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Written by Mike Thee
January 21, 2020
A glimpse of what Seattle University will look like in the years ahead with the Center for Science and Innovation in the foreground.
Seattle University officially embarked on a new era when the campus community recently assembled to launch the Seattle University Strategic Directions 2020-2025.
At a special convocation on Jan. 16, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., said, “Today is a significant day (for) knowing where we’re going as a university and how we get there.”
Approved in November by the university’s Board of Trustees, the strategic directions lay out a vision and goals for the next five years. In part, the vision includes SU’s aspiration to be “(o)ne of the most innovative and progressive Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world, educating with excellence at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.”
The launch of the strategic directions follows what President Sundborg called “extensive and unprecedented engagement by the campus community.” Led by a 21-member steering committee representative of the campus community, the strategic planning process was informed by nearly 1,000 faculty and staff who participated in surveys, more than 1,300 attendees at open forums and hundreds of others who shared input by e-mail and in other ways.
At the heart of the plan is a commitment to the students of Seattle University, with goals of reimagining and revising the curriculum, strengthening professional formation and enhancing the student experience. Other goals center on investing in faculty and staff, more fully integrating alumni into the life of the university and building the university’s capacity to respond to, and thrive in, a changing environment in higher education. Key differentiators running through the goals include the university’s academically rigorous and inclusively excellent Jesuit education, deepening Seattle-area partnerships, community-engaged learning and environmental justice and sustainability.
Undergirding the goals are a set of strategic and foundational actions by which the university’s aspirations will be brought into being. Initial efforts to implement the plan include repositioning the university financially and academically.
At the convocation, four speakers—a faculty member, current student, staff person and alumnus—shared what resonated most with them about the university’s strategic directions. Highlights for them included the plan’s student-centered emphasis, access for underrepresented students, engaging with alumni in a new way, as well as exploring whether to move to a semester system and an aspiration to build an event center on campus in order to enhance the overall student experience.
One of the speakers, Albers graduate student Clara Cordova, ’19, president of the Graduate Student Council, served on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. “Now is the time,” she said, “to be part of something meaningful. It’s time to walk the walk and own our values because that is, and always will be, what truly sets Seattle University apart.”
DJ Weidner, ’07, president of the Alumni Board of Governors, spoke of his longtime relationship with Seattle University, as a student, staff member and now volunteer. Reflecting on the strategic directions, he said, “I feel like Seattle University is on the precipice of something different—still rooted in the Jesuit tradition, still rooted in academic excellence,” but “ready to take on the changes and the students who come to us looking for guidance, ready for alumni who are looking for renewal and rejuvenation and ready just for what the world is going to give to us, because the world desperately needs what we have right now. I am so proud and excited for what this plan can do for us as an institution.”
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