Convocation 2018

University of Portland's faculty and staff gathered for the Opening Convocation on August 28, 2018. The following are remarks from President Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C.

Good afternoon, and thank you so much for joining me today. This convocation is the perfect opportunity for us to take a collective deep breath, to reflect on where we have been and what we have accomplished, and to look forward to a new academic year. So, I thank you again for your presence here.

This has been an eventful year at the University of Portland and a year of change and growth, both as individuals and as a campus community. From our campus landscape to our core curriculum, and from the issues we face together even to the changing faces around us, this year provided powerful reminders of the steadfastness of our academic and Catholic missions and the importance of our values-centered campus culture in the midst of cultural flux and a number of cross-currents in contemporary higher education.

My address today is perhaps more detailed than usual. I want to devote a significant portion of my remarks to three topics that are of tremendous importance to all members of our University community: diversity, inclusion, and Title IX. While fostering an equitable, affirming campus climate on The Bluff has long been a priority, we were reminded by events this past spring that work in this area must continue. Over the summer, we embarked on a process of reflection and self-evaluation. We thought critically, honestly, and deliberately about where our strengths lie and where opportunities for growth exist. I am eager to now provide an update on the work that has been done in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and adherence to Title IX, and the work that continues.

But first, I want to start by offering some matters of note in various departments, divisions, and schools across campus, both from this past year and looking ahead at the year to come.

I will start with the Office of Admissions. More than a thousand new students arrived at The Bluff this past weekend as the Class of 2022, and they are not here by accident. They are here as the result of the purposeful and diligent work of Dean Jason McDonald and the entire admissions team to tell the story of UP and welcome new members to our campus community. The Class of 2022 is on target to once again to exceed 1000 students, and historically underrepresented minorities make up 39 percent of the class. So first, my sincere congratulations and thanks to Jason and his team.

This time of the year reminds me of the many people at UP who make these first days of school so smooth and successful. There are too many to name, and surely I'd forget someone. But I would like to mention a team that is not often in the spotlight although they are a key to our success as a University—the team of hardworking individuals in Printing and Mailing Services, led by Mary Scroggins. Though it requires early mornings and late evenings to provide everything that professors and students need before classes begin, this team is instrumental in making sure that syllabi and course packs are printed and ready for pick up. They also touch every piece of mail and package that is shipped between offices, that is shipped off campus, and that is received by us. In the last academic year, they handled a total of 70,057 packages (not mail, just packages). And of these, over 45,000 were delivered to the residence halls for our students. Because they work so hard and so efficiently that we often overlook how critical their efforts are to our success, I'd like to ask Mary Scroggins to stand to be recognized. Please join me in thanking Mary and her team.

Last year, Admissions began working with Marketing and Communications on an exciting new endeavor: a complete rebranding of UP's recruitment materials. With input from numerous stakeholders, including students and faculty, the team developed a new creative platform to tell the admissions story which will ultimately be a campaign entitled "Wonder." "Wonder" captures a concept so simple, but one that is at the root of everything we do here and want our students to do—ask the difficult questions, engage in thoughtful dialogue, and explore creative solutions. Beginning this fall, look for "Wonder" as the voice of UP Admissions as we start the cycle once again and recruit the class of 2023.

I don't think you can talk about intellectual curiosity without speaking of what our faculty members accomplish in the classroom; and nowhere is this better captured than a publication released last year called "Awaken the Stars," edited by our own Shannon Mayer and Jacquie Van Hoomissen. Shannon and Jacquie asked twenty-five faculty members of various academic disciplines at UP the question, "What do you really teach?" The result is a collection of beautifully-written essays that offer an answer and, as it states in their prologue, "look beyond what is in the course catalog, class syllabi, or reading list." They are true testimonies to the vocation of teaching. I encourage you all to read through it if you haven't already.

This November, we will host the culminating celebration for the Opus Prize. As you have heard, the Opus Prize is one of the world's largest faith-based awards for social entrepreneurship. Each year, the Opus Prize Foundation chooses one Catholic university to help it award one $1 million and two $100,000 prizes recognizing individuals who are addressing persistent and pressing social problems.

