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The Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., “Renewed for the Future: Stability to Achievement”

Loyola press release - August 22, 2007

Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J.
Renewed for the Future: Stability to Achievement
Faculty and Staff Convocation August 2007

Our gathering today is a ceremony of renewal. At Loyola, we gather at this convocation to begin a new academic year, and in so doing, we renew the university. After the break of summer, Loyola, like most universities, comes back to life in its fullest, most robust form, with the return of our students and faculty members. The university is renewed by the addition of new faculty and staff members who are joining us. We are also renewed by the new students—first-year students and transfers—who come to join us. This year, we will welcome more than 700 new students to Loyola. With these arrivals, Loyola is remade, yet again.

Renewal is a way of life for every aspect of life here in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. The recovery of the university is happening because people—particularly faculty and staff—have worked very hard, in the midst of your own losses, to help make this recovery happen. I am deeply grateful to everyone for their work, creativity, and ingenuity in helping Loyola face the challenges of the present and the future. Thank you. Without your hard work, creativity, dedication, and patience, we would not be here today.

Today, we also welcome new members of our faculty and staff, who join us with deliberateness and intention. Thank you for joining us. I am very aware in our current circumstances that this is not a casual decision. We welcome you and are grateful that you have joined us.

A year ago, I wrote and spoke about our need to achieve stability for the university. We did that. Now we must move beyond stability to realizing our visions of academic and intellectual excellence. In the city, we must move beyond stability alone to the work of creating a city where human beings can flourish.

Later this week I will post a full, more detailed report to the university community that updates where we are currently. However, I want to be clear, we have much of which to be proud. We, as an entire university, did something quite remarkable last year. In a difficult year of reorganization and trying to achieve stability, we actually moved up in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of American Colleges and Universities to sixth place. Moving up in the U.S. News rankings is quite a feat at any time. In our situation, it is nothing short of remarkable. It could not have happened without the work of all of you. Thank you. Today, August 20, Loyola learned that we would be included in this year’s edition of The Princeton Review, to be released on August 21.

Now I would like to talk about some broad themes and topics which are important to where we are now. I will speak briefly about enrollment (undergraduate), facilities, and institutional advancement.

Enrollment:

As everyone knows, almost every university is dependent on its enrollment for its financial stability. Loyola is certainly no different. Enrollment, particularly undergraduate enrollment, has been one of our greatest challenges post-Katrina. Last year, we enrolled 527 first-year students. At the moment, our enrollment for first-year students is at the same number it was a year ago. Graduate and law student enrollments are very strong and met expectations. The College of Law will enroll 320 new students compared to 250 of a year ago.

Loyola made decisions, a year ago, about our admissions standards and our financial aid strategies, which have helped to shape the numbers in this year’s class. We made decisions to maintain the academic levels we had achieved and to maintain our basic financial aid policies. The new class we will welcome later this week is a class with a very strong academic profile and fits within our overall aid strategies. This new first-year class will enter with an average GPA of 3.52, ACT scores of 23 – 28, and SAT scores of 1070 – 1320. A positive sign for enrollment is an increase in the percentage of those in our application pool who are from out of state. This year, 54 percent of our undergraduate pool and class came from out of state. A year ago our out-of-state applications had dropped to 49 percent of our pool, while prior to Katrina our out-of-state enrollment had made up 75 percent of our undergraduate enrollment.

I want to be clear; enrollment is a major challenge for the university’s future. What are we going to do? At this point, I believe the best thing we can do is proceed with discipline and focus. Because of the restructuring implemented a year ago, we are well positioned to face these enrollment challenges. I believe our best direction is not to look to cut but to strengthen and use efficiently the resources that we have. We will continue to implement, in a disciplined way, the strategic plan, and the goals of the plan.

We are fortunate that with the most recent Congressional support for higher education in New Orleans, and the appropriation by the state legislature, we will be able to close our budget gaps for this year. The federal and state investment of 2.7 million dollars this year will allow us financial stability at this difficult time.

We have already begun a complete review of our admissions and financial aid policies for undergraduate enrollment. This review will be crucial as we search for a new dean of admissions. We have begun to use, more aggressively and systematically, our network of alumni and parents in our recruiting efforts. Last year, we hosted high school counselors from a number of schools, including the network of Jesuit high schools, here in New Orleans who will be good ambassadors for us in the year ahead.

