Since becoming Chapman University’s 13th president in September 2016, President Daniele Struppa hasn’t missed a beat leading the educational institution on its meteoric upward trajectory. Under Struppa’s watch, Chapman has continued to make history in academia.
“Because of my previous 10 years serving as Chapman’s chancellor, I didn’t waste a single day getting up to speed when I took over as president,” says Struppa. “There weren’t any surprises. I knew Chapman’s upcoming strategic five-year plans, financial standing and where the challenges were, as well as the strengths of my senior staff. As a result, I’ve had three very good years so far.”
Being able to hit the campus running has meant that with Struppa’s leadership, the university has continued to improve its academic standing. Chapman hit its highest ranking ever at number 5 in the 2019 edition of US News & World Report’s Best Colleges in Regional Universities West. From there the school has moved to the national level. The university also recently achieved another honor —Carnegie Classification of R2 for research activity. And Chapman’s STEM offerings have substantially increased.
Additionally, building additions to the campus have come in on schedule and under budget. These have included two new dormitories for the Orange campus, the Keck Center for Science and Engineering and expansion of the Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine.
Struppa’s predecessor, Jim Doti, served as president from 1991-2016, spearheading the school’s rise from a little-known Southern California university to the educational powerhouse it is today. Struppa worked under Doti for a decade.
“Jim is a master strategic planner, and I learned a lot from him in my first years at Chapman,” says Struppa. “He was a great boss, who gave me leeway to flourish. Though we’re very different people, we both care deeply about Chapman and strongly believe the core of the university is the students.”
During his first six months as chancellor, Struppa devised an academic strategic plan that has led to many of the university’s recent accomplishments. “Virtually every one of the goals outlined in that plan have come to fruition, including the university’s rise to a well-known regional university and gaining national status,” says Struppa.
Dean and Professor of Chapman’s College of Performing Arts, Giulio Ongaro, comments on Struppa’s accomplishments so far. “Daniele followed a legend in Jim Doti, which is not an easy thing to do, but I think he has done a terrific job. He has won over so many people and brought to fruition processes that started some time ago under Doti, such as Phi Beta Kappa membership and the jump to R2 status. He has also continued fundraising success. Most presidents would be very happy to be able to claim these successes, especially in such a short period of time.”
Bright Future at Chapman
“The future is bright for Chapman under Daniele’s leadership,” agrees Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Harold Hewitt, Jr. “Prior to Daniele’s inauguration, Chapman experienced a period of growth in enrollment and fundraising. He has demonstrated strength in both areas, with Chapman continuing its prior trend of outstanding performance, now on his watch. Each of the three years of his presidency achieved new levels of operational results. Daniele has proven to be a highly capable leader for Chapman’s next era.”
Struppa is especially pleased with the university’s rise to R2 status in the update of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The elevated ranking indicates how far the university has come regarding growth in research and doctoral and professional practice degree programs.
“Putting research at the forefront was initially met with some resistance,” says Struppa, who regularly publishes research papers and books in the area of mathematics. “There were some who felt we should stick to focusing on being a teaching institution. While teaching is our focus, I believe that research creates engaged professors who stay abreast of the latest findings, and this leads to even better teaching and more student engagement.”
Changing Student Population
Another area that Struppa keeps a close eye on is the changing student population.
“The number of high school graduating students is plateauing, which is a challenge for all universities,” he says. “Additionally, the number of first-generation students is growing. While this is good from a societal point of view, it does have ramifications for the university’s financial aid status and the need to continue to pay close attention to the growth of our endowment.”
As Struppa sees it, his job is to anticipate future needs and manage accordingly. “I’m here to ensure that Chapman continues to be a great university 50 years from now. Too many organizations wait until they have a problem, and then try to solve it. At Chapman, we pride ourselves on looking ahead and strategically planning for the future.”
According to Struppa, Chapman is doing extremely well financially. “We have resources available to constantly improve what we offer, thanks to strategic planning,” he says. “I enjoy determining what the university will need five to 10 years from now and in what areas we need to prepare for expansion. This involves looking at the budget and prioritizing as to where to allocate funds. It’s especially satisfying to see all our plans come to fruition on time and under budget. All of this is made possible because I am blessed with an incredible high-quality staff.”
When he’s not busy running Chapman, Struppa enjoys spending time with his two daughters and wife, Lisa Sparks, Inaugural Dean of the School of Communication and Endowed Professor at Chapman University. Sparks is also currently running for Congress as a Republican for California’s 45th congressional district.