Drexel University Sacramento holds its final commencement ceremony on Friday. As about 100 students walk to get their degrees, the graduation event effectively finishes a seven-year experiment for the nonprofit university in the capital region.
In an interview, Michael Marion, outgoing executive director of Drexel, offered thanks to Sacramento’s business and civic leaders, observing that Drexel received “amazing support from the community.”
“We have to continue to support and engage our institutions of higher learning,” said Marion, when asked what the community can learn from the Drexel experience. “We have some quality programs here.”
Specifically, businesses can continue to encourage their employees to pursue college degrees’ and provide them with the time and/or educational subsidies needed to graduate, Marion said. The director also highlighted the work of NextEd — the small nonprofit that links public schools with private businesses to prepare students for entering the workforce — as essential.
Drexel University, based in Philadelphia, opened its one and only satellite campus in Sacramento in 2009. The college opened with a range of graduate programs, including master’s degrees in business, finance and education. It later added some undergraduate programs, including a bachelor’s in business.
When Drexel announced its closure in 2015, former dean Carl “Tobey” Oxholm criticized the local business community for not doing enough to support the university’s programs. Marion said he disagreed with that assessment, instead highlighting numerous partnerships that Drexel shared with businesses and nonprofits, particularly those with the Sacramento Metro Chamber and Metro Edge, a young professionals group for which Marion has served as chairman.
Drexel University Sacramento was the pet project of former university president Constantine Papadakis, who died suddenly in April 2009, just a few months after Drexel opened in Sacramento. University officials originally planned to build a campus in Placer County, but the plan never materialized. Marion acknowledged that the university’s board of trustees, based in Philadelphia, did not share Papadakis’ vision for Sacramento.
Drexel officials have instead shifted attention back to Philadelphia, with added emphasis on programs that give students work experience before they graduate, said Marion.
Drexel’s final commencement ceremony in Sacramento arrives as local universities are expanding and diversifying their offerings to keep up with changing demand for higher education.
Beginning this fall, University of the Pacific is launching multiple new graduate programs at its Sacramento campus. California State University Sacramento is moving its policy-related programs downtown. University of Warwick, a United Kingdom-based private university that is opening a Roseville campus, recently announced plans to offer its first master’s level course in 2018.
About 100 Drexel students will participate in Friday’s graduation ceremony. About 40 Drexel students will complete their program next year in classrooms housed within the Sacramento campus of the University of the Pacific. Those courses will be taught by Drexel faculty. The remaining students will have the option to graduate in a ceremony in Philadelphia next summer.
Marion said his Drexel contract ends next year. He plans to continue living and working in Sacramento.