North Park University Welcomes Students, Faculty, Staff for 2012–2013 Academic Year

Dr. David Parkyn
Dr. David Parkyn, president of North Park University, Chicago.

President addresses enrollment, recruiting realities

CHICAGO (August 23, 2012) — North Park University will open its 121st year when classes begin August 27. The University is welcoming more than 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students this year. More than 550 students are entering college for the first time or are transfer students, representing more than 30 states, and at least seven countries outside the United States. 

First-year commuter and residential students, as well as transfer students, began arriving August 22, and are participating in Threshold, an orientation program for new students, through August 26. Returning students will arrive as early as August 25. Some athletes and international students arrived earlier this month.

Faculty and staff met at the Chicago campus August 21 for the University's annual Gathering Day activities at Anderson Chapel. Dr. David Parkyn, president of North Park University, presented his annual State of the University address, discussing several topics of interest.

Looking ahead, Parkyn cited the October 26 groundbreaking for the Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life as a indicator of a great year, and a "transformational" project for student learning at the University. The building project is the significant component of Campaign North Park, a comprehensive $57 million fundraising campaign for the Johnson Center, the University's Annual Fund, student scholarships, and Chicago-based academic programs and faculty development.

Parkyn also noted complexities in academic enrollment, reporting that undergraduate retention is up, recruitment results are mixed in adult, graduate, and North Park Theological Seminary programs, and new undergraduate enrollment is below the target set for this academic year. The University will begin the school year with 110 fewer new undergraduate students than one year ago, and 35 fewer new students than its recent five-year average. Faculty and staff will be invited to fall community gatherings to discuss enrollment data, recruiting of students, and to share ideas to effectively address the challenge of student recruitment in the years ahead, Parkyn said.

Parkyn told the faculty and staff that challenges in both undergraduate and graduate enrollments are signs of a rapidly changing marketplace and learning environment. The University "must update the way we recruit students, tell our story, what we offer to students, and how we approach teaching and learning," he said.

"We must discover how we need to change, and we must embrace this necessary change deeply and quickly," Parkyn said. "Our responsibility is to imagine new ways of being North Park, and to engineer these into a renewed North Park."

As evidence of the need for change, the University president cited rapidly expanding use of mobile devices for communication, access to information, and for learning. He also cited recent studies that suggest young adults raised in evangelical churches have "a deep love for Jesus and a growing ambivalence about the church." Both are concerns, Parkyn said, "because at North Park we love Jesus and the church, and because we are a church-related university."

North Park University is "an exceptional institution" for educating students into faith and preparing them for church vocations, he said. "Our responsibility is clear: to make sure that after their formative years with us, today's young adults love Jesus more deeply than they ever have, and to assure that the future of the church, now in their hands, is in good hands. This is no small responsibility, but we're among the very few who can address it because of the critical, timely, and formative role we have in the lives of young adult Christians," Parkyn said.

The University values the expertise and experience of its employees, the president said. "In every challenge before us we must not forget the talent in this room, the intelligence our community will bring to these challenges, and the creativity we will draw on to address these opportunities together," Parkyn said. Quoting business writer and author Jim Collins, Parkyn added that he has "a deep and abiding confidence that we will reach the tops of our mountains because we will climb together."

Gathering Day activities also included worship, a performance of hymns led by the Children's Choir of Oakdale Covenant Church, Chicago, and introductions of new faculty and staff. New undergraduate students and their parents were welcomed to the University August 22, at an opening convocation. New Seminary students were welcomed at a breakfast August 23, with additional orientation activities to follow.

North Park University offers 37 majors and a variety of minors, pre-professional programs, and certificates. Graduate students can earn master's degrees in education, music, nursing, business, nonprofit management, theology, and ministry. Working professionals and adult students can earn bachelor's degrees in eight majors through courses offered in evening and weekend classes in Chicago, Arlington Heights, Grayslake and Waukegan, all in Illinois, plus online formats. The University is comprised of a college of arts and sciences, five professional schools, and a theological seminary. It is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church.

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