Aug. 28, 2012
Dear Members of the Marquette Community,
Welcome to the beginning of what is sure to be an exciting and historic year for Marquette. There is so much energy that comes from having our students back on campus, our classrooms full, and the sidewalks along Wisconsin Avenue bustling once again.
Building upon the work we accomplished together during the past academic year, I’d like to direct your focus to a subject that will be chief among our priorities during the next nine months: strategic planning. Last spring we took the important first steps in the process this university community will use to create a new strategic plan for Marquette. For this plan to be the visionary document we hope it to be, it has to reflect the wisdom, dreams, and desires of you and your colleagues. The eagerness of the Marquette community to begin to set priorities is palpable, evidenced in no small part by the robust participation in the 17 listening sessions held last spring.
With the benefit of the quieter summer months, Provost John Pauly and I, with the help of other senior leaders, began to synthesize what we heard in both the listening sessions and in informal discussions throughout the year. Five themes emerged as overarching ideas, common across colleges, disciplines, departments, and constituencies. I’m glad to share them with you, and ask for your response to these as areas of focus for us in the next several years:
- Pursuit of Academic Excellence for Human Well-being: Marquette’s fundamentally defining characteristic is its commitment to academic excellence in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition. Building our academic strengths will be the primary focus of our planning and will be grounded in service of the “well-being” of the world, a tradition established by the earliest leaders of Jesuit higher education. This pursuit of excellence coincides with our historic commitment to educational access.
- Research in Action: Marquette is increasingly recognized for the research and scholarship undertaken by our faculty and students. Faculty and others describe research at Marquette as having a strong sense of purpose and action, whether it is through the search for answers to life’s deepest questions or through the development of solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. This distinguishing focus of our university needs to be both better articulated and better prioritized through our planning process.
- Service, Social Responsibility, and Civic Engagement: Building on the university’s tradition of leadership among its sister institutions in drawing meaning and purpose from its Catholic and Jesuit mission and identity, Marquette’s students, faculty, staff and alumni live out a deep commitment to serving others and pursuing social justice. Our community recognizes that as a Jesuit university, Marquette has a special opportunity and responsibility to Milwaukee, in particular, and to contribute more broadly to needed solutions of community problems, especially through the knowledge and expertise of its faculty and students.
- Formation of the Heart and Soul: With our educational experience rooted in the humanistic curriculum established by the earliest Jesuits, Marquette will continue to prioritize its commitment to develop each student’s full potential inside and outside the classroom. In the context of an increasingly diverse community, we will continue to draw on our special gift for formation, academically, socially, and spiritually.
- Stewardship of Valuable Resources: For the strategic plan to be effective, any priorities established must be tied to specific financial plans and a commitment to appropriate resources, whether financial, human, physical, or any other sort. We need to deepen our collective understanding of our financial reality, including the constraints of our annual budget and the hyper-competitive marketplace for new students, for research grants, and for fundraising. If we want to invest in new ideas — to act boldly as I heard over and over again — we should look for ways to accept the challenge of being innovative and entrepreneurial in pursuing our dreams, while practicing discipline and efficiency in controlling costs.
Please offer your input on these five broad themes by using the online feedback form. Once they are finalized with your input, we will begin as a community to identify goals associated with each, accompanied by a long-term enrollment strategy and financial plan. Whatever we choose to do, the focus of our decision-making should be our students, undergraduate and graduate, ensuring that every investment we make is done in order to improve their education and experiences and through them, improve the world for future generations.
The pace of work on the plan will accelerate dramatically this fall as we strive toward our goal of delivering a final strategy to the Board of Trustees in May 2013. To that end, I have appointed Jeanne Hossenlopp, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, and Tom Ganey, University Architect, to develop the planning process as Co-Chairs of a Strategic Plan Coordinating Committee. Jeanne and Tom have my heartfelt thanks for their leadership on this important initiative. The membership of the committee, a description of its charge, and an overview of the strategic planning structure can be found on the newly-created strategic planning website.
As we begin this process together, I hope you are filled with as much optimism as I am. A look back at our history shows that Marquette was only able to grow from a small, one-building college serving the Diocese of Milwaukee into a great national Catholic university through moments like this one: when the university community embraced the idea of reaching higher while staying true to its dearest principles. With your assistance, it should be our firm faith that this planning process can reveal to us how we will continue the tradition of guiding and growing Marquette University.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.