Annual Address to the University Senate 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009 - The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., President, Villanova University

Veritas, Unitas, Caritas are three words that define the foundation of Villanova University.  To those who are part of this community, they are familiar words.  Typically we translate them as truth, unity and love, and find ways to compartmentalize our activities under these distinctive headings.  As we reflect upon what took place at the University over this past year, I would like to unfurl the tapestry of Villanova and the ways we embody the truth, unity, and love that is woven through our accomplishments, challenges, and conflicts.  Some are well known.  Others occur quietly.  But each functions as a thread that when woven together form the fabric of Villanova.

Excellence is achieved through cooperation and candid dialogue.  Our reputation is expanding.  Villanova is being recognized for its approach to innovative education, expanding the horizons of knowledge, unwavering competition, personal integrity, disciplined lifestyles, and a devotion to the common good. 

The rankings of our professional schools are well-publicized, but numbers and rankings fail to accurately capture the depth and vibrancy of our educational endeavor.  This May, ten faculty members were promoted to associate professor with tenure, two were promoted to associate professor, eight promoted to professor, and three were honored with the distinction of professor emeritus.  Our faculty contributed to the depth and expansion of knowledge.  Twenty-eight books were published, 461 papers were published in refereed journals.  They contributed 119 chapters in books, presented 608 papers at professional conferences, and published 236 conference proceeding.  One hundred fifty-six grant applications were submitted of which 77 were received, contributing $5,371,729 to the 2009 budget.

Following the example of the faculty, Arts and Science graduate students published 42 refereed articles, 19 peer-reviewed conference proceedings, and presented 105 papers at conferences.  In April, over 35 undergraduates were inducted to Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious liberal arts honors society—and we are only one of 20 Catholic universities that house a chapter.  Seven students of this year’s senior class have been nominated for nationally competitive post-graduate scholarships.  Part-time and Continuing Studies celebrated its 90th anniversary year.  Falvey Library was awarded a 2008 Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration for the development of the VUFind resource discovery software.

Our May graduates have moved on to many areas both domestic and international.  43% are employed or considering offers, 19% attended graduate school, 26% have not received offers, and 12% did not apply.  The number of students pursuing volunteer programs doubled in 2009 (23 to 49).  The truth is that things are looking better for Class of 2010.  According to Nancy Dudak and her staff, campus interviews are picking up; we have already exceeded our capacity some days this fall.  The financial sector is being cautiously optimistic.

The achievements of our athletic teams are heralded throughout the campus.  Villanova men’s basketball has been a program on the rise for several seasons, but the team broke through in a big way this year with its first appearance in the Final Four since the 1985 national championship.  In its final year before joining the Big East, men’s lacrosse captured its conference championship and participated in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.  This fall, the women’s cross country team won the Big East Championship for the second consecutive year, and on November 23 became the 2009 NCAA national champions.  The football team has been ranked in the top 5 nationally for most of the year, and they have moved on to the second round on their road to the final championship game.  In addition, the women’s basketball, women’s and men’s soccer, and the men’s and women’s track and field teams made the NCAA post-season.  Four coaches received the honor of Coach of the Year: Gina Procaccio, Andy Talley, Harry Perretta, and Jay Wright.

While some teams receive more press than others, all of them are outstanding ambassadors for Villanova University.  However, we should take great pride in their academic accomplishments.  Villanova’s multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 986 is in the nation’s top 10 percent.  Seven Wildcat teams were cited by the NCAA as part of their public recognition program.  Villanova also had a Graduation Success Rate of 95%, with football and men’s and women’s basketball ranking among the tops in their sport.  The overall GPA of the Villanova student-athletes exceeds 3.0 for the academic year, marking 12 consecutive semesters with a GPA of higher than 3.0. 

We know that education is not limited to the classroom or that it is only the responsibility of the faculty.  Through our staff, education extends through many areas of the campus and the lives of our students.

The newly formed division of Mission and Ministry has continued consolidation of offices and programs that promote the Catholic and Augustinian identity and education.  The Campus Ministry offices have been consolidated and now the entire staff is located in St. Rita’s Hall, bringing about greater synergy as well as the organization of service opportunities and faith development.  Work has begun on establishing an Augustinian Heritage Month to bring greater visibility to our Augustinian identity and an opportunity for interdepartmental collaboration.  The Society of Saint Augustine has been established to mentor future Catholic leaders in Augustinian spirituality and a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry is being developed for Campus Ministry Interns.  There were several high profile and ecumenical programs that were sponsored: the Celebration of the Jubilee Year of Paul, the Celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Franciscan Order, the Catholic Imagination in the Arts Series, and Jewish Religion & Culture series.  Additionally, the promotion of Catholic social teaching as a primary vehicle through which the mission is transmitted continues to gain momentum with workshops for faculty, staff, and students.

