Marian University President Dan Elsener to Join President Obama at White House College Opportunity Summit

by Mark Apple | Dec 04, 2014

Opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged students among topics

On Thursday, December 4, Marian University President Daniel J. Elsener will join President Obama, the First Lady and Vice President Biden at the White House College Opportunity Summit. The Summit will bring together university presidents, business leaders, nonprofits, and other leaders who are committed to supporting more college opportunities for students across the country. 

This year’s summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage college enrollment, and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students.

In January, the President and First Lady joined college presidents and other leaders in education to announce commitments to expand college opportunity at the first ever White House College Opportunity Day of Action. Thursday’s event will build on the commitments announced in January, with college presidents and leaders representing multiple sectors launching initiatives in new areas. This event will focus on building networks of colleges around promoting completion, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, and increasing the number of college graduates in STEM fields. The day of action helps to support the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

President Elsener was invited to represent the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU), of which Marian University is one of 24 members, due to his leadership role in successfully soliciting a $100,000 grant from USA Funds to develop a new initiative that will increase retention and graduation rates for the more than 50,000 students currently enrolled at AFCU institutions. Marian University has made tremendous progress in recent years in increasing its own retention rate, due in part to the introduction of a highly successful 21st Century Scholars program that helps ensure success for first-generation students at its highly diverse campus on Indianapolis’ west side.

Summit participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In response, AFCU is committing to producing an additional 11,500 graduates by 2020 through a retention project titled, “Stopping the Leak in the Educational Pipeline: Improving Matriculation and Graduation Rates at Franciscan Colleges and Universities.” AFCU member institutions will join together and work closely with student success experts to develop an extended and integrated program of systems, processes, and training designed to improve retention and graduation rates for all students, with a special focus on at-risk students.

The day’s agenda includes:

9:00 AM         Opening Remarks

Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education

9:15 AM         Panel Discussions I and II

Moderated by Cecilia Muñoz and Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 

11:50 AM       Remarks by THE PRESIDENT

2:45 PM          Remarks by THE FIRST LADY

3:00 PM          Remarks by THE VICE PRESIDENT

About Marian University Indianapolis
Marian University (, founded in Indianapolis in 1937, is the only Catholic liberal arts university in central Indiana. It serves a student body of nearly 3,000 through dedication to excellent teaching and learning in the Franciscan and liberal arts traditions. Marian University is one of Indiana’s 31 independent colleges and one of 244 Catholic colleges and universities nationwide.

Since 2001, Marian University has been led by President Daniel J. Elsener, whose vision and leadership are transforming the university. In 2013, Marian University opened the Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences, home to its College of Osteopathic Medicine. Marian University has amassed 27 national championships in cycling and in 2012 won the NAIA national championship in football. 

News Media Contact

Mark Apple
Vice President of Marketing Communications
(317) 955-6775

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