21 about the Knights for Nutrition Food Pantry.  “You make great connections and it gives you a global perspective,” said Shaughnessy. “I’ve been learning about so many different countries. It’s more than just an internship.”

India Knight ’21

2021 Honors Convocation Speaker

After graduating, Education major India Knight made the move from Phoenixville, Pa., to Bethel, Alaska, to work as an elementary special education teacher. India served as a LOVE Pilot peer mentor, hosted Open Improv Nights for students, and acted in two off-campus online play festivals.

In her Honors Convocation address, India talked about the power of presence: “Being in the present moment has taught me a couple of things: It has taught me to be a better student, a better teacher, a better activist, and a better friend. These moments of presence can affect who you are, and what you stand for, and how you grow. You can choose to be present or not—I encourage you to take back your presence.”

Daijah Patton ’22

“What Diversifying Education Means to Me”

Because Arcadia blogger Daijah Patton, a member of the leadership team that developed Arcadia’s Social Action & Justice Education (SAJE) Fellowship, mentored three of this year’s fellowshelping them adjust to their coursework, sharing academic and social opportunities, and discussing the importance of diversity in education. 

“The SAJE Fellowship was a sort of call to action, to bring more students of color into the education field and to educate more students in our communities about the fulfillment of being an educator,” said Patton.

Gavin Meyers '24

From the moment I walked onto campus, I felt welcomed by this community. I’m blessed to be at a university where I can venture into the real world with internships, meet people who have done great things, and follow my passions.

Academic Excellence through Impact and Authenticity

All-Modes Ready

Our faculty and staff worked hard in keeping us All-Modes Ready and flexible to provide an exceptional educational experience to our students during a challenging year. Digital Learning Services (DLS) and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring (CTLM) offered nearly 200 events during the 2020-2021 academic year for faculty and staff on All-Modes design and pedagogy. In total, 327 Arcadia faculty (or 89%) and more than 100 staff members participated in these events and sessions. In addition, course evaluations from All-Modes semesters provided telling insight into students’ perception of organization, quality, and instructor interaction, indicating that students found their All-Modes courses more organized and of equal quality as Fall 2019 (pre-pandemic).

Extraordinary Funding for Arcadia Initiatives

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Arcadia faculty, staff, and programs were awarded nearly $900,000 grants for various projects and initiatives, our graduate Civic Scholars program, to study family planning in the African immigrant communities in southeastern Pennsylvania, to support early-childhood (ECE) apprentices, to support the Dan Aaron exercise program for persons with MS and Parkinson’s disease, to study quadriceps muscle function, to support Arcadia’s ACT101 program, to reduce underage drinking on campus, to provide alcohol and other drugs (AOD) related training, to study quadriceps muscle function, to research an entry-level Doctoral Degree in the PA program, and for extraordinary international art projects.  

In addition, Arcadia faculty and staff recently brought in an additional $2,168,683 million for a collaborative research grant on STEM teaching and continued support for ECE apprentices.

Global Excellence in the Arts

Continuing through COVID, the Public Art Project at Arcadia unveiled two new projects connecting our students to the community through art including works by Kelly Cave and Yixuan Pan.  

Arcadia Theater earned the 2021 Best of Glenside Award in the Performing Arts Theatre category. Arcadia University Theater adapted to the COVID pandemic by producing virtual performances and other mediums of innovative storytelling.

Celebrating the arts remains a staple of Arcadia University. This year, the University was proud to have Polly Apfelbaum’s artist-in-residency begin. The residency will culminate in Spring 2022 with exhibitions, public programs, and a publication, “Polly Apfelbaum: For the Love of Una Hale” that will explore identity and Pennsylvania German art and culture through the contemporary artist’s interdisciplinary practice. The project is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

In addition, Pew awarded Arcadia a $360,000 grant this year to support Sun & Sea, an opera performance that the University will stage in Philadelphia in the fall of 2021.

Social Responsibility and Impact

Radical Change

The first presidential message of the FY2021, sent on June 1, helped to set a tone for the academic year, to reimagine the University. We will work to transform into reality the vision of our campus communities as caring and diverse centers of learning, where all students are afforded equal access to opportunities to grow, learn, and contribute to the greater good. 

