University President: Opening Convocation Address - August 2013
On August 27, 2013, as the academic year commenced, University of Portland President Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C. addressed the faculty. He reflected on the many challenges and successes over the past ten years of his presidency. Additionally, he addressed many significant issues for the future. Among the impending issues highlighted in the speech were the digital future, internationalization, inclusivity, leadership, ethics and character formation. Here is his address in its entirety.
Thanks to all of you for joining me here today for this Convocation that begins our 113th year as a center of learning.
The first classes were held yesterday, but this Convocation is, for me, the moment when the new academic year really begins. It is when we all come together, after a summer spent far and wide -- when we see one another, share stories and news, and greet new colleagues -- that I feel the year really starts. This annual gathering is one of the events that mark us as a true learning community and it is always for me one of the most exciting and important moments of the year.
For the past three years I have prefaced my remarks by showing you a video prepared by our excellent marketing staff that documents for you the University’s achievements and activities during the previous academic year. Watching the video has been an excellent way to remind ourselves of our remarkable accomplishments during the year just passed, and to celebrate our successful work. It is healthy and joyful to, from time to time, recount our steps and celebrate the journey that brought us to today. So Laurie Kelley, our associate vice president for marketing, has provided me with another video this year and I hope you will all settle back in your seats for a few minutes and enjoy watching it.
Thank you, Laurie and staff, for yet another energetic and energizing video! Thank you!
I would like to begin my remarks today with a few words of thanks. I have said this before but I feel it so deeply that it bears repeating today. Most of the work done here at the University of Portland is never seen by those of us who spend our days on the fourth floor of Waldschmidt Hall. It takes place in your classrooms and labs and residence halls, during your lectures and seminars and workshops, and in your conversations along campus paths and in your offices. It takes place at your desks, with student papers and tests in your hands. It takes place when you play an instrument or create a work of art or advise a club, when you coach an athlete or mentor a student worker or help someone make a connection to the Internet. It talks place when you are having a conversation with, or even confronting an errant student in a residence hall. Our goal here at the University is to have great teaching take place throughout our campus and it is you – each of you -- who make that happen. No university can be better than the people who teach its students both in and outside the classroom. Anything I might do in Waldschmidt Hall is minor compared to the unseen work you do, day in and day out, and I want to thank you again for your faithful and generous devotion. Thank you.
The President's address at the Opening Convocation is a time-honored tradition here at the University. It has historically been an opportunity to offer a brief report on the previous year's work and accomplishments and progress, and to draw our thoughts to the things which will require our attention and focus in the coming year. This is my 10th time as president to address all of you at our annual Convocation. The first time was at my inauguration in September 2004.
Anniversaries like this provide a great opportunity for reflection and accountability and so I would like to begin our year with a bit of remembering. It will be all too easy for us to become immersed in details tomorrow. The demands of the day, the needs of your students, the requirements of your deans and president, the expectations of parents and registrars and of myriad other people and institutions soon will lay claim on you. So today, before all of that overwhelms us, I want to spend a few moments remembering.
When Michael Andrews, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, addressed us at his installation as McNerny-Hanson chair a few years ago, he reminded us of St. Bonaventure's description of our journey to God. Remembering and preparing, Michael said, are the two profound movements in that journey. And so, as we remember today I hope to show you how we also have prepared ourselves and the University for the next leg of our journey together. I would like to harken to the challenges that I identified in that first address at my inauguration and then offer some thoughts about what those challenges -- and our response to them -- mean to us today and in our shared future. If we can get so busy in the course of a single year that we must rely on a video to remind us of how much we have accomplished, the swift course of time can make a decade's worth of achievement and progress seem like ancient history. That is especially true when 35% of the people who work here today were not here when we began this leg of the University's century-long journey.
As I did ten years ago, I would today like to frame my remarks with two powerful images on our campus that every day remind us of our purpose as a university and that speak metaphorically to our students about our spoken and unspoken promises to them.
