A Running Start
As his first academic year as the 11th president of Case Western Reserve neared its close, Eric W. Kaler gathered with hundreds of students and alumni on the quad for the university’s longest-running tradition: Hudson Relays.
The 26-mile relay race—commemorating the distance between Western Reserve University’s first location in Hudson, Ohio, and today’s campus in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood—pits classes of students and alumni against each other for the ultimate bragging rights.
When we put people first and when we create opportunities that have the power to transform, then we achieve excellence.
President Eric W. Kaler in his inauguration address
It capped off an action-packed year for the former president of the University of Minnesota, from welcoming members of the Class of 2025 (13% of whom are first-generation college students, like the president himself) at move-in to celebrating the university’s newest alumni at the first indoor, in-person commencement ceremonies since 2019—and many milestones in between.
A Year of Action
President Eric W. Kaler made significant progress in his first year on the job. Here are a few key highlights:
July 1: Eric W. Kaler’s first day as president of Case Western Reserve
Aug. 16: University Welcome for the Class of 2025—the largest undergraduate class in history, with 1,600 undergraduates from 76 countries and across the U.S.
Aug. 25: President Kaler’s first fall convocation, featuring a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith and the honoring of four Distinguished University Professors
Sept. 10: Grand reopening of Fribley Commons following a $19 million renovation to the dining hall and student gathering spot
Oct. 13: Debut of phase two of the university’s Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center—a culmination of more than a decade of efforts to convert a historic temple into a space for music, theater and dance students
Oct. 15: The inauguration and installation of Eric W. Kaler as Case Western Reserve’s 11th president
Oct. 21–24: Homecoming and Reunion Weekend—featuring an in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020, celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the LGBT Center and the announcement of a $10 million anonymous gift
Dec. 1: Beginning of a staff compensation study to assess salary structure and help recruit and retain top employees
Dec. 17: Announcement of a COVID-19 booster requirement—part of a series of successful efforts to protect the campus community while continuing education and research
March 16: Proclamation of Juneteenth as an official university holiday
April 8: Kaler named to the President’s Council of All In Campus Democracy Challenge, a nationwide, nonpartisan effort to increase student voter registration and turnout
April 25: Launch of the university’s first employee engagement survey to assess overall satisfaction of faculty and staff members
May 15: Commencement 2022—the first indoor ceremonies since 2019 and Kaler’s first full-fledged graduation celebration
May 26: Showcasing an increased emphasis on research, President Kaler named social epidemiologist Michael Oakes as the university’s inaugural senior vice president for research and technology management
June 28: Creation of a reproductive health task force to review the far-ranging implications of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade
new deans and senior administrators
new residence halls approved to begin construction
A LEAP Ahead
Mya Williams applied to half a dozen highly competitive nurse anesthesia doctoral programs, but despite impressive credentials, she was denied admission to them all.
“You start to believe it’s a sign to not pursue this career,” she recalled.
Today she’s enrolled in one of those top programs, and confident she’s ready to excel in class— not to mention the operating room. The difference is LEAP, an innovative one year program launched in 2021 at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.
The Leadership Excel and Achievement Program provides intensive curricular preparation and guaranteed admission to one of nearly a dozen partner certified registered nurse anesthetist (CNRA) programs.
LEAP, plus a separate $5.5 million scholarship gift from alumna Cheryl E. McRae-Bergeron to support aspiring CRNAs, are just two of the ways the university is expanding student access—and advancing healthcare.
scholarship gift from an alumna to support aspiring CRNAs
Catalysts for Change
More than a decade ago, Caitlyn Gillespie underwent a spinal fusion to address scoliosis.
While recovering, she encountered a nurse who not only cared for her health, but also inspired Gillespie’s career choice. Today, she’s a CWRU Master of Public Health student, with hopes of becoming a physician assistant.
Gillespie’s pursuit of these dreams became possible through the university’s new North Star Award program, which covers at least 30% of tuition to qualifying students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Minority-Serving Institution partners.
Established fall 2021, the scholarship program is just one of several initiatives designed to help diversify the university’s student body and faculty. The North Star Faculty Opportunity Hires Initiative, for example, aims to spur the hiring of interdisciplinary faculty members committed to diversity, while an expanded partnership with The Posse Foundation and a new one with Questbridge will further increase the proportion of underrepresented students on campus.
Increasing educational opportunities, in turn, can create new ones for others.
My overall career goal, is to help underserved communities in any way I can.
Master of Public Health student Caitlyn Gillespie