YU in the Present and the Future: A Biography of President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, Part II
“Our students are the focus of everything we do. We believe in them, we love them. And we’re building institutions to enable them to succeed spiritually, academically and professionally. That’s the key. The students are the key to everything.”
That is the first thing President Berman said during our second meeting together. As we continued talking, I asked President Berman many questions about the future of Yeshiva University as well as his thoughts on what makes YU special. And he kept coming back to this theme: the students.
Below, I seek to relive the highlights of our conversation, which underscore YU’s continued success and its plans for the future, which according to President Berman, are all created with the goal of student success.
President Berman began by explaining how YU is growing tremendously.
“We’ve grown over 60% in our graduate school enrollment over the past five years. Over the past number of years, for example, we have over 25 new graduate degrees in the latest fields. We have cyber data analytics, all the health fields, PA, speech, language and occupational therapy. What we do has to be done with excellence. So these are top quality schools. We were just ranked by Fortune magazine as the number two online cyber security program in the country.”
President Berman attributed much of YU’s growth to their commitment to values even in the face of challenge: “Our financial reality is challenged, and you see university and higher education, in general, is in a very difficult financial space. You know, we’ve been living with deficits for a very long time. And as we’re closing the gap, inflation has risen dramatically to create additional pressure. So there are pressures at YU, but driven with the sense of mission and purpose and a clarity that we need to make decisions to be careful with our resources, we’ve developed a growth strategy that has been met Baruch Hashem with enormous success.”
President Berman explained that the growth in graduate programs affects YU undergraduate students positively for two reasons. First, it gives students a new opportunity with pathway programs in which they can end up with master’s degrees in various areas. Additionally, it offers a different financial basis for YU, providing additional sources of income that could be spent on students. Similarly, these graduate programs have become popular and diverse, opening to new markets, including the Yeshivish and Hasidic World, according to President Berman.
President Berman similarly alluded to the fact that undergraduate enrollment and applications have increased. And he claims Torah is the reason why:
“Year to year, from fall to fall, we went up over 20% in terms of incoming students, and we understand why. I mean, first of all, Torah is in. We’re growing in Torah, and we are seeing interest in Torah even earlier than the year in Israel. This is a new phenomenon in our community, it’s amazing, our roshei yeshiva are already loved before people start the year in Israel; they’ve already spent time with them in Kollel, for example. But Torah is in, and people are excited about Torah.”
And the rankings have followed: “We were 97. Now we’re 67 in the country. #3 in New York City. It’s Columbia, NYU, Yeshiva University, and then Fordham.” Additionally, President Berman noted that YU is ranked #7 in the country for undergraduate schools under 5000 students.
The conversation then shifted to how YU is working to ensure a better future for its students. “I am really excited about what’s happening on the women’s campus; we’ve renovated so many spaces.” Berman mentioned that over the past year, YU has renovated the art studio, computer science lab and Career Center on Beren campus and just got a gift for a new writing center there. Similarly, President Berman mentioned the work on the new Belz Building on the uptown campus, which will “totally change the cornerstone of the academic building of the campus.”
Lastly, Berman discussed how YU is expanding its reach across the world. In a recent development to “serve students in the new Israel program in the best way possible,” YU hired Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, former deputy president of Bar Ilan, to help develop the YU Israel program and join an Israeli program for accreditation.
As we concluded, I asked President Berman if he had any final thoughts for the student body, and he concluded as follows: “I just want to close by saying the focus of Yeshiva University is on each individual student. I cannot emphasize this enough. If I had to break down my whole message, it would be ‘Hashem loves you.’ That is my message. Hashem loves you unconditionally, and every person is a neshama. Every person is holy, and every person is creative. That is the whole message of Yeshiva University and of course, everything we do is hakol lichvodo.”
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Photo Caption: President Ari Berman
Photo Credit: YUNews