The images are two larger-than-life statues that are situated at two of the most frequently visited spots on campus. The first is the statue of Christ the Teacher, located between Franz Hall and Mago Hunt Center, right near the geographic center of campus. Hundreds, if not thousands, of students walk by that statue every day. Many of them rub the bronze figures as they pass, or they pause to talk with friends who are seated within the tableau. This is a powerful statue, I think, because it reminds us always that we are first and foremost a Catholic teaching university, heir to the centuries-old tradition of Catholic universities, whose mission is to forge a scholarly relationship between faith and reason and between students and their teachers. And it reminds us of the great Holy Cross tradition -- the education of the heart as well as the mind -- because if Christ taught us anything, it was that not only must we develop our intelligence and skills and talents but that we must do that with a higher sense of purpose.
The location of that statue -- at the geographical center of the campus -- reminds us that part of our mission happens right here, on this campus, in the spaces around us. It draws our attention to our learning community. It gives us an inward focus. Indeed, many of the challenges I identified 10 years ago and that have occupied our labors since, are challenges that arise out of that focus, as they should. We are not, after all, a market-oriented community. We are mission-oriented, and our mission is to promote great teaching and learning, vibrant faith and the formation of students of strong character, and active service and lives of leadership.
The second statue that frames my remarks today is the statue of the scouting party from the Lewis and Clark expedition that legend says stood on the edge of our bluff, the southern-most point of their journey, and beheld the Oregon wilderness and the Cascade peaks. This statue is a metaphor for the outward focus of our university. Unlike the statue of Christ the Teacher, in which all the figures are gathered in a circle, facing one another, the figures in this memorial gaze and point outward, towards the city and the world beyond. They express our hope for our students -- that they will one day go forth from our campus and provide leadership to that world "out there." They remind us and our students of that part of our mission that calls us to turn our gifts and our learning to the service of God and humanity.
As these statues suggest, the challenges we faced ten years ago – just like the challenges we face today and will face every day in the future -- were both internal and external. How have we responded to those challenges? Has our response added to our sense of ourselves, increased our strengths, enlarged our virtues? Has our response readied us for our next decade? Has it prepared us for our new academic year? The past, St. Bonaventure might remind us, is prologue. All that we have done should have been done to prepare us for tomorrow.
To answer those questions I could simply rattle off a long list of statistics and facts. You have heard them before:
- Almost 800 more students
- 65 more faculty
- 6 new buildings
- 6 buildings renovated
- 35 additional acres
- Over $200 million raised
- Salaries at new levels
- Extraordinary student accomplishment
- Heightened profile and reputation
But those are the 'particulars' of our strengths and virtues. Today I want to remind you of our 'essential' strengths, those things which are the essence of the University and of our mission and upon which we will build our future.
There were eight challenges that I identified in that inaugural address in 2004 and they fell into two broad, overlapping categories: finances and the student experience.
A decade ago we worried about the ever-increasing cost of an education here and were unable to determine when those costs might level off. In the years since, those costs have continued to rise and have created a tension between some parents’ expectation that we conduct job training and our own vision of educating for perpetual learning and character development.
The dilemma this created for us was this: How do we enrich the entire student experience while controlling costs?
In this decade just passed we strengthened ourselves significantly in this regard. We cut costs, raised significant amounts of money, began an ongoing discussion of new opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness within our budgets, introduced energy efficiencies to our buildings, negotiated manageable health care insurance coverage, and brought our endowment under new management.
Closely related to the issue of cost containment was the challenge to secure additional resources to assure we would continue to have a first rate faculty and student body, even as the numbers of both increased. So in 2005 we launched the RISE Campaign to help us meet that challenge and as of today that campaign has added more than $162 million to our resources.
The judicious and ongoing reduction in costs and the significant growth in revenue allowed us to raise salaries during this time to the mean of our peer institutions, and to dramatically increase the number and the amount of scholarships we are able to provide to our students.
As I said earlier, no university can be better than its teachers, and the strength of our professoriate and the quality of our staff are among our greatest assets as we move forward.
Enrichment of the student experience here is a somewhat complex and multifaceted issue, and of course, it is intimately related to our finances. Fortunately, we have been blessed with a team of relentless stewards of our assets, led by Alan Timmins, our financial vice president, and Jim Ravelli, our vice president of operations, and equally relentless fund-raisers, led by Jim Lyons and Bryce Strang, and a number of extraordinarily generous benefactors. Together they have provided us with the means to significantly strengthen the student experience across a broad front.
