State of the University



President Gempesaw addressing the university community in Marillac Auditorium on Wednesday.

Nick Bello, Social Media Manager

For the fourth time since his hiring at St. John’s, President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw addressed faculty, students and alumni this past Wednesday in Marillac Auditorium. In his address, he highlighted his strategic priorities, some of the improvements St. John’s has made this past year as well as what he has in store for the future.

The president’s address–which was also livestreamed on the University’s website and at the Manhattan, Staten Island, Paris and Rome campuses–was intended to give an open look at the school’s plans and allow the president to highlight his plans for the future. During his speech, Gempesaw reassured the St. John’s community that it will continue to head in the right direction and should continue to do so for years to come.

“The state of St. John’s University is strong and stable, and remains true to it’s Catholic and Vincentian mission,” Gempesaw said to open up the address.


One of the big things Gempesaw touched on was the yearly increase in enrollment over the past couple of years. Gempesaw, like last year, was very proud of the incoming freshman class of over 3,000 students that features 13 high school valedictorians.

The class is the largest freshman class enrolled out of all the Catholic colleges in America.

Although the University is succeeding in undergraduate enrollment, they have dropped off in the category, seeing decrease since 2010.

“The implementation of various recruitment strategies to increase graduate enrollment continues to be one priority are that requires our attention,” Gempesaw said.


St. John’s increased its student retention rate, which Gempesaw stated was between 83 and 84 percent for the 2017 school year. Gempesaw also stated that the retention rate has averaged 82.7 percent in the past four years, the highest it has been by .1 percent in the past 20 years.

Gempesaw stated that the graduation rate is expected to jump to about 61 percent. It would be an improvement and is the direct result of the increasing retention rate of current students. Gempesaw said that student retention and graduation must be the priority and duty of administration.

“If our goal is to ensure student success, we need [students] to stay in school and graduate,” Gempesaw said.

Diversity and Inclusion

Gempesaw touched upon diversity and inclusion, a major topic of discussion following student protests in February. The president has created a task force that is being spearheaded by Chief Diversity Officer Nada Llewellyn that he announced last semester.

One point that Llewellyn brought up was the introduction of the Academic Center for Equity and Inclusion. This groundbreaking center that will be located at Sun Yat Sen Hall, sole purpose is to address issues in the pertaining to equity and inclusion. The center is slated to open up later this month.

“The genesis for this new student center came from the acknowledgement that we had to create a place of belonging for diverse students,” Llewellyn said.


Over the years, St. John’s has accrued a massive debt that currently sits at $484 million. In his address, Gempesaw said that $41 million of that debt is paid each year.

Gempesaw also announced that he planned to hire 38 new faculty members and will look to create 12 new positions this school year. He also addressed the rumor that there was a hiring freeze, which he claimed was “fake news.”

“We actually hired 43 new faculty members and also hired 63 administrators and staff last year,” Gempesaw said. “What is true, however, is that we did not hire at the same rate in previous years when we enrolled larger freshman classes.”

Gempesaw went on to say that changing demographics and legislation from Washington were major factors in this change.