Lisle, Illinois ~ The recession that began in 2007 left hundreds of colleges and universities in an unhealthy financial condition. Many of these schools were forced to cut costs to remain fiscally viable.
Some schools cut services to students. One renowned eastern institution got rid of weekday hot breakfasts at undergraduate dormitories. Others cut programs and academic offerings. The computer science department at one major southern university was gutted entirely.
But while some schools are cutting back, Benedictine University is investing in the future. While other schools are offering less to students, Benedictine is offering more.
This fall, Benedictine will unveil a number of new amenities designed to serve students and enhance their collegiate experience, including a $3 million construction project in Kindlon Hall that includes a new library and the addition of four classrooms, and new football locker and golf practice facilities at the Dan and Ada Rice Center.
The University is also offering new majors like those in Business Analytics and Exercise and Sports Studies that are designed to enhance students' employment opportunities.
"We believe that offering our students greatly improved learning facilities and academic programs that are relevant is the right thing to do," Executive Vice President Charles Gregory said. "We want to improve their college experience and create an atmosphere where they can grow as students and as people.
"We also believe that projects like these will help us continue to grow and ensure our ability to provide a quality, values-based Benedictine education to future generations of Benedictine students," he added.
The new Benedictine University Library opened its doors after the completion of a three-month, $3 million construction project that included the buildout of the lower level of the Kindlon Hall and a reconfiguration of the second and third floors of the Kindlon tower.
The previously unused lower level of Kindlon Hall was converted into a repository for the University's extensive collection of more than 101,000 non-reference volumes. The second floor of the Library has been designated as the "Reading Room," which features a soft furniture area, study tables and a computer lab.
The third floor has been designated the "Study and Research Center" and is home to the library's vast collection of reference material and the offices of three Information Technology technicians and six library staff members.
The new $1.7 million "Borsellino Family Football Center," a locker and meeting facility for the school's football team, and the $600,000 state-of-the-art indoor "Bartlett Golf Center" – both completed in late August – demonstrate the Division III University's ongoing commitment to its students in particular and athletics in general.
The Borsellino Family Football Center is a 4,100-square-foot locker facility located on the west side of the Rice Center that incorporates new exterior construction and renovation of two indoor racquetball courts, which had served primarily as storage for the past 10 years.
The center includes 120 hardwood lockers, a "chalk-talk" multimedia area and a "Champions Room" honoring former Benedictine greats.
The Bartlett Golf Center occupies the former weight room area on the mezzanine level of the Rice Center and contains interactive golf simulators complete with 12-foot wide screens, and two 360-degree systems of infrared beams that provide exact and immediate ball-flight statistics with live and fluid 3-D environments and multiple camera angles.
The center will be primarily used for the men's and women's golf teams, but will be made available to all students through student activities and physical education courses. The center also includes a putting green and chipping area – making it a truly exceptional facility.
Meanwhile, Benedictine continues to develop academic programs which help students become productive, successful members of society. For example, the new Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) in Business Analytics program equips students with the skills necessary to work within organizations seeking to improve their performance.
Organizations that use analytics are five times more successful than their competitors, according to a recent survey by the MIT Sloan School of Management and IBM Institute of Business Value, enhancing the employability of graduates trained in the field.
The University is also giving students access to tools like the Bloomberg Professional service, which is used by banks, investment institutions and law firms worldwide to analyze market information. This service will help students eventually complete the Bloomberg Certification Program, which will give them an advantage in the workplace as they pursue professional careers.
"Our core liberal arts curriculum helps students develop critical-thinking and communication skills, but we also want to offer academic programs and resources that are relevant in today's workplace," said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Taylor, Ph.D.
Fueling the expansion in physical facilities and academic offerings at Benedictine is a phenomenal growth in student population during the past decade. Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Benedictine as the fastest growing campus in the United States among private nonprofit research institutions from 2000-2010.
This fall, Benedictine welcomed more than 800 new traditional undergraduate students, including a record 497 freshmen, an increase of nearly 62 percent from just 10 years ago.
That growth, in turn, has made more funds available to offer improved facilities, stronger academic programs and financial assistance to students in need. Benedictine's growth has also attracted a loyal base of donors, whose generosity has enhanced the University's ability to provide more scholarships to students.
"Our top priority is to give students what they need to succeed…personally and professionally," Gregory said. "While nearly all colleges are forced to make tough choices in the difficult economic climate in which we live, our decisions will always be based on what is best for our students."
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.