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Fr. Graham talk caps Academic Day

Talk to faculty and staff offers look at long-term strategic plan, lays out key areas for the future

10/21/03

University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., used the Academic Day theme of diversity as a backdrop for his message to faculty, staff and students on Tuesday, Oct. 20, saying that the future of the University is in its relationship with the larger surrounding community.

Whether that’s by engaging neighborhoods through the Community Building Collaborative at Xavier, or inviting corporate leaders to participate in the Center for Business Ethics & Social Responsibility, or engaging faculty in the new Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Graham made clear that students’ education is not the sole responsibility of the faculty.

“There is no way the education of our students can be done sufficiently by faculty alone,” Graham said. “It needs the involvement of the community as well. We can’t stop at the academic enterprise. The solution to a diverse education will not have an academic solution.”

Graham's talk was the final event in this year's annual Academic Day program. Spencer Crew, executive director and chief executive officer for the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, was the day's morning speaker, saying that including including diverse perspectives is a necessity for education. Three interdisciplinary sessions by faculty members took place in the morning and afternoon, focusing on the various facets of diversity.

In the day's final talk, Graham laid out the four “planks” he said are the guts of the long-range strategic plan, to be presented to the University's strategic planning group on Wednesday, Oct. 21, that make up his vision for the University’s future. They are:

• A more “transformative and impactful” educational experience that will inspire and challenge students to succeed and to serve.

• Multiplying the various linkages between the University and the community—such as the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue or the Catholic Schools Initiative—so that Cincinnati residents think of Xavier when asked to list the important cultural institutions in the city.

• Refocusing the learning environment such that the core curriculum relates better to students’ lives and the community. “We need to find ways to shape that experience better,” he said.

• Invest in the principle assets of people, not buildings, to ensure the continuation of the University and the Jesuit mission.

“These themes will help pull people together more around the learning enterprise—our very soul,” he said.

The future Xavier will also look different. The strategic plan includes a capital campaign to raise money for a new information center to replace the McDonald Library as well as remodeling of older buildings including Alter Hall and the O’Connor Sports Center. The campaign’s kickoff will be in 2006 on the University’s 175th anniversary.

The new Xavier will also have a new vice provost, as Graham announced that the position of director for diversity development will be elevated to give the position more access to himself and the vice presidents and more exposure to the community.

The University’s future, he said, is being shaped in part by the events of the past few years.

“A single event for me was the riots in April 2001. That forced me to rethink who we are and what we do,” he said. “I have spent time in the community getting to know it in a variety of ways. It’s been an energizing experience for me coming to see more broadly the world we send our students into. Diversity must be a theme.”