Opportunities & Expectations for Leadership
Institutions of higher education are facing enormous, even existential, challenges. These challenges include the rising cost of higher education, new delivery models and technological innovations, increasing calls for greater accountability, increasing competitiveness for students, and the imperative to distinguish the institution’s unique brand and educational experience in a very competitive environment. A key question is how to address the needs of the students and scholars of the future. The university must have leaders who can decisively address these challenges, effectively lead the community through the changes they necessitate, and anticipate and confidently face the challenges ahead— always leveraging to best advantage the institution’s strengths and resources.
The next president of St. Thomas will have considerable strengths and resources to marshal for these purposes. From its beginnings as a small, all-male liberal arts college, St. Thomas has evolved into a complex, co-educational university, with a powerful presence in the Twin Cities and beyond. The university has a history of innovation, entrepreneurialism and personal investment, a spirit that has led to enormous growth and success. With a well-networked alumni body of 94,000; an influential and generous board; a successful half billion dollar capital campaign; a main campus in a beautiful residential area in St. Paul, and other campuses in Minneapolis, Rome, and Owatonna, Minnesota, St. Thomas presents its next president with enormous opportunities to move the university forward.
Among the chief objectives of the university for the new president will be the following, presented here in no particular order of priority:
Lead St. Thomas into the future: Vision and strategy
The new president must effectively envision, articulate, inspire and rally the community around a vision and plan for the future, while recognizing, appreciating and fostering the best attributes of the university’s historical culture and legacy. In 2011–12, the Board of Trustees, in anticipation of the presidential transition, the decennial accreditation process and the pending conclusion of the Opening Doors campaign, engaged in a process to establish the strategic directions for the university to prepare the way for future strategic planning efforts to be led by the next president. Through that process, the board identified five strategic directions for the future that focus on developing the university’s reputation for excellence beyond the Catholic higher education community and in the broader academy nationally and internationally, assuring access and excellence, responsiveness to the changing landscape of higher education, and maintaining a vital and robust Catholic character. With these directions as guides, the president will clearly articulate a vision for the future and lead the campus in a strategic planning process.
Support excellence, coherence and reputation of St. Thomas’s academic program
In the transition to becoming a university, St. Thomas has grown dramatically, adding and enhancing many programs, including the School of Law and the recent accreditation of the Opus College of Business. It will be essential that the president assure a coherent vision for the academic program— grounded in the enduring values of St. Thomas and the Catholic intellectual tradition—is in place. The next president will be committed to academic distinction and vision, and to building recognition and continuing support for the overall excellence of the university’s academic program. The new president’s support and leadership are important in assuring that adequate resources are invested to maintain quality programs and develop innovative new programs. The new president also must consider and address programs that do not align with the university’s strategy and vision or are not a priority in light of available resources.
Continue to foster and ensure the vitality of the university’s Catholic identity
The university’s Catholic identity has been a powerful and meaningful focus of the institution since its inception. The new president must understand the value and power of the university’s Catholic identity and the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition, and continue to present and foster these in a manner that is compelling, engaging and meaningful.
Build St. Thomas’s distinctiveness and reputation
St. Thomas is a strong, vibrant, thriving, faith-based institution that deserves to be better known outside its region. The university is poised in many ways to achieve greater eminence and recognition. To attain the goal of developing its reputation for excellence beyond the Catholic higher education community and in the broader academy nationally and internationally, the university must more effectively define and communicate the distinctiveness and value of the St. Thomas brand and experience, in order to strengthen its overall visibility and reputation to a variety of external audiences.
Continue to build the university’s resources and capacity
Under the leadership of Monsignor Murphy and Father Dease, the university has had considerable success in garnering significant philanthropic support and partnership. Continuing this impressive tradition will be a top priority for the next president. The new president will take office some eight months after the completion of the university’s $500 million capital campaign. Even so, a new campaign must be contemplated within just a few years to expand the endowment and ensure continued accessibility of a St. Thomas education to students of all backgrounds who show promise. One lynchpin to building the university’s fundraising success is to expand fundraising beyond major gifts. It has been said that UST has a “flagpole rather than a pyramid.” The advancement pyramid must be constructed with deliberate, state-of-the-art programs in alumni and planned giving and donor stewardship—all the elements of a twenty-first century advancement operation. The university has considerable potential to expand its base of support, alumni participation rate, and major donor and volunteer leadership.
While individual philanthropy will continue to be essential, it will not be sufficient to achieve the university’s goals. The next president also must consider opportunities to more effectively engage and leverage community partnerships to enrich the experience of students and scholars and accelerate achievement of the university’s vision. Identifying, building and maintaining relationships that will benefit St. Thomas will be critical.