President's Winter Update 2017

March 16, 2017

Dear Members of the Seattle University Community,

As I reflect on the winter months at Seattle University, I do so with a deep sense of gratitude and humility after being reappointed by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 23 to a new five-year term. Many of you have made it possible for us to accomplish so much over the past 20 years and I am forever indebted. I also greatly appreciate the alumni, faculty and staff who took part in the review of my presidency and offered insights into how we can best move forward in the years ahead. I know we have much work to do as we chart the university’s future course together.

I believe Seattle U, like most universities, is at a turning point. We must remain focused on making sure our Jesuit education is well aligned with the world around us—from the changing workforce and rapid advances in technology to emerging societal challenges, transformative innovations in higher education and, most importantly, the evolving needs of today’s students. These forces of change also necessitate that we reposition the university financially with a multi-year plan to achieve our aspirations and get us beyond the near-term budget challenges they present and that we are working through.

Over the remainder of 2017, a top priority will be to develop a concrete picture of what Seattle U will look like in the next decade and a new strategic plan to help bring it to life. The University Leadership Council met earlier this month to broadly discuss the way forward and more will be shared in the coming months as work formally gets underway.

As for other happenings this winter, I cannot think of a more exciting February at the university than the one we just had. We held our largest Search For Meaning Book Festival yet with some truly phenomenal speakers. Esteemed writer Tim Egan referenced his experience attending this year’s festival in a recent New York Times column. Our students smashed the record for dollars raised during the annual Dance Marathon to support Seattle Children’s Hospital and Homecoming weekend generated much pride and enthusiasm as the city lit up red in honor of our 125th anniversary. You can watch a video snapshot of these and a number of the other events here.

Not surprisingly, there is plenty of recent good academic news to share this time of year. U.S. News & World Report once again ranks several of our programs in the top 25 nationally, including two in the Albers School of Business and Economics and three in the School of Law.

For the fifth consecutive year, Seattle U is among the top master’s institutions to produce the most 2016-17 U.S. Fulbright students—five students were awarded the prestigious honor this year.

Seattle U is also included on Phi Theta Kappa’s 2017 Transfer Honor Roll, which recognizes excellence in community college transfer pathways. The university is one of only 63 institutions nationwide selected to receive this honor.

I want to congratulate our women’s basketball team for earning a spot in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Congratulations are also in order for Alyssa Reuble who became just the third softball player in school history to pitch a perfect game, as well as Blaise Wittenauer-Lee of swimming, who has qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 200 breaststroke. The search for a new men’s basketball coach is underway and Athletics Director Shaney Fink will have more to share soon. We are grateful for all that Coach Cameron Dollar accomplished in developing our student-athletes and men’s basketball.

I continue to be amazed at how engaged the Seattle U community is in the celebration of our 125th anniversary. Our last big event on campus to commemorate the anniversary is Grand Reunion Weekend, May 5-7. We look forward to welcoming all who are able to attend this exciting weekend of events, which includes honoring the 2017 Alumni Award recipients as part of a full schedule with just about every sort of activity you could imagine. Click here to learn more and to register.

This spring we will mark the 20th anniversary of our beloved Chapel of St. Ignatius and support our student-athletes and proud athletic tradition with the Red Tie Celebration.

Our capital campaign continues to proceed well. One major component of the campaign is funding for the new Center for Science and Innovation (CSI). Recently we hired an architect to design the CSI, which I envision as a future-focused academic hub that will allow Seattle U to step up its current efforts in STEM education. It will enable us to take on an even greater role as a driving force for innovation by significantly increasing our lab and teaching capacity and educating an additional 450 students in these in-demand STEM fields.

We recently completed our Mission Examen, the yearlong process of examining and reimagining how we express and live out our Jesuit Catholic identity. I want to thank everyone who took part in this important effort, which is part of a larger initiative all Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States will be undergoing over the next few years. The external review team was particularly impressed with the strong commitment that the Seattle U community has to our mission and values. I agree that we need to consider new ways to more closely connect the mission and values to our Jesuit Catholic identity from which they spring. We will receive the final report soon.

Given the current national discourse and recent executive orders on immigration, I want to reiterate what I have written and said many times in recent weeks and indeed years—we are a welcoming and inclusive community that is steadfast in our commitment to support every student in our campus community. We are making sure those who may be impacted by immigration changes are aware of the resources available to them.

I also want to thank Natasha Martin, who last July was appointed our first Chief Diversity Officer, for her leadership and collaboration with many other offices on campus in establishing and building out our newly formed Office for Institutional Inclusion. I know Natasha will be sharing with us in the weeks and months ahead more updates on what she and others are working on.

Our Board of Trustees recently approved an updated investment policy statement that, among other items, now includes environmental, social and governance factors among the criteria for selecting and evaluating investment managers. The trustees also formed a standing subcommittee to make recommendations to the Investment Committee on issues relating to socially responsible investing. These are important steps as we strive to more fully live the values we espouse as a Jesuit Catholic institution.

I am grateful for your commitment to Seattle University and its mission and I look forward to building with you an even stronger and more impactful university in the years to come. May God continue to bless us and the important endeavors we undertake together.


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J. President