Skip to main content
Seattle University


The Next Five Years

Written by Mike Thee
September 11, 2012

There were no attack ads. No political action committees, no conventions, no debates. As presidential races go, the Board of Trustees' decision in February to reappoint Stephen Sundborg, S.J., as SU's leader for another five-year term came and went without much fanfare. And yet, uneventful as his "re-election" may have been, Father Sundborg is entering the 16th year of his presidency with a very ambitious agenda.

In a recent interview with The Commons, the president laid out his goals for his fourth term, which officially began July 1. Not surprisingly much of the president's next five years will be focused on SU's next capital campaign, set to launch next summer.

The president sees a new era dawning at SU in which the university will strengthen and develop new partnerships, particularly with "the significant global institutions of Seattle…such as the Gates Foundation, PATH, a whole series of health and medical centers (with) a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and also health sciences."

Another area of focus for the president will be "finding our way with how we use technology to best deliver a Seattle University education. We have major decisions to face in the next five years. Many universities are panicking in terms of chasing the new technology, but our strategy is to have the technology chase our academic quality."

Also on the president's mind these days is "How do we continue to make the Seattle University education a patently global education? We've come some distance toward that with the implementation of the new Core Curriculum and its whole new phase of global education built right in and the efforts to begin to develop some new international convergence sites."

Key to each item on the president's agenda for the next five years, he said, is "the community of colleagues-our faculty and staff who believe in and hold the mission. We can't keep developing new initiatives and not develop that community of colleagues." In the coming years, he said there will be an emphasis on "more transparency about decision-making and participation," as well as a continued effort to bolster compensation.

The president envisions himself being a lot more externally focused over the next five years and leaning more on the President's Cabinet (formerly known as the Executive Team or E-Team). "You'd be hard-pressed to find another Jesuit university that has the quality of leadership of that whole Cabinet," he added.

If there's one thing the president is most excited about, it's the Seattle University Youth Initiative, which is "off to such a remarkably strong start" he said, referencing the Presidential Award for community service that SU received in March.

So is this Father Sundborg's last term as president? That will be as much a question for the trustees as the president, he said. "So much depends on my health and the need for the university to have fresh leadership."

Of the 28 presidents at Jesuit institutions, Sundborg is now third in seniority-only the presidents of Saint Louis University and Boston College have served longer. At 69, he's four years older than any other president at Seattle University has ever been.

Yet this president, who is palpably energetic and enthusiastic for Seattle University's next five years, shows no signs of slowing down. "I'm feeling great and loving what I do."