Pro Bono PT Clinic Opens

Arcadia’s academic and social programs include a focus on improving healthcare, socioeconomic, and social justice access in our local and global communities. In March, our nationally ranked Department of Physical Therapy opened a student-run pro bono clinic to provide no-cost physical therapy to underinsured or uninsured community members. Our first- and second-year students develop strategies and exercises for patients, allowing us to continue to serve the needs of our local community members. Arcadia’s clinic is one of seven such pro bono clinics in the Philadelphia region and among 108 nationwide. 

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi Talks with Arcadia

In October, we welcomed acclaimed author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, whose book, How to Be an Anti-Racist, was the 2020 Common Read book selection for first-year students. Dr. Kendi’s presentation encouraged attendees to embrace the intersectionality of cultures, ethnicities, class, gender, sexuality, and more on their own path to an anti-racist mindset.

Campus, Culture, and Community

Navigating COVID

While the disruptions brought by COVID continued to pose challenges, the tight-knit aspect of the University community was on display each day, as faculty, staff, and leadership collaborated daily to ensure that Arcadia provided a unique and rewarding educational experience to its students

Campuswide leadership and collaboration allowed the University to partially reopen for the spring 2021 semester, bringing more than 300 resident students and 700 commuter students back to campus for in-person living and learning opportunities. In May, Arcadia was proud to offer six extraordinary in-person Commencement celebrations for the 901 students in the Class of 2021, with graduates and their families gathering on Haber Green over the course of two days in socially distanced seating sections to culminate their student time at Arcadia.

Anti-Black Racism Initiatives

Arcadia’s Anti-Black Racism Initiatives impact all members of our University community—from prospective and current students, to faculty and staff, to alumni and leadership, and to our donors, friends, and neighbors. We are proud of the progress we have made as a community this year, including: 

  • Launching the Living Our Values Experience (LOVE) program for Arcadia students to explore issues of identity, racism, and systemic discrimination, and to examine their roles within society as change agents. 
  • Exploring individual identity, white privilege, and systemic racism through education, mentorship, and modeling behavior. 
  • Establishing an Enrollment Advisory Board to help recruit and matriculate a more diverse student body. 
  • Supporting ethnically and culturally based affinity groups alongside Alumni Engagement. 
  • Improving policies and practices related to hiring and retaining diverse staff and faculty and developing a Strategic Employer Relations Plan with a specific focus on underrepresented faculty and staff. 
  • Forming task forces with representatives from our STEM departments to support students of color by surveying them to better understand their needs, connecting them to research, and revisiting their vision statements to make them more inclusive.
  • Expanding our partnerships with Black-owned businesses and vendors through Arcadia Purchasing and increasing the representation of Black-owned businesses with Career Education.

Thought Leadership

Our Cabinet members and executive leadership, including Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeff Rutenbeck, Chief Information Officer Rashmi Radhakrishnan, and Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Brigette A. Bryant, were recognized for their expertise and as thought leaders by the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Laura Baldwin, Vice President for Marketing and Communications, was elected to the Board of the Glenside Business Foundation as Marketing Advisor, and President Nair was named a 2020 Minority Business Leader by the Philadelphia Business Journal, which recognizes the Philadelphia region’s top minority business leaders. Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Finance and Administration Joan Singleton continues to chair the Board of Directors of World Vision USA, a global humanitarian organization, and Rak Hall, Vice President for Enrollment Management, joined State Senator Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) on the senator’s Ask Art series for a discussion on dual enrollment. General counsel and secretary to the University, Margie Callahan, contributed an article to Temple University’s Business Law Magazine on career paths and continues to provide legal counsel to the University and support the University’s governance structure. Mary Sweeney, as Vice President of Human Resources and the Employee Experience, provided guidance for employees in keeping faculty and staff informed and apprised during this challenging time, offering wellness resources and support opportunities for all.