Academically, we strengthened our core curriculum by making it a true University Core, thanks to the work of our Core Review Committee that was chaired by our colleague Norah Martin. That committee began its work two years ago and submitted its report last year. Some recent national commentators have disparaged the liberal arts, and have called upon universities to focus on science, technology, engineering, and math to the exclusion of what they call “irrelevant material.” But in our view the liberal arts – our core -- are not a luxury or a privilege of the affluent. They are essential for all students and a way to help them develop habits of the mind and heart that will last a lifetime. In our knowledge-driven society, the ability to think clearly and decide morally when confronted with ill-structured problems is more important than ever. As some observers have said recently, “Thinking is now more important than knowing.”
Fifty years ago this year, the great intellectual and scholar Mortimer Adler spoke on our campus at the installation of Fr. Paul Waldschmidt as president. He spoke words that are timeless and that could easily be spoken today.
“Liberal education is indispensible preparation for citizenship and for the virtuous use of free time,” Professor Adler said. “It helps students learn how to manage and sustain learning throughout their lifetimes. The age in which we live is inimical to liberal education though our age requires it more than any other.”
With the visionary leadership of our deans, we have strengthened the academic experience in countless other ways as well. Our newly reconstituted library, the construction of and renovation of Shiley and Romanaggi Halls, our smart classrooms, our greatly increased student-faculty research, our expanded program of internships and practica, our initial steps into our digital future, our Capstone projects, and our creative interdisciplinary courses are just a few of those ways.
A related challenge we had 10 years ago was to enrich our students’ non-academic experience. During the past decade we have done that in important and lasting ways. When our last fund raising campaign ended in 2002 there was wide-spread agreement that we needed to focus additional attention on that part of our students’ experience that occurred outside the classroom. Our shortcomings were many, but probably the greatest impact was felt as a result of the declining percentage of our students who were living on campus. Our enrollment was increasing but our residence capacity was not. At one point, fewer than 50% of our students were able to live on campus.
The irony of that is that we are deeply committed to the residential experience as a primary way to educate the minds and hearts of our students. Holy Cross schools have always been leaders in developing student life in a way that is programmed, intentional, and interventionist. Our undergraduates learn how to live in and be responsible for a ‘community’. Residentiality is a hallmark of student life here and is the single most effective instrument we have to integrate the knowledge our students acquire. Residence life draws together the ideas and concepts of the laboratory and classroom with the realities of university life, and creates a community unlike any that most students will ever live in again – a community of faith, of work, of service, and of play. So in the past decade we made great strides to reinforce and strengthen this essential element of our students’ experience.
In addition, we have expanded our Commons and other on-campus dining opportunities. We have added new and remodeled athletic facilities. And thanks to the superb work of our athletics directors, Larry Williams and Scott Leykam, our coaches and staff, we have reenergized our athletics program, and we have done that without compromising our values and our mission.
For an institution or community to flourish its members must align themselves with it emotionally. We strengthen our community when we cultivate and nurture the ways that will help all of our members have such emotional identification and enthusiasm. The success of our athletes is one way we accomplish that alignment.
We have enriched opportunities for our students to engage in meaningful service to others by expanding and renaming the Moreau Center and by enhancing and increasing our service learning opportunities.
And we have enriched opportunities for the spiritual growth of all of us. We have appropriate-sized chapels in each of our residence halls, a renovated Chapel of Christ the Teacher, and a bell tower. The Congregation of Holy Cross has affirmed its commitment to the University and we have the second largest community of Holy Cross religious in the world on our campus. And while about half of our students are not Catholic, Catholicism remains essential to our nature as a university.
One of the defining aspects of the University’s Catholicism is our stress on community. Our particular emphasis relates closely to our Catholicism, which elevates to an unusual degree the embeddedness of the individual – the unique creation of God -- within the broader welfare of the common good. This organizes and shapes our response to every challenge or issue we face, from affordability, to inclusiveness, to the student experience. We are a Catholic university and we do not shrink from our religious obligations. For this reason, the Catholic nature of the University was probably our greatest strength and virtue during the past century, let alone the past 10 years, and will be our greatest asset in the years to come.
