A Message from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. – University Strategic Planning Process

March 3, 2022

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Those of us who are Christian begin the season of Lent at a fraught time for our world. As we pray for peace and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, I am reminded of the critical importance of our work at Notre Dame to heal, unify, and enlighten. I write to you today about the launch of a process of reflection about how we can best fulfill Notre Dame’s mission in the coming years.

The University Strategic Planning Process

Every decade the University engages in a strategic planning process to establish a framework for our future. I write today to announce the creation of seven advisory committees, each of which will focus on one of seven themes that will help shape our priorities in the coming years. These themes have been identified through the invaluable faculty input we received from the Moment to See, Courage to Act process and in consultation with the deans and other University leaders, who brought insights and perspectives from their own planning processes. Each of these themes is aligned with Notre Dame’s mission, will advance key University goals, and reflects important and enduring questions and challenges facing our nation, the world, and the Church. Building on work that is already underway, we hope that we can leverage current areas of strength and amplify our impact through interdisciplinary collaboration and additional investment.

The seven University Themes are:

  • Opportunities for Excellence/Distinction in Key Research and Scholarship Areas—What are the areas, across the University and across disciplines, poised for distinction? How can we take next steps in these areas?
  • Sustainability and Integral Development—How can we, through education, research, and creative interdisciplinary initiatives, respond to “the urgent challenge to protect our common home,” as Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’? How can we contribute to a transition to a cleaner future where the burdens of change are equitably borne?
  • Poverty and Equity—How can our educational and research efforts address poverty, inequity, and obstacles to access, nationally and globally?
  • Health/Well-being—What are the ways in which the University can contribute to human health and well-being? How can the University help to address health disparities and inequities?
  • Global/International—What further steps can we take to internationalize Notre Dame in the education we offer, the research and scholarship we do, the engagement of international students and scholars on our campus, and the presence we have around the globe?
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—What further steps can we take in education, research, and University practices to foster respect for the dignity of every human person, combat the sin of racism, and build an inclusive society in which every person can flourish?
  • A Catholic University in Service to the Church and the World—How can we become even more an intellectual center for Catholicism, serve the global Church, foster a dialogue between faith and reason, encourage fruitful engagement among Christian Churches and the world’s great religious traditions, and respond to the growing secularism of our time? 

The Theme Advisory Committees will assess the current state of our efforts around each theme, identify a small number of priority areas within each theme where Notre Dame can be distinctive and make a significant impact over the next decade, and develop recommendations for the necessary initiatives, resources, and structures needed to move our goals and these themes forward. 

We will soon begin the process of extending invitations to the faculty, staff, and administrators who will serve on these committees, and we will announce the membership of the committees once they are formed.  Our target for completing the work of the Theme Advisory Committees is the end of 2022. 

The University Goals

In our preparation for this effort, we have reflected on our central University goals in dialogue with the deans and the University’s senior leaders. The four central goals that will guide the University’s work for the next decade are the following:

I.    Ensure that our Catholic character informs all our endeavors.

II.   Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

III.  Provide superb graduate and professional programs that exhibit disciplinary excellence, foster interdisciplinary connections, and engage the world’s most pressing problems, while attending to the holistic development of the student.

IV.  Advance human understanding through scholarship and research that seeks to heal, unify, and enlighten. 

As those who were part of the strategic planning process last time will recall, post-baccalaureate education had previously been included under the goal for research and scholarship. Going forward, it will be a separate goal on its own, due to its centrality at a great research university. 

College, School, Division, and Unit Plans

The heart of the work on our University goals is done by academic departments, colleges and schools, the Division of Student Affairs, and other divisions, institutes, and centers across the University. These units are at various stages in the process of formulating their respective plans.

These plans include efforts to sustain the enduring strategic commitments in service to these goals, even as we innovate and expand in new areas. 

The University-wide strategic planning process, led by our Theme Advisory Committees, is intended to complement, not supplant, the various college, school, division, and other unit plans. We hope the committees will identify interdisciplinary connections, cross-divisional synergies, and institutional opportunities. A University-wide perspective, we believe, will enable us to see opportunities that would not be apparent within a single college or division. 

Building on the Past Decade and A Legacy Expanded

As we undertake planning for the future, we are in a strong position because of what was accomplished under our previous strategic plan, A Legacy Expanded. That plan led to extraordinary progress at Notre Dame. While by no means an exhaustive list, here are some accomplishments:

  • Since fiscal 2012, total research expenditures increased 54 percent from $158 million to $244 million in fiscal 2021. In addition, the University’s significant research investments included those that developed clusters in the areas of nanotechnology, global health, energy, environment, imaging, and advanced studies.
  • Significant investments also were made to strengthen our liberal arts, humanities, and social science programs, including the addition of facilities to support a revitalized sacred music program, a new art museum, and growing economics and psychology research and scholarship programs.
  • Investments in the Graduate School have resulted in the addition of more than 17 graduate and professional programs; the enrollment of 385 graduate students, up 17.6 percent; and a 10.2 percent increase in applications.
  • Since 2010, we have also made significant investments to strengthen international programs and global engagement here on campus and abroad, enhancing existing partnerships across the globe and developing many new ones, creating Global Gateways in Beijing, Dublin, Jerusalem, London, and Rome. In 2014, the Donald R. Keough School of Global Affairs was established, the first new college or school at Notre Dame in nearly 100 years.
  • Notre Dame has made substantial gains in attracting an increasingly diverse student body and top students from across the nation and around the world, increasing the number of undergraduate students of color and international students attending Notre Dame from 2,299 (27 percent of the student body) to 3,003 (33.5 percent) since 2012. During the same period, need-based financial aid was increased from $115.7 million to $189.8 million.
  • The University has also played a central role in a regional economic development strategy, helping to secure more than $130 million in grants to support housing, workforce training, new transit connections, cultural amenities, parks, and neighborhoods. 

Many deserve our thanks for the University’s progress, but none more than you, our talented faculty, staff, and students, who have made all this possible. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do. These accomplishments of the last plan position us to reach even higher, as we formulate a strategic framework for the next decade.

The Planning Process

Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” While any plan completed at a particular time will not adequately account for the many unanticipated contingencies of a later time, the process of formulating goals, setting priorities, and preparing for opportunities and possible challenges will enable us to make sound decisions and act in the future. We invite the entire Notre Dame community to join in a campus-wide conversation on how the University could more fully realize our core goals through advancing these thematic areas. Opportunities for engaging in this conversation will be shared throughout the calendar year. 

Thanks to each of you, and in advance to those who will serve on the Theme Advisory Committees, for your efforts on this critical next step toward the future of Notre Dame. 

In Notre Dame,
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.