'We will solve these challenges, we will emerge stronger.'

Dr. Kelly addresses enrollment concerns and need for healing in first convocation

By Kate Cuadrado | September 1, 2022 2:00pm
Dr Robert Kelly gives his convocation address titled Hope, Renewal, Transformation.
Media Credit: Kate Cuadrado / The Beacon

On Tuesday Aug. 30 the new President of the university Dr. Robert Kelly addressed staff and students at his first convocation. While Kelly did not make any specific announcements in his plans for the year, he did touch on several themes during his talk titled Hope, Renewal, Transformation. 

Canva by Kate Cuadrado

During his address Kelly also acknowledged the university’s new freshman class makeup, discussing the drop in enrollment with transparency. Higher education across the country is seeing a drop in enrollment and UP is no exception. Kelly explained that despite budgeting for 950 students, the Freshman class is only comprised of 850 students, as nearly 100 registered students did not end up coming to UP by the first day. 

This “summer melt” as described by Kelly shows students enrolling in the university, but changing their minds once the fall term comes. 

“We will solve these challenges,” Kelly spoke of the lowered enrollment. “We will emerge stronger. We’re going to work this problem in a manner that is as collaborative, inclusive, and transparent as possible.” 

However, of the freshman class that did come to campus, it is seen as the most diverse class yet. 59% of students in the freshman class identify as people of color and 35.7% are the first in their family to attend college. 

Kelly outlined three main themes for his talk: viewing UP as a blessing, addressing the need for healing and UP holding a promising future. Here is what he said on each theme. 

UP as a Blessing

“But take it from me, a person who is new to this place, UP is richly blessed. I will say it again, UP is richly blessed. The community I see here, the connections that people have with one another and the mission—it’s real, it’s distinctive.” 

“We’re blessed with amazing students. Students who are the first in their family to attend college; students from abroad as well as students who grew up just blocks away; students who come to The Bluff knowing precisely what they want to do in life, and students who are still trying to figure it all out.”

Need for healing

“I have heard of the pain that some community members felt, and are still feeling, when it comes to truly belonging at UP. These experiences and emotions are real. I can see and feel the hurt, and it would be impossible to not feel sadness and regret. So, my observation is that UP is still a community in need of healing.” 

“People at UP need to be seen and their voices need to be heard. We must recognize that this is our shared University and that we all have a role to play in creating a beloved community. As this institution’s leader, though, I bear a special responsibility. I must see and hear, and I must ensure that every decision we make is informed by lived experience, and takes into account the healing that is necessary. I pledge to you that I will do this.”

UP as a promise

“Our trajectory over the past decade has been nothing short of extraordinary, as we have emerged as a leading Catholic institution on the West Coast. All of us—all of you—should feel immense pride in the work that you have accomplished to get us where we are.”

“Why can’t we set a bold vision for our future? Why can’t we navigate the headwinds currently confronting higher ed, and not just survive, but thrive? In the months and years ahead, ensuring that UP lives into its immense potential, in all that it does, will be one of my chief responsibilities.”


A central theme traced throughout Kelly’s address was his desire to listen to the students and staff of UP to guide his work as the president. 

“I’m still learning so much about UP and identifying strategies for how we advance the institution,” Kelly said. “And in my first year on The Bluff, I want to be doing much more listening than talking.”