This past spring, six University of Portland students, three members of the Board of Regents, and three faculty members—Andrew Nuxoll from the Shiley School of Engineering, Amber Vermeesch from the School of Nursing, and Dean John Watzke from the School of Education—served as UP's ambassadors and visited the Opus Prize finalists in their fields in India, Peru, and Chicago. These due diligence expeditions were truly transformational experiences for the ambassadors as they witnessed in action the powerful work of these agents for social change.

The University will host representatives of the three finalist organizations for a week-long celebration beginning on November 11, culminating with the announcement of the $1 million prize winner on Thursday, November 15. During this week, UP and the greater Portland community will have the chance to engage with and learn from these humanitarians who have devoted their lives to service. This is an opportunity to have conversations that matter and to explore how to creatively address social problems through innovation and entrepreneurship. I hope you will not only mark your calendars for that week of November 11, but also that you will join others in thinking about how you can incorporate the values and goals of the Opus Prize into your classrooms and other settings.

It is appropriate here to acknowledge the amazingly energetic work of Dan McGinty. When the opportunity to partner with the Opus Prize Foundation came to us well over a year ago, Dan immediately came to mind as someone who has the energy, the passion, and the faith to lead this project. Dan has engaged community and business leaders; spoken to countless students, faculty, and staff; and, along the way, consumed innumerable cups of coffee. The result has been a partnership so remarkable that even the Opus Prize Foundation is truly taken with the University's efforts and has commented as such. So, thank you, Dan, for taking on this work. I share in your hope that the Opus Prize becomes a catalyst for much more in the future here at UP.

This summer marked the first-ever UP Holy Cross pilgrimage to the Basse-Normandie region of France from June 23 to July 3. Led by Provost Tom Greene, Fr. Charlie Gordon, and Karen Eifler, a dozen faculty members, representing all professional schools and CAS, followed a chronological arc of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Participants included Eddie Contreras, Julie Kalnin, Mark Kennedy, Lorretta Krautscheid, Ken Lulay, Stephanie Michel, Elise Moentmann, Tisha Morrell, and Lisa Reed.

This was not a historical tour but a genuine pilgrimage with the explicit intention of personal transformation. For the first few days, they walked in the footsteps of Blessed Basil Moreau and learned of the dire circumstances under which he founded the Congregation of Holy Cross. The second half of the pilgrimage consisted of pondering and re-imagining their own roles as co-disciples living out and contributing to the mission of Holy Cross here at UP.

These twelve campus participants were truly impacted by their pilgrimage and are now doing the important work of incorporating their transformative experiences into the curriculum. This journey brings to bear several goals we set in the University's Strategic Plan, Vision 2020, and we hope to make it available to faculty on a regular basis, perhaps as early as summer of 2020.

Those of you returning to campus after our summer break probably very quickly saw extensive changes to the physical landscape of The Bluff. Dundon-Berchtold Hall, the new academic center, the walls of which are rising right now outside these doors, is on track to open in June 2019. Gratefully, like other current capital projects, it is on time and under budget. It is truly captivating to watch this 62,000-square foot academic center take shape right here in the middle of our campus.

Not as visible but similarly transformative have been the renovations to the School of Nursing simulation labs on the second floor of Buckley Center. Thanks to generous support from Elsie Franz Finley and Mike and Arlette Nelson, this fall we are opening a state-of-the-art Simulated Health Center in the School of Nursing, one of the only academic models of its kind on the West Coast. Mike and Arlette's gift honors their daughter's educational experience at UP, and Elsie's gift honors her personal experience benefiting from the competent and compassionate care of our UP-educated nurses. Thanks to their generosity, our students will feel as if they have walked into a hospital wing while still being on campus. There are now seventeen patient rooms, all with the same technology and equipment found in our partnering hospitals, as well as six simulation suites that offer students opportunities to practice acute care in disciplines critical to today's health care industry, from pediatrics to mental health, and rural care to multicultural encounters.

