Mission and Identity

1. Leadership's commitment to the Mission

"From the Board of Trustees to faculty, staff, and students across every division, department, and office, each one of us is challenged to reflect upon the light of God's boundless love and the call for justice, to discover one's authentic gifts, and to share these gifts in an environment of mutual respect and common mission. Seeking to embody and immerse our students in the intellectual, imaginative, and spiritual depths of the Jesuit Catholic tradition, the Xavier Way cultivates the interior life while pressing us toward loving engagement in the world, with a faith that seeks solidarity and justice with and for all of God's people." (Seeking Integration and Wisdom, para. 54)

Mission Articulation

When considering and articulating Xavier's institutional identity, such as in foundational or planning documents, soliciting broad consultation across the University community is standard practice. A prime example is the President's University Identity Committee that drafted a document describing Xavier's Jesuit Catholic identity, titled "Seeking Integration and Wisdom." (see Appendix 1). In a prelude document, the diversity within the Committee was outlined to reflect the diversity across campus which unites to enliven the mission. They wrote: "Committee members came from a wide variety of backgrounds:

  • Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, mainline Protestant, evangelical, and no faith tradition
  • Three Catholic religious, including two members of the Society of Jesus
  • Women and men
  • Faculty and staff with a variety of responsibilities and concerns
  • American-born and foreign-born, with deep commitments to communities abroad and here in Cincinnati
  • Diversity of race and sexual orientation"

As is stated in the document's introduction: "As a Jesuit institution of higher learning, we contribute to the life of both the Church and society by opening spaces for reflection on the most critical questions of our times. At the frontiers of faith, reason, and culture, we help our students to ponder these questions deeply through transformative encounters both in and beyond the classroom and to integrate their learning experiences creatively, analytically, and contemplatively through eyes of love. In all that we do we seek to create and celebrate what Pope Francis has called a 'culture of encounter.'"

Readers are invited into deep personal reflection on (or encounter with) five "creative tensions" in Jesuit higher education:

  • Specialization and Integration
  • The Center and the Frontier
  • Diversity and Identity
  • Catholic Identity and Dialogue
  • Achievement and Service

For instance, prompting questions posed for Specialization and Integration are:

  • "Do I model for our students the integration of professional skills with critical thinking and care for the common good?
  • How often do I have a conversation with staff and faculty outside of my division?
  • How do I ensure that my students integrate questions of meaning and transcendent value addressed by the core with the course I teach?
  • Do I encourage students to become holistic, critical thinkers?"

Campus dialogues on the issues and meaning of the document have subsequently ensued (see a conversation tool).

Other University foundational documents that affirm the commitment to the Jesuit Catholic mission, and were created with campus community dialogue and input, include:

Board of Trustees

New members of the Board of Trustees are introduced to the University's mission at a daylong orientation session. The program begins with a discussion with the President, Board chair, and Chief Mission Officer on the University's mission and identity. Written materials include the Board of Trustee Code of Regulations, University Mission and Vision Statements, the AJCU's "The Jesuit Catholic Mission of US Jesuit Universities" as well as information on spiritual leadership and Ignatian communal discernment.

All members serve on the Jesuit Identity Committee of the Board for their first two years. A two-year continuing educational program engaged in at each committee meeting was reinvigorated in 2010 to support trustees in the responsibility to "promote and maintain the commitment of the University to the Jesuit tradition." Topics include:

All committees of the Board engaged in the "Leadership in the Ignatian Tradition" seminar at some time between 2013 and 2015. One tangible outcome was the revision of all committee charters to include a clear articulation of the connection of the specific committee to the University's Jesuit identity and an enhanced attention to the process of Ignatian communal discernment in the decision-making process (see the charters of Academic Affairs, Finance and Development committees as illustrations and the Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education article on Xavier trustees' perceptions of the process).

The orientation seminar has been adapted for use at Marquette and Seattle universities and for Xavier's faculty, staff and students. Moreover, it serves as a template for the national trustee orientation created by the Jesuit Secondary Education Association.

Trustees offer, and many write, the prayers that open the meetings of the full Board. Also, they receive a quarterly e-newsletter, Mission Matters, with timely information about Xavier's mission as well as a note accompanying each issue of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education magazine highlighting points that relate to the Xavier community.