Over ten national organizations highlighted and cited Villanova for its outstanding commitment to technology advancement.  PC Magazine and the Princeton Review ranked Villanova University 15 on its list of Top Wired Colleges.  Villanova is the only university to repeat in the Top 15 in each of the last five years.  The CIO Magazine honored Villanova with its 2008 Top 100 award and Villanova was a significant participant in a key study by the Educause Center for Applied Research called Process and Politics: IT Governance in Higher Education.

The campus wireless network was extended to over 85% coverage with the addition of 10 residence halls and 5 administrative buildings.  New voice features were implemented on the digital phone system, including Dial by Voice, Notify me, Find Me, Call Me, and Meet Me Conferencing.  Over 168 faculty members currently have video/audio content stored and linked from our streaming media system.  Most of this content is used to enhance the online component of the course offerings; another 717 presentations representing faculty and departmental content are stored and delivered via our Media Site System.  These presentations have been viewed over 25,000 times with 12,500 hits occurring since May 2008.

The Year of Sustainability and April’s conference brought recognition and insight to the University commitment and efforts in sustainability.  Many divisions have contributed to these efforts, but I would like to highlight the incredible efforts of Dining Service to reduce waste and water consumption, and the UNIT staff’s V-print program that reduces paper consumption.

This year we have been challenged by a world-wide financial crisis.  While some predict higher education has only hit the tip of the iceberg, I and the Board of Trustees are grateful for the manner in which the University responded to this crisis.  We have placed our values in the proper perspective and our community has faced the truth of our financial situation and the ways we must manage it.  Unlike several highly touted institutions, we achieved full enrollment and avoided layoffs.  In order to accomplish this, we accepted and supported a hiring and salary freeze, financial assistance for our lowest-paid faculty and staff, and raised our financial aid budget by an additional 1 million dollars.  However, an additional two million dollars was contributed to our aid package in order to respond to our students’ family conditions and maintain our enrollment.  Although we need to continue to exercise discipline in managing University finances, it is important that we move forward.  In October, I lifted the faculty hiring freeze for departments to fill vacant positions, and next week I will discuss with the Trustees lifting the hiring freeze on vacant staff positions. 

In all of this turmoil, we have managed ourselves well.  Villanova University received an upgrade of credit rating to A1 from A2 by Moody’s and a change in outlook to Positive from Stable by Standard & Poor’s.  This occurred in a severe economic climate, as we were one of only two private institutions to be so recognized by Moody’s this year. 

The opening of the new Law School brings to completion a long journey, but as you know, adjustments are necessary on the evolution of the Campus Master Plan.  While there are several large projects that continue to scream for attention, we need to address the physical needs of Villanova with caution, prudence, and an eye toward the needs of future generations.  If you have not seen the renovations of Fedigan, Austin, St. Rita’s, and the dining area in Dougherty Hall, I strongly suggest you take a walk around campus.  If you have not seen the upgraded aesthetics of the Connelly Center’s Belle Air Terrace, I suggest you get something to eat after your walk.  The restoration of the front lawn should be finished shortly, provided the weather cooperates.  While no firm decisions have been made, discussions are underway with various departments to occupy Garey Hall.  It will take some time to work out the details and perform minor renovations, but the building will alleviate some of our space needs.  Topping the list of this summer’s projects is the first stage of renovations to upgrade Sullivan and Sheehan Halls.

In the area of Human Resources, we achieved 100% compliance for the staff appraisal process and the results of the Benefits Survey are being evaluated for presentations to the Benefits Committee and the President’s Cabinet in time for the 2010/2011 open enrollment period.

The Villanovan and several of the reporters received awards from the American Scholastic Press Association and several other leading student media organizations during the 2008-2009 academic year, and that’s the truth.

One of our preeminent qualities is our community.  Of all three Augustinian ideals, we do this the best.  Listing our achievements in this area is easy—from numerous service trips; service learning courses; crossing-over the borders of business, engineering, and health care; Special Olympics Fall Festival; and the 4,000 participants in what has become our national St. Thomas of Villanova day of service.  Next year I want to break six thousand—we need to aim high.  Recently I was proud to accept, on behalf of Villanova University, the Washington Center’s award for Higher Education Civic Engagement.  We were one of five schools to receive this national award.  For the second year, U.S.News and World Report recognized our Learning Communities as an exemplary program.

There are many areas that contribute to the building of community that I would like to acknowledge.  The Division of Student Life continues to look for ways to improve the manner in which our students live and learn.  This year, they computerized room condition forms that will save an estimated 7,000 pieces of paper.  They published and provided for the faculty and staff Prevention Points, which outlines strategies to address alcohol and drug problems.  Space was increased for music activities programming on the ground floor of St. Mary's Hall.  (The ground floor sounds better than saying we have performing arts and music in the basement, which we do, but that doesn’t sound as good.) 

