The incoming president of Chapman University wants the private liberal arts university to add an engineering school and other scientific disciplines, become the top choice of more applicants from across the country and continue a campus expansion opposed by many neighbors in the city of Orange.
Chapman has grown markedly in size and reputation in recent years, but Daniele Struppa said he wants “to make Chapman a nationally renown university.”
“We are very strong, very well respected especially in California and the West, but I think that we can aspire to be more,” Struppa said on our public affairs show “Inside OC with Rick Reiff.”
He said he wants more programs that emulate Chapman’s Dodge Film School, which he said already is the first choice of students who get accepted there.
Struppa was a distinguished mathematics professor at George Mason University before joining Chapman as provost, the No. 2 position, 10 years ago. He becomes president Sept. 1, succeeding Jim Doti, who is stepping down after 25 years and will return to the classroom.
Struppa said he wants to establish an engineering school within five years and develop “a much stronger research presence in the sciences.”
Struppa, who has met with residents and city officials in a bid to ease town-gown tensions, said he believes there is “a middle ground” that will enable Chapman to keep growing while addressing residents’ concerns about “party houses” and other student misbehavior.
Chapman’s student body is 8,000 – up 75% in 15 years – and the university has permission to add about another 800. But Struppa said Chapman wants to raise the cap by another “couple thousand,” a proposal that has drawn fierce resident opposition.
Struppa said he’s asking the city to help Chapman identify parcels that the university can buy and develop into enough dorms so that it can require all students to live on campus their first two years.
“If this were to happen I would be willing to guarantee to you that the issue of party houses will essentially disappear,” Struppa said. He said after two years students mature, grow tired of “parties on Thursday night” and begin to focus on internships and job hunts.
“We like being in Orange, it’s a beautiful city. We would like the city to acknowledge how much we are giving to the city,” Struppa said. “We bring a tremendous prestige to the city, we have brought tremendous cultural events… We have brought tremendous business, I mean, the tax revenue that comes out of having a university like Chapman is gigantic.”
Struppa kidded about succeeding Doti, who has attained legendary status for transforming Chapman from a quiet college into a booming university.
“My philosophy is that you really need to get a job where your predecessor was awful,” Struppa said.
Struppa said Doti, a fundraising wiz who leaves behind a $300 million endowment, will assist him in the leadership transition, as well as with fundraising.
But Struppa said he’s a rainmaker, too: “I enjoy fundraising. When I was a dean at George Mason I think I can say I was the most successful of the deans in fundraising there.”
The Struppa interview airs this week on PBS SoCal and Cox beginning Tuesday. All showtimes are listed at www.rickreiff.com. The show and post-show “Open Mic” segment are also on YouTube.