These were the challenges we faced in 2004. From our vantage point today, the 10 years since I first articulated those challenges have been enormously robust and productive and together we have positioned the University for still more achievement during the journey that we begin today.
I think we all understand that the enhancement of our strengths must be an ongoing process, and indeed we are engaged in projects right now that are strengthening us and upon which the University will stand in the years ahead. Tom Greene recently sent to me a list of 50 issues and tasks which will occupy his attention this year, all of which are highly important. With all due respect to Tom, however, I would draw your attention to only six issues today, each of which will greatly enhance the work we are doing and which will provide us with extra strength and stability in the future.
Last year I appointed a 12-member committee chaired by Tom Greene and Jim Ravelli to map our course into our digital future. As you know, there is widespread speculation about and national experimentation with online courses and the role of technology in pedagogy. Some true believers in the online future are convinced that all but the wealthiest colleges will be swept away by economic pressure and technological innovation. These extreme proponents would “unbundle” education and siphon off certain kinds of learning. This is contrary to our historical commitment to “bundle” education, to integrate all learning into a comprehensive whole. But aside from the claims of those true believers that online education will be the norm of the future, there are indications that the use of technology in our teaching will help control some of the costs of higher education. And some studies show that technology can enhance both teaching and learning. Yet while technology might deliver some factual information effectively it does not seem to facilitate the transmission of values and the formation of character as easily. It also can minimize the treasured relationship between student and teacher.
Certainly, students today are very comfortable with the instruments of technology. Recent studies show that 70% of students use their laptops for research and coursework. 45% have taken at least one online course. And 13% even take class notes on their phones!
Technology will, of course, be integrated into our academic life and will be something upon which our future is built. Our challenge going forward will be to remain steadfastly faithful to our mission and our heritage -- both of which are built on the personal relationships between our faculty and our students -- while keeping pace with the 21st century. I look forward to receiving the report that will be forthcoming from this committee.
Another activity that will further strengthen our community is its internationalization. Tom Greene identified this as one of the six issues that will define our Common Future during his remarks to the faculty last May, and it is one of the Points of Distinction spelled out in our Strategic Plan. Certainly, our study abroad program is a key element in that. In a few weeks I will be joining our Board and several significant benefactors and 40 young men and women in Austria to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our program in Salzburg. But as Tom has pointed out, the internationalization of our campus is a much more complex and nuanced project than our study abroad program alone.
There are several areas we must consider if we are to be truly internationalized: the curriculum, enrollment of international students, our hospitality to and accommodation of those students, faculty and staff development, and the exchange of faculty and student scholars with foreign universities.
Internationalization is not a theory at U.P. Neither is it yet a full blown reality. But the growth of our understanding and implementation of internationalization is an essential development in our community that will strengthen us further. We owe much to our colleague, Kate Regan, for her patient and persistent leadership of our Collaboration for International Studies and Global Outreach which will help us achieve that degree of comprehensive internationalization upon which we might build our future.
Since Basil Moreau founded the Congregation of Holy Cross using a model of collaboration and equality among priests, brothers, sisters, and lay people that is unique within the Catholic Church, Holy Cross has been noted for its inclusivity. Holy Cross also counts hospitality among its charisms and in recent years we have further strengthened our communal sense of this virtue. Three years ago I began a review of our policies on inclusion and a year ago I appointed a Presidential Advisory Committee to help me feel assured that we were doing all that we could to provide every member of our community with a sense of safety and belonging. During the past year that Committee, led by Paul Myers and consisting of ten members of our faculty, staff and student body, engaged in wide consultation and solid research to study this further. The Committee recently delivered to me an excellent report of their findings with specific recommendations for action. These recommendations are comprehensive and apply to all areas in which there might possibly be a concern: race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age, disability or familial status. After consultation with the Board of Regents I will respond to each of these recommendations and share those responses with all of you. The Board, of course, must provide final approval of any action that is taken. This process and the work of this committee has been a great enhancement of our historical commitment to hospitality and of our strong sense of community, and this too will be a strength upon which our future will be built.