Appointed to Second Term

Venture Beyond Our Vision

Celebrating a year since the approval of ARCADIA2025, the University’s adaptive strategy, we are on the path we created for Arcadia’s future. I am honored with the Board of Trustees’ appointing me to a second term as president. I believe that  Arcadia is uniquely positioned to build on our legacy through the adaptive strategy’s transformative work for the next five years.

Alison Aaron Madsen, Esq. ’85, chair of the Board of Trustees, 2017-2021: “From his first day at Arcadia, President Nair has shown tremendous leadership and a bold vision that will continue our University’s advance into our next chapter of distinction. The past three years have been a remarkable journey; with Ajay at the helm, we have experienced profound results building a stronger foundation and managing our most challenging situations.”

“I am extremely proud and privileged to begin my tenure as Board Chair at Arcadia as Ajay enters into his fourth year as president. The leadership stability that President Nair has helped to instill, both at the Cabinet and Board levels, has brought a renewed sense of confidence and optimism to the University community.”
John Rollins

Chair of the Board of Trustees at Arcadia, Began his term July 2021

What does Arcadia look like when we achieve our vision?

Innovative Academics

Meeting students where they are, building transformational academic and professional experiences, and measuring attainment in terms of social impact and self-fulfillment.

Students at the Center

Through thoughtful attention to our students’ experience during their first year at Arcadia, design  targeted programs and communication plans which facilitate curricular and co-curricular activities, reflection, and learning.

Radical Change

As we had to reimagine the University to transform into reality the vision of our campus communities as caring and diverse centers of learning, where all students are afforded equal access to opportunities to grow, learn, and contribute to the greater good.  


A regional provider in STEAM for the underrepresented by creating a culture and ecosystem to help students thrive.  We will share new knowledge regarding inclusive pedagogies, high-impact teaching approaches, and other fluid pathways to help overcome the opportunity gap in STEAM.

Staying #ArcadiaStrong

The Arcadia University community remained #ArcadiaStrong throughout the year, showcasing its connectivity, successes, and sense of pride. From academics to athletics, from student fellows to faculty excellence, from the extraordinary to the extracurricular, community members showed their strength through a variety of social media postings.

Arcadia Theatre's 2021 Production, All's well that ends well

Arcadia Knights Abroad in South Korea

SAJE Fellow Audrey Chin

Physical Therapy Pro Bono Clinic

SAJE Fellow Audrey Chin

SAJE Fellow Emily Wingfield with 4th graders at a Horizons program

SAJE Fellow Audrey Chin

Global Cafe Opened for Spring Semester

Learning Resource Network (at Days and Knights)

Learning Resource Network (at Days and Knights)

Arcadia Equestrian Team

Prospective Students visiting Spring 2021

Psychology Rat Lab Testing Animal Behavior

Graphic Design in Murphy Mac Lab

Learning Resource Network (at Days and Knights)

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Holiday Drive for A Women's Place

Arcadia Track and Field

Class of 2021 Commencement Celebration

National Physician Assistant Week from Class of 2022

2o Years as Arcadia University

July 16, 2021 marked 20 years since Beaver College became Arcadia University. Our University community shared stories on this monumental day in our institution’s long and storied history. 

Impact Philanthropy

Led by the Division of University Advancement, Arcadia enjoyed remarkable success with philanthropy, topping our ambitious year targets, increasing our endowed scholarships, and blowing the roof off our UKnightedTuesday day of giving in December. 

Gifts Contributed from 1,992 Donors

The impact of philanthropy totals included a 29 percent increase from FY2020 on the amount raised for The Fund for Arcadia—of which 100 percent supports student success initiatives, including scholarships, athletics, STEAM, and the student experience.

About the President’s Report

The 2021 President’s Report chronicles the self-renewal process of the past year. Together, we are strengthening campus leadership, pursuing high-impact opportunities, and inspiring a values-based culture. With an understanding of the major disruptions that are occurring within higher education, we have built a community of practice to enable and articulate our shared passions and commitments.

Office of the President
Grey Towers Castle, 2nd Floor
450 S. Easton Road
Glenside, PA 19038