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Transformation, opportunity will mark Year of the Liberal Arts at St. Catherine University

In a musical interlude during faculty-staff workshops, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Bonnie La Duca led the Derham Divas in a serenade to the liberal arts.
In a musical interlude during faculty-staff workshops, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Bonnie La Duca led the Derham Divas in a serenade to the liberal arts.
Julie Michener.

Record enrollment, a rising academic profile in the incoming class and strong retention rates among Day program students are among the successes that mark the beginning of the 2010–11 academic year.

That said, opening-week speeches by St. Catherine University leaders acknowledged that the economic recession has fundamentally changed the higher education landscape. They also said the University is well positioned to meet new challenges.

“This is not transitional change,” said Senior Vice President Colleen Hegranes to an audience of faculty and staff. “This is deep transformational change that is strategically positioning our University to be flexible, adaptable and responsive to the turbulence and forces of change battering higher education today.”

St. Catherine President Andrea J. Lee, IHM, focused on the opportunities awaiting students and the St. Kate’s community in the coming year. From a growing emphasis student-faculty collaborative research to the formation of the University’s four new schools, St. Kate’s is poised to meet new challenges.

Key leadership in place
Hegranes noted that each of the University’s four schools now have leadership in place: Paula King, Ph.D., is leading the School of Business and Leadership; MaryAnn Janosik, Ph.D. is leading the School of Professional Studies; and Penelope Moyers, EdD, OTR/L, BCMH, FAOTA, is heading the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health.

She also announced that Alan Silva, Ph.D., dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences (SHAS), has been promoted to assistant vice president for his academic leadership. SHAS is slated to have a launch event in spring 2011.

The University’s “Vision 2020” strategic plan, the new university structure and new enrollment initiatives position St. Kate’s for success in the current landscape’s “relentless turbulence,” said Hegranes. Although change is inevitable, a strong and coherent curriculum is essential to preserving the mission and heritage of St. Kate’s, she explained.

The four schools allow greater integration among program of study, enrollment management strategies and faculty expertise. And the structure of having three colleges cut across the four schools places the College for Women at the University’s heart and preserves St. Kate’s commitment to educating women to lead and influence. The other two colleges also provide a home for the associate-degree and graduate programs, all of which admit men as well.

“The integrated structure creates a home for innovation that develops extended, foundational and laddered education opportunities both pre- and post-baccalaureate,” said Hegranes.

Appreciative momentum
Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Students Brian Bruess acknowledged the efforts of faculty and staff in successfully navigating recent economic storms. The challenge, he said, will be to build on that success.

Titling his remarks “Appreciative Momentum,” Bruess said it’s important at the start of each academic year to acknowledge and honor past successes. “If we discover what is working well and seek to replicate it, then we’re more likely to produce good results,” he said. “Good begets good.”

That momentum is critically important as the University welcomes 420 first-year students—the largest first-year class in 30 years.

In addition, the first- to second-year retention rate jumped seven percentage points in one year, to more than 80 percent.

“The secret to our success is that we are doing more of the right things much better than we ever have,” said Bruess.

He outlined five areas that will present key opportunities:
· Responding to the needs of students in the Weekend Program.
· Regaining market share among transfer students.
· Deepening support of curricular and co-curricular programs.
· Balancing aid and institutional financial pressures.
· Leveraging technology to improve infrastructure.

A continued commitment to mission, and pulling together consistently and with self-assurance, will generate the momentum required for success, Bruess said.

Sep. 3, 2010 by Julie Michener

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