The Student Government Association has dedicated efforts to unite student organizations.  In September, they hosted a dinner for approximately 180 student leaders and University administrators.  The theme of the dinner was ‘working together to better the Villanova experience.’  The event was a great success.  Since then, the SGA Strategic Advancement Leadership Team has done a great job in continuing to bring students together from different parts of campus to meet with various directors in a round table focus group format.

Head football coach Andy Talley was presented with the 2008 Collegiate Award by the National Marrow Donor Program. The award is given each year to an individual or university in honor of outstanding commitment to raising awareness, recruiting donors, and supporting the life-saving work of the NMDP.  Coach Talley also received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Lori Strauss Foundation.  The award recognizes an individual for instilling compassion in collegiate student-athletes.  Coach Talley started the Get in the Game and Save a Life national bone marrow registration campaign.  He enlisted 26 college football programs from all levels to take part in this campaign during the spring of 2009.  The group tested 8,022 potential donors, shattering the target of 5,000.  Matt Szczur is our third football player who has been indentified as match and will donate his marrow to a one-year-old girl at the end of the semester.

A strong component to creating community is good communication.  Over the course of this year, the Office of University Communication and Marketing has strengthened our efforts to keep the various contingencies of Villanova informed.  Villanova has increased its media outreach, cultivation, and penetration in local and national markets, specifically demonstrated through March to Final Four, the Faculty Experts Program, St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service and the Sustainability Conference.  The VU Web site and social media strategies have been improved as key communication and marketing vehicles.  The staff has worked to improve communication to internal constituencies with the introduction of Campus Currents and by using the Faculty/Staff portal to communicate information, including the realignment of Blueprints.  An internal Community Affairs Committee has been established to share information and improve communication and messaging among those on campus dealing with our neighbors and the township.

UNIT has dedicated many hours to developing and launching the new University portal, myNOVA, and the Enrollment Management system for student recruiting.  MyNOVA has improved access to information for every member of the University community.  The Enrollment Management site provides a personalized self-service portal for prospective students.

Not forgetting our parents, a Parent Web site was launched.  This gives parents the ability to access quick links to important University information as it pertains to their student.  This includes grades, schedules, holds, account information, financial aid, residence life, transcripts, and more.

A significant part of our community is the alumni who continue to contribute in many ways to our future successes and reputation.  As leaders in their communities they do much to advance the distinctive nature of Villanova University.  As I meet with alumni around the world, one of my consistent messages is you are Villanova beyond Villanova.  The University Advancement and Alumni offices successfully launched the inaugural Summit on Leadership this October.  This involved more than 100 alumni who are recognized as leaders in a wide array of areas and industries.  The response was electric and I hope this will become a yearly event that will expose our students to the accomplishments of our alumni. 

It goes without saying that for the Villanova community to prosper we need support.  University Advancement has been reorganized with renewed emphasis on school- and program-based major gift fundraising.  Eleven new staff members have been hired as part of the reorganization.  The telemarketing program has been elevated from a six-month to a ten-month program to augment the annual fund and alumni participation efforts.  The V Club has been re-fitted and re-launched into a development fund to support Villanova athletics.  A President’s Leadership Circle is being created to engage high-level donors and prospects to provide advice, support, and advancement of Presidential priorities for the University.  Also, a new Parents Ambassadors Program has been created to support the Student Life- and Advancement-sponsored Parents Committee in order to involve a broader array of current parents in the life and support of the University.

I have quickly discovered that universities are always in some type of campaign, and we are no exception.  Recently, University Advancement has completed an impact assessment study of the Transforming Minds & Hearts Campaign.  We are updating our information of alumni and parent databases and, as the new year gets underway, we will began drafting a Preliminary Case Statement to support the University’s strategic plan in fundraising (and future Capital Campaign) efforts.  Get ready. 

You may think that lawyers don’t care about building community.  That they are only interested in developing policies, battling law suits, reviewing contracts—but I want to correct that misperception.  Now it may be that the General Counsel’s Office is all women, but I was impressed by a very simple program they initiated.  Last spring, a dinner and women’s basketball game was organized for women on campus.  The outing supported the women’s team and gave women employees the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and build relationships.  There are many ways to build community.

There is much to celebrate in the way we unite together, but in some areas we still have a long road to travel.  Over the past several years we have celebrated One Book Villanova.  This is a wonderful program, and to have the author spend a day with us is an incredible opportunity.  We need to rally around this program and not see it is as the domain of the ACS courses. 