Next month we will honor the late Bob Franz and his sister, the late Elsie Franz Finley, at a special ceremony on the Franz Campus. Together, Bob and Elsie have helped UP become a preeminent educational institution in the West. It was a very generous gift from Bob's estate that has allowed the University to move forward with development of the thirty-five-acre lower campus property. If you have not been down there recently, the soccer fields are completed and ready for play this fall. Next spring, work will begin on the boathouse and dock, environmental studies space, and track and field facilities. I know there are faculty who are eager to take advantage of the new educational opportunities that the Franz Campus and its facilities will offer. From Cara Poor in engineering testing water quality to biology's Laurie Dizney's vision for restoring monarch butterfly habitat, there is a myriad of multidisciplinary study already underway or in the works.

In addition to a new tennis facility, one of the final pieces added to the Franz Campus will be a brand-new building to house the many operations of the Physical Plant. The new Walter E. Nelson building, named for the father of Mike Nelson, who with his wife Arlette made the new facility possible, will not only expand the capabilities and efficiencies of our extraordinary physical plant staff, but will also provide us with the opportunity to re-purpose the existing building. More about that in a moment.

First, I want to emphasize that these capital improvements are the result of the generosity, loyalty, and commitment of several individuals. Transforming and expanding our campus and the academic experience would not be possible without our donors. This past April, the UP community came together for #PilotsGive, the University's first Annual Day of Giving, and in doing so they truly illustrated the power of collective giving. I want to take a moment to highlight the work of Amy Eaton, UP's Director of Development, and Linda Miles, the Annual Fund Marketing Manager. It was Amy who served as chief architect and chief supporter of #PilotsGive. Thanks to her leadership, as well as the efforts of Linda and the many others who worked hard to make this one-day campaign happen, we surpassed every goal we set for the first year, including quickly passing our target of 1,000 donors and finishing the day with over 2,700 individual donors. 

I know there are many who are interested to hear the plans for the current Physical Plant building. Over the next few years, our plan is to renovate that space into an experiential, hands-on lab for innovation and experimentation. Efforts to create a center for industry partnerships and collaborations are already underway. The Shiley School of Engineering has been working with Hyster-Yale, and soon Tektronix, to bring innovation and product development into our classrooms. With the new space, students from every discipline will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with industry partners to test and design products and develop their own solutions and results.

The new space will build on the work already accomplished in the Innovation Lab in the Franz Center for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in the Pamplin School of Business, in the Maker Space in Shiley Hall, and a proposed Innovation minor in the College of Arts and Sciences this fall. These spaces and opportunities on campus will allow more and more of our students to succeed in turning their ideas and concepts into reality – like Dagan Kay, who this year won both the $100k Challenge Venture Competition and InventOR, or Michael Williamson, a finance major and E-Scholar whose snowboarding design took him to an international competition for young entrepreneurs. Stay tuned for more information on the exciting future for this facility.

The School of Education has pioneered several innovative partnerships of their own in recent years that put students at the front of classrooms in every semester of their studies, beginning freshman year. These include field placements in schools and school-related social services, a new study abroad option in Quito, Ecuador, where students serve in local schools while learning language and culture, and a year-long student teaching placement where our senior teacher candidates open the school year and work as a practicing teacher in a classroom.

These academic achievements reflect the University's deep commitment to a rigorous and intensely personal education. A key component of the University's Strategic Plan is to develop and sustain undergraduate education, including revitalizing the liberal arts core curriculum. We embrace this core curriculum review because it's crucial for our Catholic identity, and indeed, our alums, their families, and their employers all tell us that this is a distinguishing mark of a UP education. It truly helps students understand that these are valuable learning experiences with the content, skills, and values that will guide them throughout their professional and personal futures. As many of you know, the core curriculum review began over a year ago and has relied on important input gleaned from presentations and listening sessions. Every faculty group has been consulted, and we've invited constituents from other institutions of higher education, the business and non-profit communities, and others to provide key perspectives on the skills and values that every UP graduate should have.

Last spring, faculty were invited to submit proposals on how they would update the core curriculum. On August 16th, the committee met to consider nine proposals that were received from faculty. That input, along with reviews of literature and curricula from other institutions and the input gathered last year, will help the committee craft a recommendation that will advance to the Curriculum and Academic Regulations Committee by the end of this academic year. The new core curriculum will be implemented in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Other updates in academics: This fall we welcome Herbert Medina as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Medina, who comes to UP from Loyola Marymount, is committed to a liberal arts core curriculum, academic excellence, experiential learning experiences, Catholic higher education, and so many more values shared by the UP community. I am particularly excited about Dr. Medina's interest in diversity and in increasing the participation of historically underrepresented groups in the STEM fields.

