Our journey continues.

At my first academic convocation address last fall, I told the St. Thomas community that I had every confidence we would take the university “to new levels of impact, relevance and recognition.” I had been on the job for only a few weeks, but I could not have been more impressed with our academic excellence, commitment to our Catholic mission and a culture focused on providing the best possible educational experience.

I also said that to reach those new levels, we would need “a guiding star … a vision,” and I committed to work closely with the community to explore what that vision would involve. An 11-person task force joined me in engaging in lengthy and earnest discussions with faculty, staff and students, emphasizing the desire to develop a vision that would be aspirational and inspirational. The result of our discussions is a working vision statement to guide our Strategic Planning Steering Committee in 2014:

“The University of St. Thomas, a national leader in Catholic higher education, will prepare students for the complexities of the contemporary world. Ever striving for greater academic excellence in disciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry as well as deeper intercultural understanding, we will inspire students to lead, work and serve with the skill and empathy vital to creating a better world.”

The working vision statement articulates our aspiration to be well known as an outstanding Catholic university, in the Upper Midwest as well as across the nation. In my early trips to visit alumni, they often expressed the desire that the employers and high school students and counselors in their regions be more aware of the excellent education and life preparation provided at St. Thomas.

The statement also portrays an interconnected, diverse and complex society that continues to change ever more rapidly. Those who will lead, work and serve most effectively in such a society will think creatively and span boundaries to discover important solutions in the seemingly unrelated – always informed by a deep understanding and respect for others.

Finally, the statement reinforces our collective responsibility as a Catholic university community to collaborate with others to seek justice and opportunity for all and ultimately to create a better world.

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the subcommittees that will address specific issues and themes will use the working vision statement – as well as our mission statement and seven convictions – to guide their work and to set priorities and goals for St. Thomas. When that process is completed later this year, we will determine whether to make any changes to the vision statement.

Whatever the final words are that help to inspire and guide us to new levels of achievement, we will continue to embrace our convictions: pursuit of truth, academic excellence, faith and reason, dignity, diversity, personal attention and gratitude. And we will continue to work tirelessly to live out our mission statement: to educate students “to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good.”

Our journey indeed continues, and as I told the convocation in September, “I commit to you that it will be an exciting and fulfilling journey.”

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