Dissecting Dennis: breaking down the president’s agenda

Dr. Assanis Interview (4)
The Review provides a recap of the promises President Assanis made during his inaugural.


After unveiling a series of new plans for the university during his inaugural address in December, President Dennis Assanis is now in a position to implement them. In case you didn’t quite catch the details – whether you were seduced by the inaugural guest string trio, distracted by the glowing warmth of Joe Biden’s face in the background or just didn’t even know that there was an inauguration – we’ve broken down his promises below. The Review will be interviewing Assanis for next week’s issue.

Student Success

A running theme of the “what’s next” segment of President Assanis’ speech surrounded ensuring success for every student. To tackle this broad goal, Assanis promised to make education at the university affordable for all students. Tuition rates at the university continue to rise and students continue to accumulate debt, so how he plans to achieve this remains a matter of speculation. He also referred to elementary and secondary education partnerships that will help ensure college-readiness. Additionally, Assanis expressed a desire to increase four-year graduation rates.

Graduate Student Surge

Assanis stressed that solving current health and climate related problems requires interdisciplinary, global efforts. To help achieve this, he proposed a new “graduate college” invested in interdisciplinary and global problem-solving. Over 10 years, he would like to double the university’s graduate student population. This, presumably, would lead to proportionate faculty and undergraduate population increases, raising questions about how the mid-sized university would prepare itself for a radical identity shift. Assanis insists that everyone will benefit from these graduate programs.

STAR Campus Development

Assanis announced plans for a new ten-story “STAR Tower,” which he intends to become a center for fields such as neuroscience and behavioral health, and expressed hopes for further STAR campus expansion aided by collaboration with the private sector. Assanis also revisited his desire for graduate program growth, grinning at the prospect of a “graduate city.”

Core Values

Assanis emphasized the importance of “core values” throughout his address, pointing to an ever-present need for “diversity, equity and inclusion.” He stressed a broad notion of diversity, denoting inclusion on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, religion, physical ability and intellectual perspective. Ethnic and socioeconomic minority representation at the university is notably low, so this may be a difficult task to undertake. One aspect of this initiative included bolstering African American material culture and public humanities programs.

Joe Biden Public Policy Institute

While glancing back at Joe Biden, Assanis hinted at an “alumni” supported extension to the university’s public policy school. Since then, Biden himself has revealed plans to open a domestic policy institute on campus, although few other details have been released.

International Student Population

Assanis voiced plans to strengthen efforts towards expanding the university’s international student population. Volatile factors such as the Trump administration may provide obstacles to this goal, as seen in January’s executive order that detained many international students in airports or denied them entry into the country.


Assanis hinted at “big plans” to increase the university’s “innovative” business presence across the state. And in case you didn’t realize how “innovative” these plans are, Assanis made sure to make you aware, using the word or a form of it 13 times throughout his speech. He alluded to furthering partnerships with both the state and corporations such as DuPont, and referenced federal collaboration that will work to help “revolutionize manufacturing.” Again, federal cooperation remains an uncertain topic, so these goals may encounter some unforeseen impediments.

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