Message From The President
Autumn has asserted its lovely presence, and the academic year is well underway. A new academic year always rings bells that call us to the starting line where, once again, the race — the familiar cycling of our lives and work — is on!
One of the presidency's great pleasures is the splendid vista it provides. Whether from The O'Shaughnessy stage, my office, a packed Rauenhorst ballroom, or out and about on our campuses, I see the University from an amazing and privileged perspective: as a vital and dynamic organism, beautiful and captivating to behold. St. Kate's is alive, exciting and diverse, connected as one by the enduring values we share. No challenge or problem — however overwhelming or unprecedented — can trump our collective intelligence and creativity.
In late August, a string of exhilarating events ensues to welcome faculty, staff and students, galvanize energy, and set us all on the right trajectory for a year of significant accomplishment.
Orientation introduces a talented array of newly hired professors to our mission and vision and the hopes we have for the faculty's work here. Senior professors engage new colleagues around the three elements of our mission — Catholic, women and liberal arts — as well as our core curriculum, campus culture and singular focus on students.
Opening Faculty-Staff Workshop has to be experienced to be understood. Each year I look for some creative way to start the year and infuse the energy we'd like to sustain throughout the academic semesters. The themes each year stem from my background in the arts. Video, music, dance, art, visuals, props and the spoken word deliver messages that can never be repeated too often: "This is a very special community. You play an essential role. Competence is important, but so is energy and enthusiasm. We are all in this together. There is hard work ahead and important goals to attain, and they are eminently worth our best effort. So let's get to it."
This year the Dueling Pianos band from The Shout House in Minneapolis joined 30 members of the St. Catherine Company Dancers in spirited, physically taxing tap dance routines to songs ranging from Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" to Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." Opening Workshop is the one chance I have annually to address all faculty, staff and student leaders, and there are serious messages to convey (as well as song and dance).
My talk always includes a welcome to new employees and a "shout out" PowerPoint that highlights outstanding faculty and staff contributions during the prior year. This year, I finished with a meditative reflection to the Leonard Cohen song "Anthem," complete with hand bells, beautiful voices and exquisite signing by one of our ASL/interpreting faculty. The morning ended with our "Lemon Pledge," part of which I'll share here:
I will give people the benefit of the doubt.
I will remember that there is much to be said for intellectual rigor, the collection of good data and the discipline of careful analysis.
I will remember that intuition is a powerful driver of innovation and excellence.
I will welcome criticism as a valuable
source of information.
I will illumine the large issues.
I will communicate lavishly and
be miserly with my criticism.
I will unite with others around the goal of knowing our competition and outsmarting it.
I will tell St. Catherine's deep story and
look for its connecting threads.
Each attendee received a fresh lemon to symbolize the pledge, which I adapted from the Eupsychian Management work of Abraham Maslow and Cohen's "Anthem."
After a picnic lunch, the University community gathered to work on the 2013–2017 priorities for the University's 2020 Vision Strategic Plan. Follow-up sessions have taken place with the Alumnae Council and Board of Trustees, and additional sessions are scheduled in November with faculty and staff, all moving toward the Board of Trustees' consideration and approval of the plan for the next four years.
Deeply centered in mission
Dean Alan Silva and his Higher Learning Commission team took center stage the next day to prepare everyone for the decennial visit scheduled for late February 2013. The Alumnae Council had a chance to participate in similar preparation, as did the Board of Trustees.
After a busy weekend of wrapping up our first-ever booth at the Minnesota State Fair and conducting move-in and orientation for hundreds of new Katies, the St. Paul campus quieted down for a lovely candlelight ritual as new students concluded their orientation on Tuesday night. Jean Wincek, CSJ, SP'62 — a vice chair of our Board of Trustees — inspired the students as she spoke of their essential partnership in the CSJ mission.
After the Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit and vesting of University leaders on Wednesday, September 5, faculty and staff members in full academic regalia spilled down the Chapel steps to start the procession to The O'Shaughnessy, led by me and Renee Crepeau SP '13, president of the Student Senate. The annual Opening Convocation centered on students and faculty engaged in compelling research work, as well as the announcement of Professor Kathleen Matuska as recipient of the 2012 Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award.
Of all the thoughts one has during such a packed 10 days, this seems the most powerful and true — that St. Catherine is a learning community deeply centered in its mission.
With clear goals, high hope and positive energy as our fuel, and with your help and support, I know our work will bear abundant fruit. I am proud and grateful to belong to this community and to serve as its leader. Thank you for bringing your intelligence and personal commitment to bear in your work and in your lives, and for including St. Kate's in the circle of all that reaps the benefit of your wisdom and generosity.