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August 29, 2011

 
Jeanne Garvey, far left, and President Garvey, far right, talk with student volunteers during Orientation.
Welcome back. I hope you all had an opportunity to enjoy the summer, and are as excited to be back for the beginning of a new academic year as I am.

Someone recently asked me what I hope to focus on during the second year of my presidency. Last year, you may recall, we explored the theme of intellect and virtue through 20 different events on campus. Of course, there are many institutional priorities that will occupy my attention this year and in the years to come. Without diminishing the importance of any of them, I intend to pay particular attention to undergraduate education and undergraduate student life.

One of the four main goals of our new Strategic Plan (it will take effect in January 2012; see http://spp.cua.edu/) is Enhance Student Collegiate Experience. One of the initiatives under that goal is: “Enhance amenities for all students, including safety, dining, study space, recreational and athletics facilities, and social spaces, all of which accommodate students at various ages.” As someone who resides in Nugent Hall, I have observed that there are some shortcomings in this area, especially for those (most of our undergraduates) who live on campus. The new outdoor basketball court we will unveil today (August 29) at 4 p.m. is one example of an improvement we are making in amenities for students.

Another way we can enhance the undergraduate experience is by moving toward single-sex residence halls for our undergraduates. I explained some of our reasons for doing this in a piece in the Wall Street Journal last June (http://president.cua.edu/articles/going-back-to-single-sex-dorms.cfm). It generated quite a bit of discussion. I remain convinced that the result will be a better collegiate and personal experience for our students. It will also be a better fit for the kinds of students who are attracted to our University in the first place.

According to Michael Hendricks, our Vice President for Enrollment Management, Catholic University saw a record number of applications for the freshman class this year, more than 6,600 for the 850 available seats. This high demand allowed us to improve the academic profile of our freshman class. The average combined SAT math/verbal score for the Class of 2015 increased by 16 points, from 1109 to 1125. And the average GPA rose from 3.29 to 3.36. For the first time in the University’s history, the Office of Admissions was forced to create a waitlist of students for freshman admission, numbering approximately 600. And in a single year we reduced our acceptance rate for freshmen by more than 10 percent — from more than 85 percent in 2010 to less than 75 percent this year. All of these standard measures are very encouraging. They show how the University is committed to improving our reputation and competitive market position while holding our position as a leader in Catholic higher education.

I would like to provide you with a brief update on the progress of our new Strategic Plan and Master Plan. I am happy to report that we’re on track. The Strategic Plan Steering Committee worked throughout the summer on the last phase of the drafting process — the formulation of concrete, measurable aims. I will be reviewing the working group’s most recent version of the plan before it goes back to the full steering committee.

For the Master Plan process we have held two community outreach workshops and will be meeting monthly with our neighbors through the fall to gather their input. At the August 11 workshop, representatives of Ayers Saint Gross, the architectural firm we engaged to help us with the Master Plan, made a presentation of some ideas that are being considered for the plan. You can find a PDF of the draft concepts at the University’s Master Plan website at http://masterplan.cua.edu/Updates/index.cfm.

I hope all of you will attend the 12:10 p.m. Mass of the Holy Spirit on Thursday, September 1, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This Mass is a wonderful way to open the new academic year.  It is so impressive to see thousands of students, faculty, and staff fill the Great Upper Church of the Basilica. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, will be the principal celebrant. The Mass will be televised live by the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN), which goes into millions of homes around the world. This year, for the first time, the National Catholic Educational Association will be urging its members — they include 7,000 Catholic elementary and secondary schools — to tune in to the Mass.

  
The University has installed banners to celebrate its 125th anniversary.

September 1 will also be the launch date for our Cardinal Service Commitment. As you know from all the new red banners that have gone up around campus, we are celebrating our 125th anniversary this year. To commemorate this milestone we are asking students, faculty, staff, and alumni to contribute 125,000 hours of service as we count down to our birthday on April 10, 2012. At the picnic on the University Mall immediately following the Mass, we will have a Cardinal Service sign-up tent. One of the first service initiatives for which we are hoping to get significant campus participation is the national 9/11 Day of Service. You can read more about it at www.cua.edu/125 . It will be a fitting way to remember and honor those who died in the terrorist attacks that day 10 years ago.

As President of the University I get to do a lot of interesting things and meet a variety of people. One of the most special events I’ve had the fortune to participate in was World Youth Day in Madrid. I joined 25 Catholic University students, and more than 1.5 million pilgrims, at the pope’s Mass on an airfield just outside the city last Sunday. It was, for me, both a fun and an inspiring event. It was also a very hopeful sign of a bright future for the next generation of the world’s Catholics. 

Let us all work together for a fruitful year and pray for God’s blessings upon our University.


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Last Revised 29-Aug-11 02:39 PM.