Smithson Highlights University’s Progress, Priorities at Fall Convocation

Friday, September 23, 2011

At the Fall Convocation held last Tuesday, Interim President John Smithson ’68 (B.S.), ’82 (MBA) addressed a capacity crowd in the Wolfington Teletorium on a broad range of University initiatives, outlining the progress on the Bridge Plan and looking ahead to the goals and priorities of Plan 2020: Gateway to the Future and the Academic Strategic Plan, Seeking the Magis, currently under review.

Under the Bridge Plan, Smithson noted, significant progress has been accomplished on key priorities:  Villiger Hall, currently under construction at the Cardinal Avenue gateway to campus and representing a $40 million investment, will add 400 beds for first-year students; the newly renovated Merion Hall on the Maguire Campus is now home to the departments of English, Education and Sociology and the Richard Johnson Center for Anti-Violence; the Post Learning Commons, and the significant investment in curricular innovation with the General Education Program, new majors and minors and the ongoing faculty hiring plan.

Among the projects completed this summer is the new Campus Commons/Admissions Welcome Center (formerly the Episcopal Academy chapel).  “It’s spectacular!” Smithson exclaimed.

The Academic Strategic Plan, currently under review, will position Saint Joseph’s as a liberal arts institution recognized for academic distinction and committed to Jesuit values of service and diversity, he noted.  In addition to the hiring of more full-time faculty, it calls for identifying and promoting “programs of excellence” and experiential learning.

Saint Joseph’s “is in very good financial condition,” said Smithson, “in a challenging higher education market,” noting the particular competitiveness facing private institutions.

“Tuition pricing and affordability will continue to be a challenge for us, given the competition and the economy.”

Smithson lauded the University’s impressive leap in the U.S. News & World Report 2012 rankings from No. 13 last year to No. 8 of 179 regional universities north. Other U.S. News rankings included No. 135 out of 446 institutions for Best Undergraduate Business Programs, and among Best Undergraduate Business Program Specialties, Marketing (including Food and Pharm) ranked No. 16 out of 446, Insurance ranked No. 11 out of 446, and for the first time, Accounting was ranked No. 25 out of 446.

To view the full Convocation presentation, click here. You must have an SJU username and password to access the slides.

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