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Fr. Leahy Eyes University’s Next Strategic Planning Effort

Leadership transition, success of Light the World also key topics

09/03/15
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By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Sept. 3, 2015

Even as it nears the finish of its most successful, and institution-defining, capital campaign, Boston College will begin laying the groundwork for another strategic planning effort, said University President William P. Leahy, SJ, at yesterday’s University Convocation in Robsham Theater.

That initiative will take place under a new leadership team, Fr. Leahy said, noting the ongoing transition in the University’s top management – an opportunity, he added, for the BC community to appreciate the accomplishments and hard work of its senior administrators.

This passing of the torch was reflected in the presence of the two other Convocation speakers: David Quigley, now in his second year as provost and dean of faculties, and Michael Lochhead, who joined the University as executive vice president in February.

The University’s goal “has been and will continue to be to identify, recruit and hire individuals who can best assist Boston College in enhancing its standing in the top tier of American colleges and universities, and in remaining faithful to the intellectual, social and religious dimensions of its mission,” said Fr. Leahy, pointing to the arrivals of Lochhead, Vice President for Human Resources David Trainor and inaugural Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Nanci Tessier over the past year.

Other senior administrators in transition include Financial Vice President and Treasurer Peter McKenzie, Lynch School of Education Dean Maureen Kenny and School of Social Work Dean Alberto Godenzi, who will step down from their positions in the coming months; and newly appointed Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences Dean Gregory Kalscheur, SJ, [see stories on pages 1, 4 and 5], as well as longtime faculty member Thomas Groome, new director of the Church in the 21st Century Center.

As a whole, Fr. Leahy said, the University community – faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends, as well as administrators, especially Senior Vice President for Advancement James Husson – deserves credit for aiding the University’s Light the World campaign, which is closing in on its $1.5 billion goal.

Fr. Leahy cited several campaign highlights: $461 million thus far for academics, providing 31 endowed professorships, two endowed deanships and numerous centers and initiatives; $274 million for financial aid, making possible more than 350 endowed funds of at least $250,000 apiece; nearly $100 million toward Jesuit, Catholic and student formation resources and programs; $134 million for athletics, including scholarships and operating funds.

These and other various contributions have made the objectives in the University’s 2004 Seven Strategic Directions planning document attainable, Fr. Leahy said, guiding BC’s progress in liberal arts education, student formation, integrated sciences, Catholic education and scholarship and other areas.  

The time has now come to develop another such plan, he said. In the coming months, BC will assess specific successes and shortfalls related to the Seven Strategic Directions; invite working groups of faculty, staff, students and alumni to look at current and future challenges and opportunities; and establish a steering committee to coordinate the planning effort.

Among the issues and questions BC will likely face in developing the next strategic plan, Fr. Leahy cited affordability and financial aid; rigor and impact of undergraduate and graduate programs; racial and socioeconomic diversity in the student body; effectiveness of student formation efforts; distance learning and online education; and deepening understanding and commitment to BC’s Jesuit, Catholic identity.

“The various activities involved [in the planning] will call upon the generosity and hard work of many in our community,” he said. “I ask for your continued generosity and assistance in charting the future of our University.”

Quigley underscored the transition theme with a tribute to Rattigan Professor Emeritus John L. Mahoney Sr., who died Tuesday [see page 1]: “We mourn his passing yet join in celebrating the historic accomplishments of his generation of Boston College faculty.”

Meanwhile, he noted later, another generation of faculty has begun to make its mark at BC: Since Light the World began, the net total of new faculty hires has reached almost 100.

This semester, Quigley said, will see the debut of several new pilot courses developed as part of the core curriculum renewal project [see related stories on pages 3 and 5]. He encouraged faculty members to submit proposals for the round of pilot courses to be introduced in 2016-17. Another major academic initiative he reported on was the proposed Institute for Integrated Science and Society, a new academic unit that would support multidisciplinary research and teaching in energy, environment and health-related areas.

Other priorities and initiatives Quigley touched on included financial aid; improved use of technology in recruitment and admissions; online education resources for graduate programs; and University collaborations focusing on race and justice, and preparing students for a changing labor market.

Lochhead – who expressed his appreciation to Fr. Leahy, Quigley and “the entire Boston College community” for making him feel welcome since his arrival – said fiscal year 2015 had been a positive one for the University, with revenues slightly ahead of budget. Although medical expenses – rising at a pace exceeding general inflation levels – continue to be a challenge, the University’s expenses overall also were favorable compared to budget, he said.

The fiscal 2016 budget provides for a continuation of strategic and infrastructure funding consistent with prior years, he said, including incremental resources for financial aid that enable BC to fulfill its need-blind commitment and meet 100 percent of admitted students’ demonstrated need.

Summing up the University’s fiscal outlook, he said, “We have a strong reputation, an improving capital base, and a community that is committed to BC’s long-term success.”

Lochhead reviewed the status of several construction projects, including the residence halls at 2000 and 2150 Commonwealth Avenue, and the Conference Center and McMullen Museum at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, all of which are on target for completion next year. In addition, he said, the University is continuing to work proactively to address Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and accessibility improvements.

Like many higher education institutions, BC faces challenges in dealing with security issues related to campus facilities and information technology systems, and addressing Title IX mandates, said Lochhead, noting University initiatives in these and other areas.

Lochhead also reported on the success of BC’s sustainability initiatives, including an 11 percent decrease in the University’s greenhouse gas emissions due to increased utilization of natural gas to fuel the campus steam and hot water distribution plant, and contracting electricity from renewable sources including hydro and wind.