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September 4, 2020
Image credit: Yosef Chaim Kalinko
“Let me begin by saying that, like you, my thoughts and prayers and support are with all of our community and their loved ones who have been more directly impacted in health and wellbeing by the crisis we are living and I join with you in gratitude for the first responders, nurses, doctors, scientists – some of whom are our own alumni – who work tirelessly to take care of all of us.”
With that, President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., opened his annual President’s Welcome for an academic year unlike any experienced before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some key takeaways from his welcome remarks. The full text of the President’s Welcome is here.
We are a community of co-responsible colleagues
Speaking to the uncertainty and challenges SU will face in the upcoming year, the president said, “It is clear that we are up to all that this year asks of us; we have already shown it in the past six months. Today as we gather we can be sure that our Seattle University community of co-responsible leaders welcomes and is capable of meeting all that this year will ask of us.”
Who are we, where are we, what is our context?
President Sundborg said our current context is shaped by the ongoing struggle for racial equity in the aftermath of police brutality and killings of Black persons; the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted our professional and personal lives; the upcoming presidential election; our campus location; and the upcoming appointment of a new president, the first in 24 years.
Our Jesuit education is made for this moment, guided by our new Strategic Directions
“We have a way of education that is made for this context. Jesuit education was made for this moment. How blessed we are that this is true and that this is what we know and claim ourselves to be and is our vision.”
He spoke of the university’s strategic directions as a source of strength and guidance “in turbulent and uncertain times,” and read its vision statement: ‘We will be one of the most innovative and progressive Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world, educating with excellence at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.’
We have a can-do attitude
Praising the efforts by faculty and staff to navigate the difficulties of the past six months, the president shared several examples of this “can-do attitude”:
“When we look at the challenges of our context – which some might say is the perfect storm for our university – we can be confident about how we will do and how we will be ‘a Jesuit university of distinction for a time of change’ because we can see across the whole university an exceptional experience in the last six months of colleagues proving the needed co-responsibility to face constructively, professionally, creatively what is the greatest challenge the university has had in fifty years,” he said. “We can be confident we will do well because we have done well when we needed to.”
The pandemic has created unprecedented financial challenges
The president spoke on SU’s immediate financial challenges, similar to what many universities are experiencing from the impacts of COVID-19, citing revenue losses stemming from decreased residence hall income, a higher number of new student deferrals and decisions to take a gap year, increased expenses related to protecting the university community from the ongoing pandemic and lost revenue from other sources.
He said additional steps will need to be taken soon to address these challenges, adding, “We will seek to take these measures with a special consideration of equity, with as much consultation and consideration as possible, and do so in a way that supports the emergence of Seattle U from these times with a strong educational and operational foundation for our health and growth in the future.”
We must focus on our vision
In closing, the president said, “As it says in the Book of Proverbs, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ So, we must focus on our vision that ‘we will be one of the most innovative and progressive Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world, educating with excellence at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.’
“I firmly believe that Seattle University’s best years lie ahead because I know of no Jesuit university that has as great an upside potential as we do, as strong a sense of being genuinely Jesuit, and as promising an impetus of what I call ‘The Seattle Synergy’ can be for us. Let’s keep our vision; let’s keep our community; let’s keep co-responsible colleagueship. Welcome to the new year.”
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