Annual Address to the University Senate 2007

November 2007 - The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., President, Villanova University

I am pleased to be here again with you this year to share some highlights of the “State of the University.” I have quickly come to enjoy the process that goes in to creating this annual presentation, as it affords me – and you – an opportunity to reflect on the past year. These last twelve months have been a very active period for the Villanova community. It has been a year filled with achievements, milestones, challenges, and opportunities – both on campus and in the places Villanovans have visited and served.

It would be nearly impossible to touch upon all the wonderful initiatives that have taken place this year, so I would like to use this time to reflect on a few items that demonstrate the collective “Power of Villanova” and to call attention to some of the things we need to address in order to advance our Catholic, Augustinian, and educational mission.

With our mission as a focus, I thought an appropriate starting point would be to acknowledge the exceptional service efforts of our community. I continue to take great pride in the widespread dedication of Villanovans everywhere to responding to the needs of others. This dedication was put into focus in September as we took a new direction in observing our heritage through a revised St. Thomas of Villanova celebration. This new annual tradition of dialog, service, and fellowship adds life to our mission and reinforces our shared commitment to global responsibility.

Of course any reference to our mission must include a discussion of our focus as an educational community. There have been a number of academic initiatives and honors of recent note, and I would like to select just a few to highlight today. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences continues to lead the University in establishing interdisciplinary academic programs, exemplified by the formation of the new Department of Geography and The Environment and The Institute for Global Interdisciplinary Studies. For a second straight year, the College of Nursing has been named a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education and they are working to establish The Center for the Study of Global Health. The College of Engineering again has been ranked one of the top ten undergraduate programs by U.S. News and World Report, and they are establishing The Center for Engineering Education. The Villanova School of Business continues to receive high rankings and national recognition for its undergraduate, EMBA, and MBA programs. In addition The Clay Center was inaugurated to enhance undergraduate programming and, as you saw from today’s announcements, The Center for Real Estate is being established. This month, the Law School received accreditation for its Foreign Summer Program with St. Thomas School of Law in Rome. And finally, Villanova’s International Studies Program ranks fifth nationally among master's schools in the number of students it sends to study abroad, and eighth in that group for the number of students studying abroad for a semester.

These programs can’t operate or gain distinction without the dedicated leadership of exceptional faculty. Our faculty are the backbone of this University and deserve to be recognized for their innovation, collaboration, and research. To that end, I am pleased to announce that last week funds were secured to increase the number of annual faculty awards. Beginning with this academic year, four to five smaller awards will be granted in addition to the Lindback, the Gallen, and the Faculty Research Awards. I have asked the Faculty Congress to develop a process for selection and titles for these newly established awards, two of which will be designated for adjunct teaching excellence.

The work of our faculty continues to be recognized and draw investment from beyond campus. Last year Villanova faculty reached an all-time record in externally funded research and sponsored projects. There were 80 awards totaling $8.5 million, bringing in an indirect cost recovery of more than $1.5 million. Three-fourths of these dollars goes back to the colleges, institutes, centers, programs, and principal investigators.

The entire Villanova community is benefiting from unprecedented levels of investment, in fact. I am pleased to report that as of this morning, Transforming Minds and Hearts: The Campaign for Villanova has officially exceeded its $300 million goal! We will still be counting through the end of December – so there is still time to get your gifts in - and the success of this effort will be celebrated December 7th at a gala in New York City. This capital campaign began in January 2001 with an initial goal of $200 million. Three years ago, the goal was raised by $100 million and the timeline extended by one year – an indication of the confidence that Father Dobbin, as well as the Steering Committee and the Board of Trustees, had in the ability of the Villanova community to increase their support. That increased goal of $300 million has been exceeded thanks to the hard work of the Steering Committee, the Development staff, and many faculty and administrators.

Alumni, parents, and friends have come forward with record levels of giving that have impacted every aspect of campus life. Among its achievements, the Campaign has attracted commitments for thirteen endowed faculty positions, four of which have been fully funded and inaugurated so-far; secured nearly $30 million in scholarships and student funds; and supported the construction of four new campus facilities. These include the Law School parking structure and the newly opened Davis Center for Athletics and Fitness, an $18 million facility with a $4 million operating endowment, all of which was raised independent of any University funding.

The Campaign also is supporting the construction of new buildings for the College of Nursing and the School of Law, which are anticipated to be ready for the Fall 2008 and the Fall of 2009 semesters, respectively. These structures will enhance the academic offerings and strengthen the outstanding reputations of our Nursing and Law programs. With the completion of these projects, we will have the opportunity to further expand our undergraduate facilities through the renovation of St. Mary’s and Garey Halls. These projects will provide needed classrooms, faculty offices, and program space while also potentially serving as crucial “swing space” for future renovation or construction projects.