While I would have liked to see a stronger growth in our undergraduate enrollment, there are positive signs in our undergraduate enrollment numbers this year. The overall academic quality of the pool was very good. There was a five-percent increase in our out-of-state applications. Fifty-four percent of this year’s new first-year students are from out-of-state markets. There was a significant increase in the northeast. Our ethnic and minority enrollment remains steady with 37.5 percent minority, and we see a continuing increase in our male population that makes up 44.9 percent of this year’s class. We have seen dramatic increases in academic programs where the city of New Orleans is an asset. The College of Music and Fine Arts has a 38-percent increase in enrolling students, and the Music Industry Studies Program had a 90-percent increase. The College of Law will begin the year with a significant increase in its new student enrollment.

New Hires:

The 2007 – 2008 full-time new faculty hires are the largest group of faculty hired in recent years. We have 36 new members from across the United States, Canada, and Australia. Of the 36 new full-time hires: 14 are ordinary faculty, 21 are extraordinary, and one is clinical. In the College of Business there are six, in the College of Social Sciences there are eight, in the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences there are 10, in the College of Law there are five, and in the College of Music and Fine Arts there are seven.

We also have a number of new staff members who have come to join us. They will strengthen our ability to achieve our mission to accomplish excellent, challenging education for our students. It is important to note we are renewed by the new members of our faculty and staff. These people have made choices and decisions to come and join the Loyola community. And we welcome them!

Facilities:

As you know, we face a number of challenges concerning our facilities. We must begin to address these concerns in order to improve the quality of life for our students and faculty. It is a priority that we address our facilities so we can better support our faculty and students. We will proceed with a two-fold strategy in addressing our facilities needs. First, we need to develop a long-term plan for the campus. One of the goals of the strategic plan is to develop and implement a new master plan for the campus. That planning process began last year by the firm of Kell Muñoz; members of the firm met with the University Space Allocation Committee, the Classroom Enhancement Committee, the Council of Deans, and a committee of students. They conducted a thorough review of our existing facilities and acknowledged our issues of deferred maintace. The Kell Muñoz team created a first draft of a plan that is available in the Monroe Library. This fall, members of the Kell Muñoz team will again be on campus for further feedback and discussion before presenting the plan to the Board of Trustees for review.

While we need a long-term plan for facilities, we also have to live in the short term. Short tem, we must take steps to address facilities issues in classrooms and student life so that we improve the quality of life for Loyola’s students and faculty. We began, over the summer, a refurbishment of the Danna Student Center. We believe we can achieve, with minimal investment, a better facility that will enhance student and campus life. The work will be completed by 2008. Part of the refurbishment will include a renovation of our food services (in part supported by Sodexho) and will include a faculty/staff dining area. We will also look to address our classroom needs and the quality of our residential housing along with some of the key issues of deferred maintenance.

Institutional Advancement:

Since I have arrived, I have focused on revamping our institutional advancement operations. The aftermath of Katrina has certainly put a new emphasis on this. In the past year, we have re-staffed and reorganized the division and began serious planning for an impending capital campaign. I am excited about the possibilities for the campaign and by the people who have come to join our staff.

In the past year, we raised just under $11,000,000 in gifts and pledges. This is a seven-percent increase over 2006 and a 52-percent increase over 2005. Our alumni increased the dollar amount of their gifts to Loyola by almost 10 percent this past year. In addition to the gifts of private benefactors, we have received more than $16 million in state and federal aid since Katrina. Our alumni, benefactors, and friends, along with the state and federal governments, have invested in Loyola. They have helped us to achieve stability so that we can engage in the hard work of achieving our future.

The Future

Many people have expressed a commitment to Loyola and invested in our future. People have invested private resources in us. State and federal governments have invested public resources in us. Parents have entrusted us with their sons and daughters. New members have joined our faculty and staff and many of us made a commitment to stay. All of these are statements of hope and commitment about our mission and future.

In the past year, we have taken a number of steps to ensure Loyola remains mission centered. I believe we need to remain missioned centered, not only because I believe in the mission, but also because in the market place of American universities, we need to be clear about who we are and what we do at Loyola. In the last year, I have worked with the committee of the Board of Trustees on Mission and Identity on the committee’s role and responsibility. The responsibility for mission is one that is part of the whole life of the university, but my office has a special responsibility for it. Therefore, after consultation this past year with students, faculty, and staff, I have reorganized some of the important areas that relate directly to mission. Fr. Ted Dziak, S.J., director of the Jesuit Center, will also be the director of ministry and mission for the university. University Ministry will report directly to him rather than to the President’s Office. I believe this re-organization will give us greater integration. I am also delighted to announce that Loyola is forming a partnership with the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province in the creation of a Jesuit Social Research Institute. This institute will be part of the College of Social Sciences, thanks to assistance from Dr. Larry Lorenz. In the next months, the initial fellows of the institute, Ted Arroyo, S.J., Thomas Greene, S.J., Michael Bouziguard, S.J., and Mary Baudouin, will be starting the institute, which will be housed in Mercy Hall.

