Progress, Priorities Outlined at University Convocation

Friday, September 16, 2016

by Jeffrey Martin '04, '05 (M.A.)

Saint Joseph’s senior leadership addressed a capacity crowd of faculty, staff and administrators at the Fall University Convocation, held on Thursday, September 15 – the 165th anniversary of the founding of the original College – in the Cardinal John P. Foley Campus Center. Among the topics discussed were enrollment, academic achievement and a new strategic planning process aimed at capturing momentum and imagining the institution’s future.

The next strategic plan – framed by the theme “Building a Culture of Excellence, Innovation and Collaboration” – will be finalized by the end of the academic year, according to University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. Over the course of the year, a series of presentations and open forums will be held to solicit input from all segments of the SJU community. Information about the first of these sessions, to be held on Tuesday, October 4, will be shared in the coming weeks.

“As a University, we must focus sharply on our academic quality,” Dr. Reed said of the plan. “We want to have the most qualified faculty, dedicated staff and competitive facilities so that we can provide the optimal experience for our students.”

Dr. Reed applauded the University’s recent ranking of No. 11 among 187 regional universities (North) in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2017 edition — making SJU the top-ranked regional university in the Philadelphia metropolitan area — as well as the rankings of several programs in the Haub School of Business: risk management and insurance (No. 1), marketing (No. 8), accounting (No. 10) and business intelligence & analytics (No. 21).

Dr. Reed underscored the University’s “extraordinary” 91.3% retention rate as an even better indicator than rankings of the caliber of a Saint Joseph’s educational experience. He also pointed to the University’s Atlantic 10 conference affiliation and the tremendous academic achievements of our student athletes as distinguishing assets.

Provost Jeanne Brady, Ph.D., highlighted the new Class of 2020 as contributing to the largest full-time undergraduate enrollment in SJU history. Dr. Brady pointed to the academic strength of the class, which boasts an average high school GPA of 3.62 and average SAT and ACT scores of 1144 and 25.7, respectively. She also noted the 6% decrease in the admit rate since 2014 and the 87% of freshmen who took honors or AP courses in high school.

“We enter this year with great enthusiasm and optimism,” Dr. Brady said. “Maintaining academic quality is a must as we continue to improve our selectivity.”

Praising the work of the SJU faculty, Dr. Brady welcomed eight new tenure-track members and 18 returning from full-year or semester-long sabbaticals. Congratulations were given to those faculty who completed sponsored research over the last year, including funded summer research and the recent announcement of the Michael J. Morris ’56 Grants for the upcoming year. Dr. Brady announced a partnership between the Offices of Research Services, Advancement and External Affairs dedicated to identifying new opportunities for faculty to earn grants.

Dr. Brady also introduced Monica L. Nixon, Ed.D., the University’s first assistant provost for inclusion and diversity, and announced the development of a new space in Campion Student Center dedicated to campus diversity, scheduled to be completed by the end of the fall semester.

“Our goal as a University is to support a sustained, inclusive environment for all members of the community,” Dr. Brady said.

Finally, she announced that the University has partnered with the search firm Isaacson, Miller to begin a national search for the next permanent dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. More information, including the composition of the search committee, will be released soon.

David Beaupré, vice president for finance and administration, provided a budget update. He pointed to several highlights, including a 39 percent increase in financial aid over the last five years and 20 percent endowment growth, aided by the effectiveness of the University’s investment portfolio. A very strong operating margin was also reported for the 2015-16 academic year, due primarily to disciplined expense management in all divisions.

Beaupré expressed the need to further grow the endowment to allow for greater investments in facilities and technology to improve the student experience. A strong endowment would also lessen the reliance on tuition dollars to fund expenditures and provide financial assistance to students, he explained.

Dr. Reed commented that the financial status of the University was “reflective of an institution that people believe in and want to invest in.”

Overall, Dr. Reed expressed that there is great promise ahead for the University. “We are fundamentally a stronger institution today than we were a year ago,” he said. “We must build on our momentum as we are approach this year of strategic planning. There is a shared vision among all of us to move Saint Joseph’s forward.”

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