Xavier holds annual Academic Day

Event examines future, proposes new programs | October 16, 2002

The University celebrated some of its best performers and thinkers during its annual Academic Day Tuesday as it examined proposals for a new honors program, “Philosophy, Politics and the Public,” a new interdisciplinary minor, “Catholicism and Culture,” and the key strategic issues and questions needed for the University to excel in the future. As part of a 40-minute talk that wrapped up the daylong event in the Schiff Family Conference Center, University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., outlined what he calls the seven keys for unlocking the University’s future—mission, market, programs, engagement, students, recruitment and financial resources. The keys resulted from a process that began more than a year ago, he said. When he stepped into the role of president, he began a series of listening sessions in which he invited the employees of each University department to sit down and share their questions, concerns and visions for the University. That was followed by meetings with a group of 50 representatives, the creation of the academic vision statement, academic program review and a steering committee that oversaw the numerous planning stages. These recommendations were presented to the University’s Board of Trustees, who developed the keys. Click Here to download PowerPoint Presentation of the Keys to Xavier's Future. The first key, mission, challenges the University’s ability to better communicate its Jesuit, Catholic mission. A series of short, clear, crisp, easily understood phrases need to be devised that would better enable the University to articulate to the various groups—prospective students, potential employees, the public in general—why there is a clear advantage to attending a university with such a mission. The University also needs to better define its market niche—the second key—in terms of price and competition, and in terms of who it wants its competition to be in 10 years. It also needs to identify strategies that will be needed to be make the University the best in that niche. The third key, programs, is at the heart of the academic program review, which is now underway. What are the programs for which Xavier will be well known? What resources are necessary to strengthen those areas? “We can’t do everything well,” Graham said. “We need to take an honest look at ourselves. We need to do it well or otherwise not do it.” The key of engagement involves the role of University as Citizen—how it can strengthen its recent efforts to be a good neighbor to the communities within the Greater Cincinnati region. The University could become the premier place of dialogue and discourse in the region. “If we don’t do it, it won’t happen in Cincinnati, or it will be done poorly,” said Graham. This key also includes engaging the students with the community through internships, co-ops and service learning projects. Students, of course, were also identified as a key, specifically how might the University grow at the undergraduate level while enhancing the culture of care and attention to the student. The issues of diversity, increased quality and increased net tuition revenue per student also need to be addressed. The sixth key questions how Xavier might more effectively recruit students. And, lastly, what strategies need to be pursued to secure the resources that the strategic plan requires? Should it be through more students? Increasing net tuition revenue per student? A larger endowment? A new revenue stream? Reallocating internal resources? A new capital campaign? The answer, of course, is all of the above. But what is the best combination? All of these questions—and everything that was talked about during the entire day—must be done with one thing in mind, though, said Graham: the students, because, “What we are really all about here is them.” Student provided entertainment between sessions with performances by the brass ensemble, the jazz ensemble and an opera workshop, administrators. Faculty kicked off the day with a session on the University’s proposed new honors program. A panel of 12 faculty members that has been meeting all year put together a four-year curriculum of additional courses and requirements that would fold the study of the concept of the public domain into philosophy, political science, economics and history courses. Selected honors students would study Greek and Latin and take specially designed courses that explore this new approach to the public side of human history. Though not officially approved yet by the University's board, Paul Colella, professor of philosophy, expects the new program to be approved and available for students entering next fall. It would be the third honors program established at the University since the Honors Bachelor of Arts was established in 1948. The University Scholars program was added in 1975. “Programs in public policy abound,” Colella said. “What makes this new program so unique is what makes it so intriguing. The third element. Public. It’s elusive and difficult to pin down. It’s the arena in which humans can stretch themselves to become something more. Here in the public domain is where the core commitment of the Xavier educational community comes together.” Students in the honors program will be allowed to do independent study and will have opportunities to study outside the U.S. They will also be expected to complete a senior project that they will have to defend—publicly. “Philosophy, Politics and the Public has come about because of the dialogue we’ve had over the years, and it's crystallized in the academic vision statement,” said Roger Fortin, vice president for academic affairs. “It belongs not to one department but to all of us. This is a new road for us and an opportunity for Xavier to build an infrastructure to accommodate this and be a mirror of what Xavier is becoming as an institution.” The proposed interdisciplinary minor, “Catholicism and Culture,” would look at how the two subjects are interrelated and have influenced all the humanities, including philosophy, theology and literature throughout history. Students taking this minor would first take an introductory course, then four classes of their choosing from various disciplines. It would conclude with a capstone course taught by two professors from different fields that would integrate what the students have learned. “The study of Catholicism and culture does not seek to speak for the Church or to prophesize or evangelize,” said Ernie Fontana, professor of English. “Its aim is to bring the tools of the humanities and