Also in the College of Arts and Sciences, Andrew Downs, Associate Professor of Psychology, has been named a new Associate Dean.

As you know, Joane Moceri, our esteemed Dean of the School of Nursing, retired this summer. Casey Shillam has been appointed Interim Dean and is leading the School's work in updating its curriculum to promote innovation in healthcare, create leaders in nursing, and expand experiential learning opportunities. A search for a permanent Dean for the school is underway.

On the Administration front, earlier this month we said farewell to Fr. Gerry Olinger, our VP of University Relations, who, after nine years here at UP, left for an opportunity to be the Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. In the coming weeks, we will launch a national search for a Vice President for University Relations. In the meantime, Bryce Strang, Senior Associate Vice President for Development, is serving as the Interim Vice President while the search is conducted. 

Earlier this summer I announced two promotions to vice presidency and four additions to the President's Leadership Cabinet. Andrea Barton, the University's General Counsel, was promoted to Vice President and General Counsel, and Sandy Chung, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, was promoted to Vice President for Human Resources.

In addition, Eddie Contreras, Assistant Provost for International Education, Diversity, and Inclusion; Elise Moentmann, Associate Provost; Matthew Rygg, Associate Vice President for Student Development; Evan Leadem, Special Assistant to the President; and Rowena Bramlette, who has been promoted to Associate Vice President for Budgeting, all joined the President's Leadership Cabinet.

I congratulate all of these leaders on their promotions, but I'd like to take a moment and say a few words about Rowena, in particular. Rowena embodies all of the attributes that make the staff at UP so wonderful; she's selfless, exudes an inspiring positive attitude, and, frankly, just gets the job done. Every year, she guides virtually all of the divisions and departments on campus as they set their budgeting goals and work to achieve them. Her generosity of time, willingness to educate, and gracious approach make what can feel like a burdensome task so much easier for everyone. So, a heartfelt thank you to Rowena.

These additional appointments to the PLC will greatly benefit us and will ensure that important new voices are heard in conversations regarding the strategic direction of the University.

Building a diverse, inclusive, and supportive community at UP is ongoing work. As we continue to implement the various strategies and tactics of the Strategic Plan, this summer I announced a reorganization in collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs that will further advance Strategy D of the Strategic Plan: to infuse our community with a sense of Internationalization and Diversity. As of July 1, a new academic unit, the Office of International Education, Diversity, and Inclusion, has been created.

Eddie Contreras, in his new role as Assistant Provost, will assume responsibility for this unit, which will be located in Buckley Center and will offer a space where students can gather in a supportive environment that embodies the University's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Director of International Students Michael Pelley and the Collaborative for International Studies and Global Outreach, or CISGO, will work in this unit. Additionally, Eddie will oversee a new staff member who will lead initiatives in these areas. The search to fill this new role continues and we hope to have an announcement on an appointment soon. Yuri Hernandez Osorio, Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion programs in the Office of Student Activities, will provide support to this new staff member once the hire is completed.

Diversity takes many shapes at UP, but a significant part of our work in this area is accomplished in the Office of Admissions. As I mentioned, this year historically underrepresented minorities make up over 39% of the incoming class. These numbers do not occur by chance. The outreach and recruitment efforts by the Admissions team and the partnerships they build deserve a good portion of the credit. I'd like to mention Cassy Esparza, in particular. Cassy has done such an impressive job working with underrepresented students through her work with many different community-based organizations that promote the enrollment and success of ethnically and culturally diverse students. These include the Davis Foundation in New Mexico, the Black United Fund in Portland, College Possible in Portland, and College Horizons.  Cassy also serves on the President's Advisory Committee on Inclusion and helps with the UP Connections program. Cassy, thanks for your dedication and a job well done.

At the outset of my remarks, I mentioned that the work done in Title IX warrants our attention. The incident at the Wally Awards and the conversations that followed it—both among our community members and the departments charged with Title IX compliance and student support—have strengthened our commitment to constant education of ourselves and improvement that began over a year ago with formation of the Ad Hoc Title IX Advisory Committee. I'd like to share what we have accomplished this summer and what we will continue to work on in the areas of Title IX and the prevention of sexual and gender-based harassment, misconduct, and violence.

