In his second community conversation of the 2021-2022 academic year, Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 spoke Thursday about the state of the university, outlined the steps Lehigh has taken during the pandemic and talked about plans to kick off a new strategic planning process.
A self-described “numbers person,” Helble put the past few months into perspective as, he said, Lehigh moves closer to a more typical academic year: 1,092 in-person sections of undergraduate courses, enrolling some 23,000 students.
“Four years ago, we would have shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘That's normal.’ But if you think about that, in the context of where we were a year ago, that is extraordinary,” said Helble, addressing the students, faculty and staff who turned out for the in-person forum in Packard Lab, Room 101. A virtual event also was held Thursday evening, with question-and-answer segments as part of both conversations.
Lehigh offered at least 59 new in-person courses this semester, on topics including Afro-Latino social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean, bioethics and the law, and blockchain concepts and applications, which, he said, reflects the continuing creativity of Lehigh faculty and their desire to bring contemporary content to students. He cited other numbers as well: 170 in-person lab sections, 34 studio sections, 62 musical performance sections, and 213 in-person graduate course sections enrolling another 1,500 students.
“We are busy as a campus,” Helble said.
Additionally, there were more than 200 research proposals submitted by faculty by the end of January, seeking $128 million in funding, and 72 new awards totaling $22 million in funding. In another sign of a return to close-to-normalcy, Helble said, Lehigh’s athletic teams have attracted some 8,000 attendees total at women's basketball games, 9,000 at men’s basketball games and 11,000 attendees at wrestling matches. Helble said that the university’s social and cultural organizations, as well as the arts, have been active with events.
Since arriving on campus in August to serve as Lehigh’s 15th president, Helble said he has been meeting with as many students, staff and faculty as he can, including talking with those who join him at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesdays for his Pace the Prez weekly runs. He said members of the senior leadership team have been asking for feedback as well, on matters both big and small.