The University of Notre Dame is deep in the midst of developing a campus-wide strategic framework, a task it takes on every 10 years to set a path for its future. This framework “will guide Notre Dame to even higher levels of excellence and impact in accord with its mission,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said Tuesday (Sept. 20) during his annual address to the faculty.
The process takes into account plans and aspirations of the colleges, schools and other units to leverage strengths, identify fresh opportunities, encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and make investments with transformative potential, he said.
The process will lead to a University strategic framework, rather than a plan, according to Father Jenkins. It won’t produce a road map that the University will follow without alteration for the next decade. “As they say in the boxing world, ‘Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth,’” he said.
Instead, priorities and key initiatives will be identified on which to begin work, and over time, revisions and adjustments will be required, he said.
The work involves seven advisory committees, each focusing on an academic theme, with 73 faculty members serving as committee members. Most of the groups will submit reports by the end of this calendar year. The committee reports will be woven together into a comprehensive strategic framework by John McGreevy, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost, working in collaboration with others. The results will be submitted to the Board of Trustees.
Father Jenkins also discussed the University’s goals in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. A 2021 Notre Dame Trustees’ Task Force Report, “Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Notre Dame,” provided a charge for progress.
Father Jenkins noted that this fall’s incoming undergraduate class is the most diverse in University history: 40 percent of the class are students of color or international students (up from 39 percent last year); 9 percent are Black or African American; 13 percent are Hispanic/Latino; 1 percent are Native American; and 10 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. The University also is making progress in enrolling applicants who are first-generation college students or from limited socioeconomic means: 19 percent of this year’s incoming class are Pell Grant-eligible or first-generation college students.
On July 1, Rev. Hugh Page — a professor of theology and Africana studies, former dean of the First Year of Studies and a former associate provost — assumed the newly created position of vice president for institutional transformation.
As part of the strategic framework process, an advisory committee has been formed focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. The University is continuing to invest in support programs to help all students flourish and in December will start construction on a new diversity and inclusion center in LaFortune Student Center.
University leaders are making progress in hiring diverse faculty, a task that has been helped by the colleges and departments, Father Jenkins said. “Though we can be proud of recent efforts, more needs to be done,” he said.
Father Jenkins described how the University last winter engaged Edelman, a global communications firm, for a comprehensive study of Notre Dame’s reputation and public perception. Consistent with previous studies, the survey showed that “while Notre Dame is well-known and well-regarded for its Catholic mission and football, its research and global presence are less well-known,” he said. Administrators and faculty must work together to help spread the word of the important work that professors are doing in research, teaching and global engagement, as well as the University’s efforts with diversity and inclusion, he said.
Father Jenkins reminded faculty of Notre Dame’s policy requiring employees to report misconduct of any kind that they become aware of on campus. He noted some other universities in recent years have faced major scandals involving such matters as dishonest admissions and serial sexual abusers.
Notre Dame makes it simple for individuals to report cases of suspected misconduct — including ways to make a report anonymously. “If you see something, say something. Do it because it serves the University. Most importantly, do so because it is the right thing — the ethical thing — to do, and it will make our community better,” he said.
Father Jenkins reported that during the summer Notre Dame closed its COVID-19 Response Unit — the group that was created to conduct campus virus testing and arrange quarantine and isolation during the height of the pandemic. “With greatly reduced and more manageable cases, we were able to move these operations back to our University Health Services for students and our Wellness Center for staff and faculty, offices that in normal times care for the health and well-being of campus,” he said.
While the University remains vigilant about the virus, University leaders welcome the opportunity to devote the majority of their time to teaching, research and inquiry, he said. He thanked faculty and staff for their efforts to keep the campus open for in-person classes and prevent spread of the virus. “We had many pandemic heroes on this campus,” he said.
Father Jenkins also announced that the theme of the 2022-23 Notre Dame Forum is “War and Peace.” There will be a variety of lectures and other events designed to encourage campus discussion on the topic, including an Oct. 3 Theater of War Productions performance, titled “The Suppliants Project: Ukraine,” in Notre Dame Stadium featuring both professional actors and members of the campus community.
Read the full text of the speech at president.nd.edu.
Margaret Fosmoe is associate editor of Notre Dame Magazine.