First, I'd like to extend my gratitude to Sandy Chung, Vice President for Human Resources, and Matthew Rygg, Associate Vice President for Student Development, for their leadership on this issue. I also want to announce that, going forward, Sandy will serve as the Title IX Coordinator for Compliance, and Matt will serve as the Title IX Coordinator for Education.

Prior to UP, Sandy was the Title IX Coordinator at Santa Monica College for almost five years, and then during her time at Stanford, she worked closely with Stanford's Title IX Office. As an attorney, Sandy represented individuals in areas including domestic violence, child and sex trafficking, and modern slavery conditions in sweatshops.

Matt has deep experience in Title IX as well. Prior to UP, Matt served as the Interim Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at Clark College and has served in various senior administrative roles supporting students in crisis, adjudicating complex student conduct cases, and working to improve campus environments.

There are several other Title IX staffing updates to share:

  • Megan Cohara has been hired as the new Wellness Education & Prevention Program Coordinator. She will report to both the Director of the Health and Counseling Center and the Title IX Coordinator for Education. Megan brings experiences in health promotion and wellness from Ohio State University, and will focus on interpersonal violence prevention and bystander intervention training as well as health and wellness and alcohol and drug harm reduction programming.

  • Meg Farra has been hired as the new Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students. Prior to coming to UP, Meg was a social worker. She has a deep commitment to social justice and has worked to support individuals in difficult situations, including situations involving domestic violence and sexual assault.

  • Patrick Plaza has been hired as the new Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Administrative Processes. Patrick comes to UP with a background at the State of Oregon, where he has spent twenty-five years working for civil rights in workplaces across Oregon.

Our students—Michael Gallagher, ASUP Vice President, and Emma Covert and Shelby Gavigan, Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) Co-Presidents—were part of the hiring process for all of these Title IX positions.

I'd also like to mention the contribution of Kat North in Student Affairs, who is leading a committee that is updating the University's Title IX website. The team is working hard to make the new site as intuitive and helpful as possible for the entire UP community, incorporating several updates to policies and processes, including the following:

The "Interpersonal Violence" section has been re-titled with the more descriptive heading of "Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Misconduct, and Violence" to increase student usability. The policies in this newly-titled section will offer an expanded definition of both consent and incapacitation as well as expanded and clarified resources available to students seeking a confidential conversation regarding their options. These on-campus confidential resources will now include all Health and Counseling Center staff and clinicians as well as all priests and lay ministers in Campus Ministry. As always, Holy Cross priests and pastoral residents who do not hold positions requiring university-wide administrative duties will also be available as confidential resources. All Holy Cross priests will remain available for confidentiality within the Sacrament of Confession. In addition, the "Community Against Violence" will be restored and re-created as a Title IX advisory committee for the coming year with broad representation from students, faculty, and staff. An important area of work for the advisory committee will be confidential resources for students and how to do more in this area, including reviewing programs like Safe Advocates.

It is our shared responsibility to build an environment of safety, respect, and support for each and every member of the UP community. There are a number of changes to share regarding Education & Outreach, not just for students but for faculty and staff, as well.

First, Early Alert Coordinator Gina Loschiavo and Tyler Zimmerman of Student Activities attended a four-day Green Dot training in Virginia that prepared them to train students, faculty, and staff on the Green Dot program essentials, which will also be augmented by other bystander training programs. Gina and Tyler have been busy training hall staff and all new students at Orientation, and they will be working with the Title IX team to train faculty and staff, and collaborating with new Wellness Education & Prevention Program Coordinator and Peer Health Educators to train students on campus.

For Students:

  • Each new and returning student will be required to complete an online training module concerning sexual assault prevention.

  • A new addition this year: Every student—whether new or returning—will be required to complete an online alcohol education training module. These modules will conduct follow-up assessments which will help us identify any gaps in our educational programs.

  • Each new student will also be introduced to the concepts of consent education at the Pilots Care program, as well as bystander intervention trainings as part of New Student Orientation.

