Stevens Institute of Technology and Saint Peter’s University Receive ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation
March 11, 2018

ACE announced today that Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ) and Saint Peter’s University (NJ) are the recipients of the 2018 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation​.

The award was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period. It includes a $10,000 prize.

Presented at ACE2018, ACE’s 100th Annual Meeting, the awards were accepted by Stevens President Nariman Farvardin and Saint Peter’s University President Eugene J. Cornacchia on behalf of their respective institutions.

ACE invited nominations and applications for the award from any U.S. college or university eligible for ACE membership, divided into two categories: the first for institutions with student populations of 5,001 and more (Stevens), and the second for institutions with student populations of up to 5,000 (Saint Peter’s).

“Stevens Institute of Technology and Saint Peter’s University both illustrate how addressing issues head-on—plus a lot of hard work and collaboration—can help transform an institution,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “We appreciate the generous support of Fidelity Investments for this award, which allows us each year to recognize colleges and universities where such transformation has occurred.”

Upon taking office in July of 2011, Stevens President Farvardin inherited unstable enrollment, retention, and graduation rates; decreased research funding; disillusioned alumni, faculty, and staff; and poor relations with its home city of Hoboken. He began a dramatic turnaround with the development of an inclusive, focused, and metrics-driven 10-year strategic plan. It charted the course for Stevens to become a “premier, student-centric, technological research university,” calling for steady enrollment growth concurrent with an increased academic profile of students; improved retention and graduation rates; greater alumni engagement; increased philanthropic support; strengthened financials; increased diversity; and enhanced relations with the local community and other key constituencies.

Today, under the leadership of President Farvardin and through the broad-based efforts of stakeholders, Stevens is continuing its remarkable ascent. Undergraduate applications and enrollment are up 156 and 29 percent respectively, and graduate applications and enrollment are up 128 and 24 percent. Graduation, retention, and placement rates have increased to 95, 83, and 96 percent, respectively, which represent all-time records for the university. Financials, fundraising, and the institution's endowment have also all seen drastic improvements, and the university’s credit rating has been upgraded.

“Since its founding in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology has played a pivotal role in creating bright futures for its graduates, in advancing technological innovation, and in contributing to societal progress,” said President Farvardin. “With the continued commitment of the university community, the potential of Stevens is limitless. On behalf of Stevens Institute of Technology, I am honored to accept the 2018 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation during this catalytic period in our history.”

While the transformation of Saint Peter’s University was less dramatic, it was no less significant. In March of 2012, the State of New Jersey approved the petition from Saint Peter's College to be designated as a university, with a corresponding name change to Saint Peter's University. With that successful bid, Saint Peter’s set about addressing challenges related to expanding its mission, growing enrollment, supporting changing student demographics, improving outcomes, strengthening finances, and building campus pride.

One of 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities, Saint Peter’s adopted a mission-focused, student-centric strategic planning process that emphasized academic innovation, fiscal stability, and enrollment strategies through leadership, open communication, and human resource investment.

Efforts have culminated in five stable freshman classes (fall 2013-17) averaging 600 students, a five point gain in freshman retention to 82 percent in the last five years, and a nine point increase in the four-year graduation rate. While these quantitative changes are positively informing shorter-term choices, its long-term, embedded cultural changes—“squarely facing strengths and weaknesses, innovative thinking, and a willingness to embrace change and take risks”—ensure the university will endure and thrive.

“This honor acknowledges Saint Peter’s dedication to transforming the lives of its students as well as the University’s unwavering commitment to transforming and improving the institution as a whole,” said President Cornacchia. “We take great pride in the outcomes of our efforts and that these results have been recognized by our peers on a national stage.”

“Together with ACE, Fidelity is honored to celebrate higher education leaders creating innovative programs to help their students succeed on campus and in life,” said Debra Frey, vice president, Fidelity Investments. “Stevens Institute of Technology and Saint Peter’s University have proven that comprehensive strategic plans, combined with quantitative goals, can put an institution on a path to sustained success.

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