These building initiatives are all part of the ongoing Campus Master Plan process being managed by consultants Venturi Scott Brown and Associates. The plan’s mission and goals are designed to:

  • Consider the needs of the entire University community;
  • Make the campus more pedestrian-friendly, accessible to people of all ages and abilities, and welcoming to visitors;
  • Identify opportunities to move the campus toward our commitment to carbon neutrality, and
  • Carefully consider and create functional spaces that facilitate efficiency, collaboration and a greater sense of community.

Phase One of the Campus Master Plan process has been completed and five subcommittees have been established, each comprised of representatives from throughout campus. Phase Two of the process, comprised of an interim report, has just been submitted for review to these five committees, a committee of the Board of Trustees, and the President’s Council. Meetings began this week to discuss reactions to the report, options, and directions that merit further study. Based upon these responses, Venturi, Scott Brown will focus on developing alternative organizing concepts, with pros and cons, for a round of meetings that will begin in January. Shortly, these reports will be available on the web for review and comment.

Related to this plan and to our current building projects, this past summer I signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. More than 430 educational institutions are now part of the commitment, and I attended the formal signing ceremony on June 12, 2007 in Washington, DC. The commitment states that each institution must “create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.” In order to achieve this at Villanova, I have established The President’s Sustainability Committee. Formerly known as the VQI Environmental team, they have been charged with overseeing a variety of activities that include:

  • Conduct an Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Campus
  • Develop a Climate Neutrality Action Plan
  • Promote Energy Conservation and Develop Renewable and Carbon-neutral Energy Sources
  • Transition to More Efficient Campus Vehicle Fleets and Implement Transportation Management Strategies
  • Promote Procurement and Purchasing of Sustainable Goods and Services
  • Implement Green Building Design practices which are being incorporated in all the new building projects which I outlined

The group is meeting each month, and is conducting some additional work to collect and analyze data related to the charge of the committee.

And now to transition from a discussion on global climate to a review of the climate on campus. We continue to review outcomes and implement initiatives stemming from the community climate survey administered last year. One of these initiatives is a comprehensive look at the University’s staff compensation levels and job grading being conducted this semester by Sibson Consulting. The review is coming to completion and the firm will present their findings to the President’s Council in the next few weeks. The recommendations will be evaluated in time to begin implementing them into our budget practices beginning with the 2008-2009 Budget. It is my aim to undergo the same process with the University’s Benefits Program next year.

As you know, the Mission and Social Justice Committee of the Senate has expressed a strong interest in the issue of Child Care for faculty and staff. As I began my tenure as president, this committee presented me with an account of the discussions that have occurred around this issue over the past three decades. My office reviewed these discussions and conducted research into the practices of other universities and corporations, the results of which were discussed with the President’s Council. Ken Valosky and Mary Burke brought the discussion before the University’s Benefits Committee which drafted a proposal with a series of suggested childcare benefits for my review. I have accepted the proposal and will bring it before the Board of Trustees. The proposal includes three important elements for full-time permanent faculty and staff:

  1. A 750 dollar pre-tax subsidy that would be available through a Flexible Spending Account type program,
  2. A 250 dollar maximum benefit to provide short-term back-up child care,
  3. And for employees who wish to have their children in a care facility close to Villanova, a 1,000 dollar discount at Ken-Crest Services in Rosemont.

After three decades of discussion, the implementation of these benefits represents significant progress in this area. I realize that not everyone will be satisfied with all the elements of this enhancement, but I believe that many members of our community will benefit from these new levels of support. I thank the Senate’s Mission and Social Justice Committee, the University Benefits committee, as well as the staff of the Human Resources department, for their efforts in advancing this issue.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our office of University Information Technologies, affectionately referred to as UNIT. Just one look at your phone or your computer is a reminder that the UNIT staff has had a very busy year. In collaboration with Academic Affairs, Student Life, other areas of University Administration and the Student Government Association, UNIT staff this year have led the installation of the new phone system and new email & calendar platforms, created new Smart Classrooms in Mendel 154 and Bartley 1011, oversaw the expansion of the EPortfolio program, expanded wireless in the residence halls, implemented the new basketball lottery system via the web with wildcard ticketless entry to games, and enhanced the v-laundry wildcard and web based laundry registration system. UNIT also played a major role in establishing the University’s new emergency alert system and the staff continues to invest in improvements to technology across campus.

Speaking of the emergency alert system, I would like to use this occasion to formally welcome our new Director of Public Safety, David Tedjeske. He comes to us with many years of experience and has already made some valuable contributions to Public Safety and the University. I would like to take this opportunity to publically thank Dave and his staff for the incredible way they responded to recent gun shots we experienced on campus. While this was not the way we wanted to inaugurate the new emergency alert system, it did what it was intended to do and allowed our Public Safety staff to keep the community notified and safe.

2007 has been a year of transition among the senior leadership of the University. With the departure of Father William McGuire from the University, I have eliminated the position of Senior Vice President and the Board of Trustee has confirmed Ken Valosky as the Vice President for Administration and Finance. Due to the resulting increase in his responsibilities, a reorganization of the Administration and Finance departments is underway. This will mean a change in responsibilities for some senior staff members and the creation of two new positions, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Budget Director. We have engaged the help of a search firm to fill these positions.

