Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
I hope that your fall term at Seattle University is going well. As I continue to settle in as president, I am deeply grateful for the warm welcome that so many of you have extended. The past few months and weeks have only reaffirmed for me what I already knew—this is a remarkable academic community, full of warmth and generosity and a passion for our Jesuit-inspired mission to empower leaders for a just and humane world.
As we move forward together into a new era for Seattle U, our most important guide for the next few years will be our Strategic Directions. This multi-year plan, as many of you know, was developed with considerable input from the campus community and launched in January 2020. Even in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, we have made significant progress toward its goals. In addition to other important strides, the university last year settled the open question regarding our academic calendar.
A Living Document to Guide Our Future
At the same time our Strategic Directions is very much a living document that must be responsive to the evolving realities, needs and priorities. Over the summer, I formed a small advisory group to consider how best to move forward with this important work as we return to in-person operations. The result of these efforts is an updated draft plan titled, Reigniting Our Strategic Directions. Much of the revised draft document carries forward the goals and work of the original plan. Some of those prior elements receive greater emphasis in this revised document and some new components have been added. Following are the updated goals and some thoughts on each:
- Reimagine and Revise Our Curriculum | As I shared in my inaugural remarks, three great challenges I see before us are: the existential threat of global climate change and ecological sustainability; the scourge of persistent racial injustice; and the destabilizing impacts brought on by rapid technological transformation. These interconnected, interdisciplinary and global areas of emphasis will animate our efforts to reimagine and revise our curriculum.
- Strengthen Professional Formation for All | This goal has been expanded to include and serve all members of our campus community—faculty, staff and students.
- Enhance the Student Experience | Students are at the heart of everything we do. We must prioritize our efforts to care for every student as a whole person, while providing a unified and vibrant Seattle University experience that helps build a stronger sense of community.
- Promote Inclusive Excellence | While this imperative was included in the original Strategic Directions document, we are amplifying the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion by calling it out as one of the goals in the new draft and to incorporate the LIFT SU initiative into our plan. This work will be interwoven throughout all the university’s priorities and activities.
- Reposition for Growth | Previously titled “Reposition for Change,” this goal focuses on building the strategic, institutional and financial capacity that undergirds our future success.
These goals—and the entirety of our work as a university—are anchored by our Jesuit character and mission. As a Jesuit and Catholic university now being led by its first lay president, recognizing this foundational grounding is more critical than ever and is therefore explicitly called out in the revised draft.
I hope that you will take time to read the draft document, which is available at Reigniting Our Strategic Directions. I am now in the process of meeting with various shared governance groups to gather feedback on the draft. We will also hold open forum sessions later this month to broaden the discussion to the entire campus community. The first will be at 12:30 p.m. on October 21 in Pigott Auditorium. The second will be a virtual open forum at noon on October 27. After incorporating input from the campus community, I will seek final approval of the updated Strategic Directions from the Board of Trustees at its mid-November meeting. In parallel, we will form working groups to move forward with refining and implementing our strategic goals.
Strategic thinking is about imagining the kind of university we want to become and thinking creatively about how to get there. As I shared at the inauguration, there is nowhere better than this place to imagine somewhere better than this place. I am grateful for all that you do for Seattle University and look forward to engaging with you in this imaginative work over the coming months and years.
Eduardo M. Peñalver