To a large degree we are creatures of the academic calendar, which though technically beginning with summer quarter is more widely understood to kick off in the fall. Then there's the university's fiscal year, which begins July 1 as another significant unit by which we mark time. All of which is to say that good old-fashioned calendar, as in January to December, can sometimes seem irrelevant in the overall rhythm of university life. So let's look back on 10 of the top highlights of what was a very good 2012.
1. Without a doubt the year's biggest moment came in March when Seattle University received the 2012 Presidential Award for community service, the highest honor the federal government confers on a college or university for civic engagement, service learning and volunteerism. SU was one of only five institutions selected from nearly 800 schools for the award, and was specifically chosen as the top institution in the "Promise Neighborhoods" category, in recognition of the work we are accomplishing in partnership with our neighbors through the Seattle University Youth Initiative. Last month, Seattle Public Schools reported that Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, SU's key partner in the Youth Initiative, had the highest increase in state test scores of any Seattle public school, and the report stated that SUYI helped the school and its students "tremendously."
2. Staying on the subject of recognition, Seattle University's Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons received a "New Landmark Library" award over the summer. Library Journal, the most widely read periodical in the library profession, recognized SU for its powerful blend of architecture, design and services. SU's library was one of just five in the nation to receive the honor. Other honors and recognitions coming SU's way this year included being ranked: among the top 10 master's universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report; number two in the nation for increasing overall graduation rates of Hispanic students by the Education Trust; number three in the nation among master's institutions for the number of Fulbright Scholars we produced in 2012-2013; and among the 50 greenest organizations in Washington state by Seattle Business.
3. Seattle University Park, which opened in September, is drawing rave reviews as a dramatically enhanced recreational and gathering space for the campus community. The new turf and lighting nearly double the number of hours the field is available for intramural sports. Reoriented in the southwest corner, Logan Field is a tremendous new home for our softball team and their fans. And with "Seattle U" now boldly emblazoned on the turf, "Seattle University isn't just on the map-we're on the flight pattern," said President Stephen Sundborg, S.J.
4. The Strategic Planning Council took the lead in charting a course for SU's next three to five years. Feedback from key stakeholders on the council's preliminary report is now being reviewed with a view toward submitting the final Strategic Plan for the Board of Trustees' consideration in February.
5. Our women's basketball team turned in their most successful season. Among other accomplishments, the team notched its first 20-win season as an NCAA Division I program and made its their first Division I postseason appearance-which, by the way, was the first postseason appearance for any Seattle U team since the school began the NCAA Division I reclassification process. The Redhawks more than doubled, and nearly tripled, their win total from the previous season, and were just one victory shy of reaching the Women's Basketball Invitational championship. Coach Joan Bonvicini was named Independent Women's Basketball Coach of the Year.
6. Some pretty special SU faculty and staff were rightfully honored this year, including Patrick O'Leary, S.J., faculty and staff chaplain, who received the St. Ignatius Medal, the highest honor Seattle University bestows at the 29th Annual Gala. Also this year, the university conferred alumni awards on Julie Woodward, head women's soccer coach, and Bill Weis, professor of management; and Paul Milan, associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, was named McGoldrick Fellow. Diana Singleton, director of the law school's Access to Justice Institute, received the Excellence in Leadership Award, and Stasha McBride, assistant to the University Core director, was honored with the Lee Thurber Outstanding Staff Award. Receiving Spirit of Community Awards at the Center for Service and Community Engagement's annual celebration were Le Xuan Hy, associate professor of psychology, Marie Wong, associate professor in the Institute of Public Service, and Jen Tilghman-Havens, associate director of Jesuit Mission and Identity.
7. The university welcomed two new Cabinet members. Connie Kanter was appointed chief financial officer and vice president for finance and business affairs in May, and Scott McClellan joined the university in September as vice president for communications. In other Cabinet news, President Sundborg was appointed by the Board of Trustees to a fourth five-year term. Also this year, William Ehmann began as the university's first associate provost for research and graduate education, and Rick Fehrenbacher was named the inaugural director of continuing, online and professional education.
8. President Sundborg in May announced the establishment of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, "(to) create more opportunities for the university and the Northwest region to appreciate the rich and diverse Catholic intellectual tradition, expressed not only in philosophy and theology, but in literature, the arts, science, political theory, and every aspect of culture." The institute, which begins operation this academic year, will encompass new and existing initiatives, including, for instance, the Catholic Heritage Lecture Series, which this year is bringing in speakers to reflect on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. In September, Provost Isiaah Crawford announced that Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, associate professor of theology, will serve as the first director of the institute.
9. SU officially became a member of the Western Athletic Conference on July 1. It had been 33 years since the university last competed in a Division I conference.
10. The School of Theology and Ministry's fourth annual "Search for Meaning Book Festival" in February drew a swarm of 2,500-plus attendees. More than 40 nationally and internationally known authors were featured, including keynote speakers James Martin, S.J., and Mary Oliver, who both spoke to sold-out crowds.
OK, what else should be included in the year's highlights? Leave a comment below!