Office for Mission and Diversity created

By Dr. Judith Dwyer
Executive Vice President

Last September, the board of trustees approved eight strategic directions for the University of St. Thomas. You will remember that the Strategic Direction on Diversity called for the creation of a "vice presidential position responsible for diversity." When Father Dennis Dease and I presented the Strategic Directions to the university community on Sept. 22, 2000, we spoke of including a focus on issues of Catholic mission and identity in this position.

The Strategic Planning Catholic Identity Study Group and the Climate Study analysis pointed out the existing ambiguity surrounding the meaning of Catholic identity at St. Thomas. The unfortunate conclusion that some within the community have reached is that diversity and Catholic identity or Catholic mission are inherently in conflict. The rationale for linking these two concerns under the auspices of one position is that a commitment to diversity is a constitutive part of our mission as a Catholic, urban university, not a separate issue. "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" states that "The objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture (#13)." Prejudices and discrimination continue to exist in the broader society and at St. Thomas. If this were not the case, a focus on issues of diversity would not be necessary.

By its adoption of the Strategic Directions on Catholic Identity and Diversity, St. Thomas acknowledged that intentional and sustained efforts must be undertaken if we are to be a welcoming and inclusive educational community. To date, there are many people of good will and a number of efforts underway that support this goal, but cohesive, long-term, tangible action is required.

The fall 2000 resolution passed by the College Faculty calling for a moratorium on the creation of additional vice presidents until the issue of pay equity is resolved and the recent steps taken to create a balanced budget for the current fiscal year led to a situation where it seemed inopportune to create the new position called for by the Strategic Directions. However, the April 2001 release of the 2000 Climate Study analysis, the April 19, 2001, rally against hate on the St. Paul campus and the proposals presented to the senior administration by the Student Diversity Coalition have created increased momentum to implement a suitable response that will lead to perceptible change.

The President’s Staff has decided to move forward with the implementation of these strategic directions by appointing two individuals to half-time positions as "Interim Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President for Mission" and "Interim Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President for Diversity" effective Sept. 4, 2001, so that immediate and concrete steps can be taken. A full search for a permanent appointment will take place in the spring with the hope of hiring one person into a full-time position. A decision as to whether or not to upgrade the position to the vice presidential level will be made at that time.

I am pleased to announce that Sister Margaret Wick has been appointed the interim special assistant to the executive vice president for mission. Wick, former president of Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa, has served as director of Minneapolis community partnerships and neighborhood relations since January 2001, and as interim director of institutional research and planning since May 2000. She will continue in her position as interim director of institutional research and planning in addition to this interim appointment.

Wick is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, Iowa, and has spent her career in higher education as a faculty member and administrator. She was president of Briar Cliff, a Catholic college, from 1987 until 2000. She held three other positions there — vice president and academic dean (1972-1974 and 1976-84), director of academic advising (1971-1972) and on the sociology faculty (1966-1971). She was president of Colleges of Mid-America, a consortium of eight independent colleges, from 1985 to 1987 and was an intern in the continuing education office at the University of Denver from 1974 to 1976. She has a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Briar Cliff, a master of arts in sociology from Loyola University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Denver.

I am also pleased to announce that Nancy McGrath has been appointed the interim special assistant to the executive vice president for diversity. Employed at St. Thomas since January 1991, she has served as campus minister, associate director of campus ministry and assistant to the executive vice president. She will continue half-time in her position as assistant to the executive vice president in addition to this interim appointment.

Prior to her work at St. Thomas, McGrath served as pastoral associate at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, Calif. She has a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Chapman University, a master of pastoral ministry from Seattle University and a master of theological studies from Weston Jesuit School of Theology. She is currently in her third year of doctoral studies in the educational leadership program in the St. Thomas School of Education.

I am confident that these appointments, the creation of the Office for Mission and Diversity, and the dedication of necessary r
esources will enhance the University of St. Thomas’ mission as a Catholic, urban university and move us forward in our commitment to diversity. In the coming months you will hear of opportunities for involvement in a variety of initiatives developed through the Office for Mission and Diversity, some of which will be in conjunction with the many excellent initiatives already in existence. I encourage your participation and support.