In addition to these searches, we are undergoing a national search for a new Vice President for University Advancement. As you know from a recent announcement, John Elizandro will be leaving the University on December 30th. John has served Villanova for eighteen years and I know the University joins with me in thanking him for his service and wishing him success in his future endeavors. It is my hope that a new Vice President will be in place within the next few months, and I ask for everyone’s patience as we go through this process.

Recently, I addressed the VQI Enhancement Team group about the future of VQI as well as the future of the Enhancement Team Leaders group. I am grateful for the contributions of VQI and acknowledge its contributions which have had significant impact upon the University. However, it is time for VQI to move on. As we progress, many positive VQI initiatives and programs will continue, some will be elevated, and others will be eliminated. Despite this transition, I firmly believe that it is important I continue to hear the voice of the staff in an organized and clear way. While evaluating VQI, it was clear that the Enhancement Team represents all the department and colleges at the University. I have asked the group to reinvent itself as a body which will help me to hear the voice of the University staff. This group will have expanded duties and increased responsibilities. I have asked them to write guidelines, a charter, terms of office, create a name for the group, and other related tasks by the end of this academic year. A small planning group of the committee with OPTIR staff will take main responsibility for drafting the new charter and present it to for approval to the entire group. They will make final revisions and present the document to me and the President’s Council.

A review of the year would not be complete without an update on the admissions process, which is quickly picking up steam. Applications from Early Action candidates interested in enrolling in the fall of 2008 are at a record number of 5,500. This is a twenty percent increase in early action applicants from this time last year. Regular decision applications for admission are twenty-two percent ahead of last year's record pace which ultimately yielded nearly 14,000 candidates for about 1,600 places in the freshman class. This is a strong indication that Villanova continues to be a top choice for gifted and diverse prospective students throughout the United States and the world. This is a wonderful thing to hear and is something in which each of us can take pride.

Our graduate programs continue to appeal to students seeking an advanced education. This Fall, nearly 2,500 graduate school students, not including the law school, enrolled in courses at the University. While this number is approximately 3.4 percent smaller than in Fall 2006, our graduate programs remain vibrant, popular and well respected. As we move closer to taking a place in a National arena, it is important to grow the enrollment in our graduate programs to ensure that the University remains an attractive choice for students seeking advanced education. Moving forward, we must find ways in which we can build upon our strengths to improve in this area.

I have shared with you updates on our faculty, our staff and our students. A common thread that runs through each of these elements of our community is the issue of diversity. I recently received the first report regarding the Diversity Blueprint and it reveals a number of compelling trends. Most exciting are the increases in the number of multicultural students and faculty. There has been a steady rise in the number of full time undergraduate students from 13.4 percent in 2004 to 16.2 percent in 2006. Faculty numbers grew most noticeably in the past two years, with African Americans growing from 13 to 17, Hispanics growing from 16 to 19, and Asian from 33 to 40.

However the same success cannot be said for recruiting and retaining multicultural senior administrative staff. Other areas of the staff are relatively stable with slight increases among technical, para-professional, and clerical staff and minor decreases among service and maintenance staff.

The report emphasizes that diversity is not just numbers. It is not simply adherence to a stated law nor can it be viewed as the responsibility of one office or one segment of the University. It must be a community concern. As an educational institution, diversity and multicultural education must be understood as the fundamental way in which we educate our students for the future. The report raises areas of concern and offers strategies for the community to advance diversity. In the coming weeks, I will begin addressing both the concerns and recommendations with senior leaders throughout the campus.

As 2007 winds down and we prepare to move forward through 2008, I believe that it is time for the University to begin an evaluation of its Strategic Plan. Our present plan has a timeline that takes us through 2010. It is hard to believe that is just a couple, short years away, but as we approach this date, it is important for the Villanova community to examine what we have accomplished and develop strategies to move us forward. I have asked four people who have expertise in the area of strategic planning to begin formulating the process and screen potential consulting firms with experience in Higher Educational Strategic Planning. They are Steve Fugale, Chief Information Officer, John Kelly and Jim Trainer of OPTIR, and Matt Liberatore, the John F. Connelly Chair in Management. It is important that every sector of our community embraces this process and supports the plan - it will help guide our community successfully into the future.

I spoke at the beginning of my speech about the Power of Villanova. This phrase will be the central message of a new commercial which will be airing during this basketball season. When this phrase was first suggested, I was immediately struck by how well it captures our spirit of veritas, unitas, caritas. It represents our commitment to the pursuit of innovation and discovery that inspires excellence in our community and draws us together to share our gifts through service. The Power of Villanova is alive and well, and I’m excited to showcase it through this new commercial.

We are blessed as a community to have shared many achievements this year, some that I have mentioned and some that I have not. While this speech doesn’t touch on all that we have experienced together, I do think it is representative of what we can take pride in as Villanovans as well as what we collectively have to address as we work to move the University forward.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to keeping you updated throughout the year on these and other Villanova initiatives and milestones.