People of SU
Written by Mike Thee
November 7, 2018
Image credit: Yosef Chaim Kalinko
Shane P. Martin took the reins as SU’s provost in June, coming from Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a sister Jesuit school in Los Angeles. At LMU, Martin served as dean of both the School of Education and Graduate Studies.
At Martin’s installation as provost in September, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., said, “He matches who we are and are becoming as a university and what we need in our provost and our academic leader. How fortunate we are, Shane, and we thank you for choosing Seattle University and its future to which you bring your experience, your commitment and yourself.”
A product of Jesuit education, Martin spent time in formation as a Jesuit before entering academia as an educator and administrator. In his two and a half decades at LMU, Martin established himself as a visionary and collaborative leader. He received an honorary doctorate from the university in May of this year.
Martin’s expertise has been widely sought. He has served on the boards and commissions of a number of local, state and national organizations and entities focused on education at all levels including Jesuit higher education.
You are invited to learn more about Martin in this Q&A. Be sure to also watch the video in which he shares his thoughts on such things as his favorite city in the world, the best book he recently read and more.
The Commons: What drew you to Seattle University and the position of provost?
Provost Martin: Seattle University is a very special place. From the first moment I stepped foot on campus I felt an affinity with the institution, and more importantly with the people at SU. As someone who has spent many years in Jesuit education, SU’s mission and core values resonate with me deeply. I am very attracted to the location and beauty of our campus—an artistic jewel nestled in the urban core of a dynamic city—an institution that looks outwards and embraces the world. After 14 years serving as Dean of Education and 6 years serving as Dean of Graduate Studies at Loyola Marymount University, I was drawn to the opportunity to bring my experience, passion for Jesuit education, and commitment to the future of higher education to Seattle University.
The Commons: Now that you’ve been here for a few months, what are your first impressions of the university?
Provost Martin: My first impression is that this is an incredible community of people who all share a profound love for Seattle University. We are well situated in both location and vision to move forward and go to another level as an institution. There are also challenges, most of which are similarly faced by colleges and universities across the country. Responding to our challenges provides opportunities for us. We have the opportunity to strengthen the way we work together at Seattle University—looking for integration, collaboration, and efficiencies across our programs and in our shared governance, in ways that are appropriate and true to our mission. We have the opportunity to engage our creative imagination as a community—to look for innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to the problems we face, both internally and in our world.
The Commons: What do you see as the most important aspect or aspects of the job of provost?
Provost Martin: The provost is the chief academic officer of the institution and oversees the Academic Division. The wonderful thing a provost gets to do is to bring people in the university together to provide a powerful educational experience for our students. In a Jesuit university, we believe in educating the whole person—body, mind, soul, spirit—so it is about a holistic approach to education.
Teaching and learning is at the heart of what we do, and this occurs in the classroom, in the residence halls, through a service opportunity, on the field, in a club or extra-curricular activity. First and foremost, it is the magic that happens in the student/teacher relationship. A Jesuit education starts with the quality of our faculty, who through their commitment to research and teaching stretch and support our students in their growth trajectory—not simply teaching what to think but teaching how to think. There are many other educational moments that occur in the lives of our students. Thus, the curriculum consists of all of those learning experiences, and as provost I get the privilege of working with our faculty and staff to bring it all together in a coherent whole that has meaning and value.
The Commons: What are your priorities or areas of focus for your first year at SU?
Provost Martin: My top priority is to listen and learn from the Seattle University community—to understand the SU story from those who have shaped it. We have the opportunity to reset and rebuild relationships among all of our stakeholders that are based on trust, collaboration and our shared love for this institution. A big part of that will be strengthening our practice of shared governance on campus, working closely with the Academic Assembly as the elected representatives of the faculty and encouraging the development of our Staff Council. We have an important opportunity this year as we build the next strategic plan for SU. As we begin this process, I see a clear commitment to putting the academic enterprise of Seattle University at the center of our work, in an integrated and holistic manner grounded in the context of Jesuit education. I want to support the strategic planning process because I believe that even as we work together to strengthen our infrastructure this year we need to dream of a bold future for Seattle U.
The Commons: What is it you would most like to communicate to SU’s alumni?
Provost Martin: Even though I am new to Seattle University I am no stranger to Jesuit higher education. I can say this with absolute certitude: Seattle University is your university—now more than ever. Today’s students are academically capable, intellectually curious, and socially aware and active on a range of critical issues. Our faculty and staff are deeply committed to the values of Jesuit education and making an impact in the community through education. The campus is as beautiful as ever. We have record first time in college enrollment, recently opened a wonderful new residence hall, and the plans for our new Center for Science and Innovation are well underway. Our athletic program engages student-athletes who are committed to excellence in the classroom and on the field. SU is on the move! Investing in your alma mater is investing in the future of our next generation of leaders, the Seattle U way!
The Commons: What is it about Jesuit education that resonates with you, personally?
Provost Martin: Jesuit education has a profound influence on my life. I am #JesuitEducated, having graduated from Loyola High School and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University (formerly JSTB), experiencing the Jesuit formation program and spending 25 at LMU in various roles as a faculty member and an administrator. The Ignatian (Jesuit) paradigm continues to be the guiding force in my life. The Jesuit framework is an inherently optimistic and world-affirming perspective, one that acknowledges areas of brokenness and the need for healing in our lives, but believes that the Divinity labors with us to work for the good in our world. Our talents and resources are given to us to develop, but ultimately not for ourselves but for others—to build the common good of society. This means that we wake up every day (or at least most days) with a passion for life and making a difference in the world. At Seattle University we work for the common good, but do so in an uncommon way. We take the road less traveled by—we do not shy away from the difficult tasks but march to a different drummer in getting it done—all in service to the mission of Jesuit education. I have found nothing more powerful, and our shared vision in Jesuit education is the greatest motivator in my life personally.
The Commons: What are you most proud of from your time at LMU? How did you manage to do two jobs at once?!
Provost Martin: I loved my time at LMU. It is a special privilege to teach and lead at your alma mater. The work we did in the School of Education was a team effort, and we were able to make a significant impact on the greater Los Angeles region and beyond in the field of education. I am most proud of contributing to a vision that put the youth we served at the center of the work—reaching across divisions between and among traditional public schools, newly reconstituted public schools such as magnet, pilot and charter, and Catholic and other private schools. Rather than take sides in what has been referred to as the “education wars,” we brought educators together to focus on solutions to the real-world challenges that students, their families, and educators face regardless of where they attended school. I believe we were the only education program in the nation with this vision.
When I was asked to take on a second deanship and work with all of our graduate programs on the main campus, it was a reasonable move since the LMU School of Education had grown to over 60 percent of the graduate enrollment. I had a great team in place, and my role was to help build our infrastructure, policies, and practices in graduate education.
The Commons: How has the adjustment from LA to Seattle gone so far?
Provost Martin: After so many years in Los Angeles, the move is definitely a transition, but one that I am liking very much! Seattle is a fabulous city, with terrific restaurants, fantastic artistic and cultural events, and friendly and welcoming people. I’ve heard about the “Seattle freeze,” but I have not experienced it. I love that SU is in the middle of the city, which allows us to be right in the mix of such a dynamic and exciting urban core. LA and Seattle are very different cities, but both on the West coast and in the same time zone. I’m looking forward to experiencing the change of seasons in Seattle, something that is not the case in LA.
The Commons: Anything else you’d like to share?
Provost Martin: I have a strong sense of gratitude for being at Seattle University in this time and place. If we open our minds and hearts to new ideas, listen to one another and work together, there is no limit to where we can go. In many ways our best days may be ahead!
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