SHU Community Receives Overview of Strategic Plan Process
The Sacred Heart University community gathered in University Commons on Tuesday afternoon, March 15th, to hear updates on the Strategic Plan process. The assembly included students, faculty and staff members and concluded with a lively question-and-answer period.
Four subcommittees have been meeting regularly to discuss themes central to the revitalization of the University over the next five years – plans that will serve as a blueprint for SHU’s future growth and vitality. The teams have been concentrating on academic excellence, campus life and learning outside the classroom, facilities and infrastructure, and financial strength.
Reporting on academic concerns was Dean Seamus Carey of the College of Arts and Sciences; his co-chair is Dean Patricia W. Walker of the College of Education and Health Professions. “Academic excellence is at the forefront of the Strategic Plan process,” he noted, “as well it should be. The University’s success in every other dimension will depend on this.” Priorities for this area begin with students and creating for them an atmosphere that encourages active and engaged learning.
Emphasis will be placed on connecting first-year students with faculty and growing and developing the teaching staff. Tied to these initiatives will be efforts to increase academic expectations, improve student quality at admission and through ongoing programming, and strengthening the school’s reputation, especially through global opportunities.
A second major concern is learning and living outside the classroom. Dean of Students Larry Wielk and the director of Enrollment Communications and Research Deanna Fiorentino reported on their committee’s work. The goal is to create a seamless extension of the learning environment from academic settings to every aspect of campus living. To encourage such a climate, “living and learning” communities will be advanced in residential settings. The Catholic identity of the University will be emphasized with a more deliberate consideration of the needs of non-Catholic students, especially as the student body grows more diverse ethnically and religiously. To address the concerns of the students, career services should be enhanced as well as opportunities for internships, volunteer efforts and mission experiences – all of these options complementing the learning experience that begins in the classroom.
Detailing ambitious plans regarding the University’s facilities and infrastructure were Mike Trimble, vice president for Information Technology and Security, and Paul Healy, executive director for Emergency Management and Public Safety. Among the plans for new construction were a new health and wellness center, to be built on Park Avenue in Bridgeport, and a parking facility on campus. Other projects under discussion include new buildings for the John F. Welch College of Business and the College of Education and Health Professions and an aquatic sports addition to the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center. Renovations of present facilities include a new first floor to the Ryan-Matura Library and science labs. Numerous enhancements to safety and security systems are also on the books. To fund some of these many improvements will call for focused fundraising in partnership with individuals and area corporations.
Almost all of the Strategic Plan will need funding – this, in an institution that is tuition-dependent. Thus, the element of financial strength is a critical one. Reporting on this theme were Dean Mary Lou DeRosa of University College and Phil McCabe, vice president for Finance. The co-chairs cited the importance of increasing non-tuition sources of income by treating Institutional Advancement as a business and investing in the resources needed to make it succeed. Tied closely to this will be enrollment – increasing the quality of the student body, recruiting students from non-traditional demographic groups and improving retention. The University must look ever more closely at its stewardship of resources and how it conducts its business.
The presentations were followed by a wide-ranging set of questions and comments from the floor and closing remarks by Interim President John J. Petillo. Dr. Petillo thanked the teams for their work to date, and he encouraged everyone to continue participating in this important process. The committees will continue to meet, and one or two other public forums will be held for the entire SHU community.