  • Also new this year: Every residence hall community will meet on Sunday, September 2nd at 8 p.m., for a session entitled "Talk About It." New students will be required to attend, and returning students will be encouraged to participate in a discussion facilitated by the Hall Director and Assistant Hall Director about caring for one another specifically in the areas of incapacitation, consent, and bystander intervention. Hall Directors will meet one-on-one with residents who cannot attend.

  • Departments in the Division of Student Affairs will be offering educational programs within the first six weeks to provide more specific training, as well as to support the work of raising awareness about sexual and gender-based harassment, misconduct, and violence.

  • Student Affairs and the Title IX team are collaborating with the Athletic Department to bring national speakers to campus this fall. More details will be made available soon on these as they are finalized.

Our Athletic Department will incorporate new ways to work to improve student-athlete training and outreach:

  • In addition to the national speakers I mentioned, beginning in 2018-19, the Athletic Department will require each varsity program to meet with the Title IX Coordinator, the Director of Public Safety, and the Green Dot Project one to two times per academic year.

  • Student athletes living on campus will be part of the community "Talk About It" meetings in residence halls on September 2nd.

  • The syllabus for the single-unit course for freshmen student athletes will be augmented to include education on sexual misconduct prevention, diversity, and campus resources, policies, and procedures.

  • The Athletic Department will specifically develop programming for the men's tennis team for 2018-19 academic year.

  • Finally, the Athletic Department recognizes the importance of their staff, coaches, and student athletes being fully integrated into the campus community and will work closely with Student Affairs to ensure true integration of student athletes across all residence halls, dining facilities, and academic disciplines.

For Faculty

  • The Title IX team will meet with faculty in every school and college at the beginning of the year, and Student Affairs will also work to offer Green Dot/Bystander Intervention training to faculty during the fall semester.

For Staff

  • On October 15th, offices across campus will be closed for a staff development day. The focus of professional development this year will be diversity, inclusion, and equity, which will include bystander intervention training. In addition to workshops on October 15th, training opportunities in this area will be made available throughout the year.

  • Finally, there has been an increased focus on the role of residence life staff in Title IX at ongoing hall staff training this year.

As you have just heard, we have used the summer months to accomplish significant work and achieve important progress. I realize that there is a lot to absorb here, but know that the University's efforts to promote a campus climate of dignity and respect that is free from all forms of violence will continue. That commitment takes time, diligence, and hard work on all of our parts. I commit to you again today that this issue will remain a primary focus of the University.

To that end, I'd like to share some of the ongoing goals for the Title IX team beginning this Fall:

  • In addition to the policy updates I have already described, the team will continue to review Title IX policies and processes in light of the Ad Hoc Title IX Committee's recommendations.
  • They will also expand bystander intervention programs and increase training regarding available resources – including confidential ones. Trainings for particular student constituencies, including international students, students studying abroad, and off-campus students, will be expanded as well.

  • Title IX staff will partner with Students Against Sexual Assault and other student organizations to remain attentive to what students need in terms of resources and to support a long-term, sustainable culture of respect.

  • Lastly, the Title IX team will remain committed to improving the functionality of the Title IX website and thinking boldly and creatively about providing new and enhanced resources for students, faculty, and staff.

Beyond these prodigious efforts over the summer to improve our institutional commitments to diversity and Title IX, we have also committed to taking new steps to advance our communications protocols, including the creation of a new Department of Public Affairs in the University Relations division. Led by Beth Sorensen as director, this department will oversee media and public relations and make communication planning, training, and response top priorities.

Looking ahead, we know challenges remain and our work continues, but I am encouraged by the dedication of our community members to the constant pursuit of improvement and progress. You have just heard examples of not only individual progress, but also the collective progress that can occur when community members work together. I am both humbled and proud to serve a University that meets challenges in this devoted and collaborative manner.

As we begin the year, let us be mindful of the blessings present every day in this community: bright, engaged, and passionate students; deeply committed faculty and staff; and a spirited, faith-filled community of learning and service.

Please know of my prayers and the prayers of the entire Holy Cross Community for all of you. Again, I am grateful for your presence and attentiveness here today, and may God bless us and keep us in the days ahead. Thank you very much.