The Catholic University of America

May 1, 2015

From the

Moving Forward Strategically

Today is the last day of classes for most of us and finals begin next week. As we wrap up this academic year, I’d like to take a moment to look ahead.

In December 2011, Catholic University’s Board of Trustees approved the University’s Strategic Plan. The plan was the product of many town-hall meetings and drafts coordinated by a 25-member steering committee. It was designed to be a 10-year road map for our future. It outlines four main goals: promote the distinctive Catholic culture of the University; strengthen academic excellence; enhance student collegiate experience; and improve the experience of work. Toward the advancement of these goals, the plan proposes a series of objectives and initiatives and outlines a timeline for achieving them.

This summer we will reconstitute a Strategic Plan steering committee to perform an audit of the University’s implementation of the plan. The committee will first evaluate what we have accomplished. For example, the Strategic Plan suggests the creation of a School of Business and Economics. We’ve done that.

An audit will also reveal the planned initiatives that we have been unable to implement. With that information in hand, the steering committee will assess our overall progress and recommend how our priorities should be reset. An effective strategic plan is a living document that deserves periodic re-examination and realignment of its direction and focus over time. Beginning with the August/September issue of Inside CUA, I will dedicate a portion of this column to addressing each of our four main goals and the steps we are taking to achieve them.

Last week I traveled to St. Louis for the annual American Cardinals Dinner in St. Louis, and I’m happy to report it was a great success. This year’s dinner honored Cardinal Sean O'Malley O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston; Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York. Nearly 500 friends and alumni attended the dinner, and we raised more than $1.1 million for scholarships. I am grateful to Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis for co-hosting the dinner. He, like all of the cardinals we honored, is an alumnus of Catholic University. Next year’s dinner will be in Dallas.

American Cardinals Dinner 2015
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis co-hosted The American Cardinals Dinner with President Garvey.

Speaking of fundraising, we have been making steady progress on that front. The Division of University Advancement has exceeded its fundraising goals for the fiscal year that ended yesterday. The Garvey Challenge also surpassed its goal of finding 1,000 individuals to join us in making a gift by the close of the fiscal year and raised nearly $500,000 for the University. In the long run the challenge has grown our donor base and increased alumni and family participation in the life of the University.

We had a very successful Odyssey on April 10, and I would like to thank you all for your warm welcome to our visitors. More than 700 accepted students attended Odyssey Day this year—that’s the highest attendance since 2010. This bodes well for our enrollment. While we won’t know the final class size until our students actually arrive in August, we anticipate a good freshman class.

President John Garvey Odyssey Day
President Garvey speaks to admitted students and their families at Odyssey Day.

While I’m on the subject of admissions, let me say a word about recent changes to our website. As you may have noticed, the home page has been simplified and directed more toward prospective undergraduate students. There are important reasons for this. First, undergraduate education is essential to the life of this University, a fact that our Board of Trustees underscored in 2006 when it voted to revise the University’s mission statement to say that we are “committed to being a comprehensive Catholic and American institution of higher learning.” At the same time, we are and have been since our founding committed to scholarship, research, and to training future scholars in our graduate programs. But our undergraduate programs provide much of the financial support that makes our scholarship, research, and training possible. Second, prospective undergraduate and graduate students perform their college searches in different ways. Prospective graduate students are already savvy consumers of higher education. They tend to look at specific programs and faculty with whom they’d like to study. Prospective undergraduates are new to this. They may not know what they want to study or even what kind of school they want to go to. We want to give them all the information they need to make their decision in a clear, direct, and easily accessible fashion.

The minor changes you see to the website are precursors to a more comprehensive redesign to come. It’s what our competitor institutions are doing and it’s what we must do. I recently established a committee to draft a request for proposals (RFP) for a new website that we expect to send out to web design firms in May. The committee includes the vice provosts of undergraduate and graduate studies, director of University Libraries, and administrators from my office, Technology Services, Enrollment Services, and Public Affairs.

It’s hard to believe that Commencement is just two weeks away. We will welcome as our Commencement speaker best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark. She is a remarkably prolific author of suspense novels, publishing at least a novel a year for nearly 25 years. Clark’s personal story of faith and perseverance is equally impressive. We will also award honorary degrees to author-scholar Michael Novak and co-initiators of the Catholic movement Neocatechumenal Way, Francisco José Gómez de Argüello y Wirtz and Maria Carmen Hernández Barrera. Meanwhile, the speaker for the law school Commencement on May 22 will be alumnus Michael J. Bidwell, president of the Arizona Cardinals football team.

We will miss our students when most of them go home in a few weeks, but life at the University will not stop. Several exciting events will be taking place on campus this summer. On May 19–21 the School of Theology and Religious Studies will co-host with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) a symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions. This important conference will draw prominent scholars of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam for three days of conversation on our common pursuit of truth. Participants will also include leading prelates in the Church like Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

On July 9–10 the National Catholic School of Social Service will co-host with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities USA, and the USCCB a conference on the global scourge of human trafficking. The two-day conference will bring together academics from various disciplines, representatives from government and nonprofit agencies, religious and clergy, and human trafficking survivors. In the past few months Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of the blight of human trafficking and has asked universities in particular to raise awareness of the issue and to put their research and expertise in service to the cause of ending modern slavery in all its forms. As a pontifical university, we feel a unique responsibility to respond to the Holy Father’s challenge and this conference will do just that.

As I think about these two upcoming events and about the Holy Father’s upcoming visit to our campus, I ask myself: Is there another university in the United States that enjoys the breadth and depth of the Catholic intellectual experience that we do, year in and year out? I can’t think of any.

I am happy to report that I have reappointed Professor Randall Ott as dean of our School of Architecture and Planning. I have also reappointed Professor John McCarthy as dean of our School of Philosophy. I am grateful to both for their able leadership and look forward to their continued success. Let me also extend my thanks and congratulations to the co-chairs of our Fulton Sheen Legacy Committee, Bart Pollock and Sr. Maria Frassati, O.P., on the great success of Archbishop Fulton Sheen Week (April 13–17). The highlight of the week was a panel discussion on the role of media in the New Evangelization with Father Robert Reed, president of The CatholicTV Network; Father Thomas M. Rosica, CEO of Canada’s Salt + Light Television; and Michael P. Warsaw, CEO of EWTN. It was fascinating to hear from each of them how the New Evangelization has adapted to new media and new challenges for the Church. It was also a great example for our students of how faith can be put in conversation with culture, and—just as in Fulton Sheen’s time—it still has something important to offer the world. Andrea Roane, our emerita trustee, did a masterful job moderating the discussion and it was so engaging that we ran out of time to get to all the questions students had. I was also gratified to learn that the dedication of McMahon 112, where Fulton Sheen taught for many years, attracted a full house.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen Classroom Dedication
Dean John McCarthy speaks at the dedication ceremony in McMahon 112 where Archbishop Fulton Sheen taught.

Best of luck to all of our students as they prepare for finals. You’re almost there. To all our faculty, staff, and students, my deepest thanks for another wonderful school year. As I sign off until the August–September issue of Inside CUA, I wish you all a restful summer.