Trustees also take part in the liturgical life of the University through the blessing and dedication of new buildings and an annual Advent Prayer Service.

Evidence of trustees' support of-and commitment to-the mission can be found in the 2012 results of the AJCU's Survey of Trustees. Xavier board members, in relation to their colleagues at peer institutions, are "very satisfied" that:

  • Board members actively support the Jesuit mission of the college/university (85%-60%).
  • Board policy decisions reflect the Jesuit mission of the college/university (85%-2%).
  • The board ensures that the institutional policy and practices are consistent with Jesuit Catholic mission (70%-53%).
  • Board members are familiar with the Jesuit mission of the college/university (61%-48%).

University President and Cabinet

Xavier's 34th Jesuit President, Fr. Michael J. Graham, S.J., has continually renewed Xavier's appropriation of our Jesuit Catholic heritage and identity, beginning with his 2001 inaugural address, Scholars, Saints and Citizen-Servants. More recently, his Vision Statement reflects Ignatian ideals that he envisions for everyone connected with the University, namely, that "Xavier men and women become people of learning and reflection, integrity and achievement, in solidarity for and with others."

President Graham certainly practices what he preaches when it comes to civic engagement and a life devoted to service. He has represented Xavier in several important and diverse capacities throughout our community, including:

  • Chair, board of directors, United Way and Community Chest.
  • Co-chair of Police and Justice System Subcommittee of Cincinnati Community Action Now (Cincinnati CAN).
  • Co-chair of Partners for a Competitive Workforce, a regional initiative to match workforce preparedness to market needs and reduce the unemployment rate.
  • Co-chair of Strive, a local education initiative, along with the presidents of the University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University.
  • Trustee, St. Xavier High School.
  • Member, board of directors for the Center for Holocaust Education at the Hebrew Union College.
  • Member, board of directors, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
  • Member, board of the Community Police Partnering Center.
  • Member, board of directors, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

President Graham has also received awards reflecting his commitment, including the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati's 2015 Diversity Award, the American Jewish Committee's National Human Relations Award, 2012 and the Tree of Life award by the Jewish National Fund, 2009.

In a keynote address offered at the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) on Feb. 2, 2015, President Graham outlined Foundations of a Mission and Identity Culture at Xavier University. He identified six key factors:

  • Patience Over Time
  • Leadership
  • Programming
  • Place
  • The AJCU Network
  • Trustees

In January, he is up for election to the national board of the ACCU; his term will begin in June 2016. He is currently the chair of the board of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

President's Cabinet
Members of the President's Cabinet exhibit understanding and promotion of the mission through their own professional development as well as through their support of the identity throughout their functional areas, as appropriate and fitting. Nearly all veteran members of the Cabinet have served as mentors to new members, especially during a wave of new senior leadership in 2012-2013 (see The Mission Mentoring Program for New Senior Administrators). This mentor-mentee relationship included group meetings discussing Xavier's mission and identity and monthly one-on-one sessions.

Every member of the President's Cabinet, who have served more than six months, has taken part in an in-depth, mission-conscious professional development program (i.e.: ICP, AJCU Summer Leadership Seminar, Discernment Group, Mission Mentoring for New Senior Administrators, etc.). In addition, the Cabinet, as a group, engages in the trustee seminar at select meetings during the year.

Senior leaders are true to being men and women for others. The list below reflects the variety of regional nonprofit boards they have served on within the last three years, with many holding leadership positions within the board or on its committees:

  • ArtsWave
  • The Athenaeum/St Mary's Seminary
  • Association of Independent Ohio Colleges and Universities
  • Breakthrough Cincinnati
  • Campus Catholic Ministry Association
  • Cincinnati City Manager's Advisory Council on Innovation
  • Cincinnati Sports Professionals Advisory Board
  • Cincinnati Cultural Facilities Task Force
  • Coalition for the Dignity and Rights of Immigrants
  • Elder High School
  • Glenmary Missionaries Investment Board
  • Gore Family Memorial Foundation Trust
  • Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities
  • Great Cincinnati STEM Collaborative Advisory Board
  • Green Umbrella Regional Sustainability Alliance Advisory Board
  • Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center
  • Kennedy Heights Development Corp.
  • Madcap Puppets Board
  • Minorities in Mathematics, Science and Engineering
  • National Association for Sports and Physical Education
  • Oak Hills Youth Athletics
  • Queen City Foundation
  • St. Ursula Academy High School
  • St. Vincent DePaul
  • St. Xavier High School
  • Tender Mercies
  • The Union Terminal Corporation
  • The Urban League (Cincinnati)
  • Wyoming City Schools
  • Xavier's Center for Catholic Education
  • Xavier's William College of Business Management Information Systems Board

