|President Garvey welcomes new students and families during Orientation last week.
Welcome back to a new academic year. It’s always a joy to witness the return of our students to campus – they bring so much promise, and even more energy. It gets too quiet around here in the summer.
That’s not to suggest we had a student-free summer. There were a number of students here attending summer sessions. I got to join about a dozen of our undergraduates and Campus Ministry leaders at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. Of course Pope Francis was the draw there. But it was even more impressive to see more than 3 million pilgrims (larger than the entire population of Chicago proper) praying on Copacabana Beach.
During this first week of the new school year we plunge right into a busy schedule of activities. On Tuesday, August 27, media will be here to interview our students – and their counterparts from George Washington and American universities – who have constructed the energy-efficient home that will be their joint entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition. The following day at 3 p.m. we invite the University community to a send-off party and blessing at the site of the home (it’s been constructed in the parking lot east of Father O’Connell Hall). After the celebrations the house will be disassembled and shipped to California, the site of the October competition, where it will be put back together.
On Thursday we will officially open the new academic year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit at 12:10 p.m. in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Classes will be cancelled between noon and 2 p.m. so that students, faculty, and staff can attend. The University’s chancellor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, will be the principal celebrant and homilist. We are fortunate that the Pope’s nuncio (or ambassador), Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, will join us again this year as a concelebrant. It’s hard to think of a better venue or a better way to mark the opening of the school year. If you’ve never been to the Mass of the Holy Spirit, you should make it a point to go. It will be televised live on EWTN so you can invite your friends and family at home to tune in. Come early to get a good seat.
|A send-off party for the Solar Decathlon house will be held on Aug. 28.
It seems that every other day we read an article in the newspaper about the high cost of higher education. Much of the discussion turns on the question of the value of higher education. Or, as the title of a recent book puts it, Is College Worth It? That book was written by former education secretary William J. Bennett. His co-author is David Wilezol, a graduate student at the University. The last chapter of their book is entitled “Schools Worth Attending,” with brief descriptions of 40 institutions that make the cut. I’m happy to report that we’re in there. About us the authors say “Catholic University offers a traditional Catholic approach to student life, a strong liberal arts program, and an overall better value than some other similarly priced schools in the DC area.”
I point this out not to brag about the University (though I’m happy to do that). I do it to call attention to the dual responsibility faculty and staff have, to be true to the founding mission of the University and to meet the expectations of parents and students who periodically ask: Is it really worth it? That dual responsibility is going to be the topic of this year’s annual Board of Trustees retreat, which will take place in Chicago during the last week of September. There will be a number of parts to the program. To name just two, Mr. Wilezol will speak about his book, and we will have a panel of parents of current students and alumni who will talk to the trustees about why they sent their children to Catholic University and what they think now of their decision to do so.
As I announced to the University community in July, I’m very pleased that Dr. Michael Allen has taken the reins of our Division of Student Affairs. I look forward to his leadership of that area. I want to thank the administrators and staff in that division, and in Academic Affairs, who have worked diligently during a time of transition that was not always easy. Special thanks go to Dr. Peter Shoemaker, Jon Sawyer, Katie Jennings, and Omar Torres for their leadership.
You may have noticed that with Mike’s appointment we changed the name of that functional area. It used to be called the Division of Student Life. The primary reason for the change to Division of Student Affairs is to align us more closely with some of our partners in higher education, and to reflect more accurately the many student support areas included in the division.
I hope everyone has a productive and enriching semester. If you are new to the University and haven’t met me already, please take a moment to introduce yourself when you see me around campus.It will be nice to get acquainted.