There were two events or workshops that took place on campus this year that I wish would have had greater attendance.  Both were created and designed to help us grapple with the multifaceted dimensions of diversity.  Granted, we continue to make strides with diversity, but more could and should be done.  We don’t have good language when it comes to the topics of race, gender, orientation, economics, culture, and geography.  We need to improve the ways we speak and listen to one another about these issues.  Such events are gifts to our community and I hope in the future that more of the community will un-wrap them. 

Recently, I met Ronald Warzoha and Timothy Montalbano, two students who are the founders of the Villanova Social Entrepreneurship Competition, which is a fascinating merger of veritas and unitas.  This interdisciplinary competition will allow students to put together a proposal that addresses technical, policy, and business elements to improve the lives of any community or type of people in poverty.  They raised $15,000 from various sources that will be distributed to the winners of the competition as grant money to implement their proposals.  This is an opportunity for different students from different majors to pool their knowledge together to make an effective proposal to solve a social problem anywhere in the world.  The framework is set and the money has been raised, so the only question is: how many lives will be changed for the better?  The proposal must improve the quality of life of needy people through an innovative proposal that is self-sustaining.  This means that once the initial investment is made in the proposal, it acts as its own independent entity without the need for external monetary support.  The following subcategories that students can submit proposals to are: Healthcare, Energy, and Education:

Caritas is the most difficult aspect to define.  Whether we describe it as love or care for others, this characteristic of Villanova needs our constant attention and safeguard against it drifting into a pious platitude or greeting card sentiment.  It is easier to define the ways we unpack knowledge or the ways we serve the internal and external communities.  However, it is not as easy to pinpoint our motivation.  I could cite Villanova’s induction into the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Hall of Fame—certainly twenty-one years of involvement proclaims our love and commitment to this program.  Or that 1,509 employees contributed $27,572 to the United Way campaign.

The many service activities reveal our love and devotion to those in need.  Over four hundred students participate in a variety of weekly service programs.  In the past twelve months, Villanovans have participated in forty-two service break experiences: twenty-one international trips and twenty-one domestic.  Now that is what I would call even distribution.  Seven hundred and twenty-eight students, faculty, and staff participated. 

The hope is that all of these activities are motivated by our care for others.  If you want to know what energizes someone, you need to listen to their story and take notice of the passion in their voices.  Several months ago I attended an Engineering Alumni event in CEER.  Surrounding the rooms were displays of senior engineering projects.  I was approached by Andrew, Drew, Troy, Donald, and Devin.  The five students were eager to explain their Micro-Hydro Electrification Service trip to Waslala, Nicaragua.  Andrew was the salesman and tried to convince me that the President’s Office needed to help sponsor their project.  How could you say no to water and electricity for the people of Waslala?  I told them to come and see me and walked away convinced that I would not hear from them again.  Monday morning, Andrew was in my office with the information on where to send the funds.  How could you say no to such persistence?  Last week, they came to see me and presented a report on the week.  Granted it was two months after their return, but this was the moment when I realized why we do what we do.  I was pleased to see what they had accomplished.  They did their best to translate the technical jargon into language I could understand.  They even brought pictures, but the real spark came when they spoke about the people of Waslala and the evenings spent in conversations with them.  What was intriguing was that these were people who did not speak English conversing with people who did not understand Spanish.  Andrew put it best—we made it work.

As we approach the end of another semester and 2009, we reflect on what we have accomplished.  There are many highlights, and we should take pride in how we have moved through difficult days to be a stronger community.  On Tuesday, I will present the final draft of our new strategic plan to the Board of Trustees.  Over the last eighteen months, many people have contributed their time and talent to shaping this plan for Villanova’s future.  The premise is based on the belief that the Augustinian principles of veritas, unitas, and caritas will continue to serve as the intellectual and spiritual guide posts of the University.  As we begin this journey, we need to honestly state what we need to do better.  What do we need to change?  Where do we need to grow?  What needs to be opened?  What barriers need to be removed?  What wounds need healing?  What bridges need mending?  What challenges need to be met?  We need to value our traditions, appreciate our past, embrace our present challenges, and we will ignite our future.  Villanova heralds the ability to transform, but the truth is that this will only happen if we continue to be a caring community for each other.  Villanova will never effectively carry veritas, unitas, and caritas to others unless we welcome it in one another.  Our Augustinian tradition is nearly 1,800 years old and St. Augustine’s mandate continues to resound in our minds and hearts—we should all know and see with a clear mind what we have all sung together with one voice.

Whatever holiday you mark this month, all of them celebrate God’s gift of light shattering the darkness and a world that yearns for peace.  I pray that the Villanova community will be a place of light and peace.  We can make it work!

Annual Address to the University Senate 2009