Xavier's CAO, CFO and CMO serve on the Peer Review Corp of the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body that evaluates all degree-granting colleges and universities in 19 states in the North Central region. The Corp is responsible for assuring that an institution is complying with the accreditation criteria as well as for helping an institution advance within the context of its own mission.

Xavier's CMO is serving as a peer reviewer for the Association of Catholic Colleges and University's developing trustee resource, Keepers of the Mission. The 5-part program includes Board Meeting Learning Modules, for orientation, formation, and education related to Catholic identity and university mission. Also, she has served as the chair of the Jesuit Heartland Delta Steering Committee since 2013.

Academic Deans

As members of the President's Cabinet, the academic deans ensure that the student experience and engagement reflects[1] the University's Jesuit Catholic tradition in their respective colleges. In fact, in 2015, Fr. Daniel McDonald, S.J., Bi-Provincial Assistant for Higher Education of the Wisconsin and Chicago-Detroit Provinces, described their contributions as follows:

"The Deans at Xavier consider themselves highly focused on Jesuit ethics and values. All believe that the Ignatian vision is primary. They understand the value of mentoring junior faculty and the value of developing graduate programs that are/will be considered of a high quality in respective fields. All hold to the desire to create opportunities for students and faculty and all believe in raising the bar for their areas. All see that student life and the engagement of students are the top priorities in the teaching and learning atmosphere they hope to establish."


In addition to Cabinet members, Xavier's senior leaders provide service to the following nonprofit agency boards:

  • American Accounting Association Accounting Program Leaders Group
  • Astronomical League
  • Bishop Fenwick High School Board
  • Chase College of Law Alumni Association
  • Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon
  • Cincinnati Sport Professionals Network
  • Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency
  • Cincinnati Observatory Center
  • Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute
  • Cincinnati Sports Professionals Network
  • Cincinnati United Way Agency Audit Committee
  • Committee of Sponsoring Organizations for the Treadway Commission-global
  • DePaul Cristo Rey High School
  • Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting-national
  • Forest Park Chamber of Commerce
  • Good Samaritan College of Nursing and Health Advisory Board
  • GRACE Foundation
  • Hyde Park School
  • Institute of Management Accountants-global
  • Mason Schools Foundation
  • Mercy Health Foundation Board of Trustees
  • McCulough-Hyde Memorial Hospital
  • National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators
  • National Board of Examiners in Optometry
  • Nativity of Our Lord PTA
  • Notre Dame Academy
  • Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • Ohio Department of Health Education Advisory Group
  • Ohio Bursars Association
  • Ohio Region of the American Accounting Association
  • Ohio Society of CPAs
  • Ohio Society of Radiologic Technologist
  • PARACHUTE: Butler County Court Appointed Special Advocates
  • U.S. Comptroller General's Internal Control Advisory Council-national

External Recognition

In addressing the Seeking Integration and Wisdom document, Fr. Daniel McDonald, S.J., reflected:

"What is clear about discussions surrounding this document are the following:

  • The Mission is well articulated.
  • There is a greater depth of spirituality evidenced at the University which filters down to various levels of the institution.
  • The President's Central Administrative team expresses mission well.
  • The new CORE curriculum is a way to articulate how Xavier values and mission engages the classroom activities/teaching/learning experiences.
  • Hiring for Mission is a priority.
  • New staff and faculty are brought into the Mission in structured ways that seem to have effects over time. There is a sense of a team.
  • Catholic, Jesuit values are evidenced in students' lives on campus...
  • The practice of identity is played out in service...Xavier University is a 'Cathedral of the Streets.'"