In the year ahead, I will devote a good amount of my time to the steps needed to develop a new capital campaign for the university. The staff of Institutional Advancement has already begun key parts of this work. I believe this campaign is an opportunity not only to raise additional resources but also to sharpen our focus and mission and the concrete steps to integrating different aspects of the university.

For any campaign to succeed, you must develop a good “case statement” that helps potential benefactors become friends and supporters of the university. This is particularly important today in American higher education where there are so many different views of knowledge and education.

I have talked in the past about Loyola University as a learning community. We are anchored in the tradition of the Jesuit tradition of the liberal arts which sees knowledge not just as an end in itself but as a means to free the person to better serve society. We will deepen our commitment to the arts as a university in a city where the arts—particularly music—are central to the identity of the city. As we focus on student learning, at every level, we aim to help students experience knowledge as active and interdisciplinary. The task of learning is not just the work of students; it is also the work of faculty and staff as well. We can only succeed in building this community of inquiry and learning if we, as faculty and staff, are learners ourselves. We can succeed if we create a university where research and teaching are seamlessly interrelated. In the Jesuit vision of knowledge, knowledge is not just an end in itself, as it was for Cardinal John Henry Newman. Rather, the purpose of this education is to form men and women who will grasp the importance of asking ethical questions and acting with social responsibility.

We live in a city that is both a challenge and an opportunity for learning. Every major social system of the city—education, health care, commerce, music, and law—has been broken. We know, and live with, the challenges of the city every day. It can be hard and tiring. Yet, at the same time, it is a great—perhaps even unique—opportunity for us as citizens, as a university community in the Jesuit tradition of education, and the university as a citizen of the city. Winston Churchill once said, and I believe, that “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Difficult though it may be at times, I remain an optimist about the possibilities for the city and the university.

Despite the day-to-day struggle of life in New Orleans, the city has made great strides. There have been significant reforms in government—such as the reform of the tax assessors and levee boards. After 12 years, we have finally established the city’s Ethics Review Board and hired an Inspector General. There have been landmark reforms in public education (see, “Katrina’s Surprise,” Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes, 8-13-07). And there are great opportunities for business and commerce. Recently a national real estate magazine and a national business magazine listed Louisiana and New Orleans as top prospects for opportunity and development.

Colleges and universities are playing a major role in reshaping the city. In his plans for the city’s recovery, Dr. Ed Blakely, executive director of recovery management for the city of New Orleans, has made higher education a central point in the recovery. As the nation moves more and more towards a knowledge economy, few cities are better positioned than New Orleans, with its rich spectrum of universities, to play a role in the new economy.

In 1630, John Winthrop spoke of the possibility that the Massachusetts Bay Colony could be a model of Christian charity and a “city on the hill” that would be watched by the world. It is my belief that New Orleans has an unprecedented and unique opportunity to rebuild itself and be a city on the hill for others to admire and follow.

I want to be clear about Loyola’s goal and strategy. Our goal has been, and remains, to become known nationally as a leading comprehensive university. I believe if one studies the history of higher education in the United States, one will see that our well-known national universities became nationally recognized because of their ties to their cities and regions. We have a rare opportunity to pursue this strategy as the southern tier of the United States continues to become a more and more important region in the nation and as New Orleans is reborn.

In the past year, there have been a number of explicit acts of trust shown towards Loyola. The decision by the New Orleans province to create the Jesuit research center here and invest resources of capital and personnel is an act of trust in our future. Over the past two years, federal and state governments have invested more than $16 million in Loyola and its future. This year alone, private philanthropy has brought us more than $11 million. This past year, the Board of the Monk Institute made a decision to move the institute to New Orleans and Loyola. Men and women from all across the nation have made decisions to come join us as members of the faculty and staff. Parents have entrusted their sons and daughters to us, and students have decided to come and study at Loyola. These are all great acts of trust. They are acts of trust that Loyola is capable of achieving its vision to be one of America’s great universities. These acts of trust give us the opportunity to make that vision into a reality. We have already begun. The rankings by U.S. News, the high quality of our new students and faculty members, and the decision of the Monk Institute to call Loyola home are not only acts of trust but they are steps towards strengthening the university and better establishing our reputation. We have begun, but the work and the challenges ahead are great. But they are worth doing.

I promise that I will work with all of you to be worthy of the trust that has been placed in us and achieve the potential for this university.