Like hospitality, leadership has been yet another of the University's distinguishing characteristics for more than a century and in recent years we have been talking as a community about how we might aggregate the many initiatives across campus that provide leadership training and experience to our students. Under the direction of Robin Anderson, Dean of the Pamplin School of Business, and through the persistence of Pete Rooks, a proposal has been developed for a new Center on campus that would combine our well-established and distinctive program in entrepreneurship with new programs in leadership and innovation. Our long-time friends and benefactors Bob Franz and Elsie Franz Finley recently provided the seed money to start this new Center, named in their honor, and without doubt this will become a signature program for the University in years to come. It will build on one of our historical strengths and will become one of our foundational programs as it grows and develops.
It is important to emphasize that the new Franz Center will not replace the mentoring and leadership training and experiential learning that takes place in your offices and laboratories and classrooms. The Franz Center will enhance and strengthen your individual efforts but it can never replace them.
Another matter that will further strengthen our vibrant sense of community is what I see as an emerging vision of the characteristics our students should exhibit when they graduate. We have an exceptional student body, and we have a rigorous process for the assessment of our work. Now, in the past year or two, thanks to the fine work of Pete Rooks in the development of the Leadership Program in the Franz Center, and of Fr. Gerry Olinger, our vice president of student affairs, we have seen thinking coalesce around the assessment of our students’ growth. Are they developing skills and growing in character as we hope they will? This emerging vision of our students when they have completed their time here will strengthen our community by sharpening our focus and uniting us all in a more clearly understood common purpose.
And finally, Tom Greene, in his address to the faculty last spring, singled out ethics and character formation as an issue that will preoccupy our attention in the years before us. I share Tom’s conviction. Ethics and character formation have always been hallmarks of a UP education and are central themes of the UP experience. The McNerny-Hanson Chair in Ethics, for example, is one of only five University Chairs that the University offers. The recently established Dundon-Berchtold Initiative, under the guidance of Fr. Mark Poorman, our executive vice president, is allowing us to study ways to help our students apply the theories of ethics to the daily actions and decisions of their lives. And the recently established Franz Center of which I just spoke will assure that all of our students are exposed to our core values and will be motivated to engage others to make right and just choices for the common good. As I have said many times before, moral neutrality is not something to which we aspire. Ethics will always be privileged here, always be a signature orientation for us, and always be one of our great strengths and virtues. Basil Moreau challenged us to educate our students in all the things they will need to know once they leave our campus, and ways they might live a good and moral life are among the most important of those things.
All of these challenges are not threats to our mission; to the contrary, they are opportunities to grow and to further strengthen the very heart of our University. Today we can celebrate ten years of steady progress and remarkable achievement. Tomorrow we can begin to build yet another decade upon this solid foundation.
Ours is an incredibly rich history here at the University of Portland. Here on this campus we merge the sense of destiny and hope that is part of the American West, with an intellectual and educational tradition that is anchored in the first universities that were established in Catholic Europe in the 12th century, and with a faith tradition that reaches back two millennia and more. Make no mistake about it: This is hallowed land we walk daily; this is sacred work we do.
The simple truth is that we are the University we are today because you -- and men and women like you -- have chosen to make your lives here. Each of you could have made other choices. You could have committed yourselves to other universities or other communities. But you chose to commit yourselves to this University and to seek fulfillment of your own purpose and promise here. And that has made all the difference.
During the past decade we have enriched the experience our students find here because of your talent and dedication and the exceptional generosity of our benefactors. Like Lewis and Clark, and like Archbishop Alexander Christie and Father John Zahm, our founders, we all bring a message of hope -- to our students and to the world. We -- all of us -- share a hope-filled belief in the power of an educational community to change and shape the minds and hearts and lives of the people on our campus, and in so doing change the world beyond our bluff.
This is our historic calling: to preserve hope and to banish despair. It is something we must do together, all of us, with unquenchable zeal and passion. For 10 years we have been working towards today, towards this moment in our history. Together we have not only been dreaming great dreams, but we have been bringing them to life. And now today our future begins. So let us renew our faith and trust in one another, and in the goodness and promise of Providence, and begin our journey anew. May God bless you and your work, and may God bless the
University of Portland.