President's Annual Address to the Faculty 2008

September 16, 2008

Welcome and thank you for your presence here today. It is always energizing for me to greet students and faculty at the start of a new academic year. There is an excitement in the air wherever I go. I hope you share my enthusiasm about the tremendous potential for learning, discovery, and growth in the coming year.

This past summer we gathered the Deans and Officer Group for our customary retreat to reflect together on the past year and plan for the coming year. In the course of several days in formal and informal settings we discussed a large number of issues—research, admissions, finances, endowment investments, building projects, internationality, government relations, local community relations, athletics, our Catholic mission—just to name a few. At a lunch John McGreevy, our new Dean of Arts and Letters and a historian, commented that a modern university has become “like a city-state in its scope and complexity.” Perhaps because I had the chance to visit Northern Italy this summer and hear some excellent lectures from Margaret Meserve, a member of our history faculty, on Italian city-states, John’s comparison struck me as particularly apt. I am not a Renaissance signore, but I bet the number and range of issues that cross my desk rival those of the leader of a Renaissance city state.

Yet despite all this complexity, there is at the same time a refreshing simplicity and clarity of purpose in our common work. For all our various activities are intended to serve the work of teaching and learning, the intellectual and spiritual growth of students, the expansion of human creativity and understanding. The array of activities that make up Notre Dame serves to remind me of the depth and breadth of our efforts, all directed to the purpose of being a community informed by the Catholic tradition and engaged in the educational and intellectual endeavors that lift up the human spirit. Needless to say, you, the faculty, are at the heart of those pivotal endeavors. Whatever satisfaction my job brings, there is none greater than observing your accomplishments of teaching and discovery. I sincerely thank you for all you do.

Today, in keeping with the character of a modern university, I will speak about a range of issues:

  1. Our progress on our central university goals
  2. Long-term planning for the future
  3. Transitions: New colleagues in administrative positions, and familiar colleagues in new positions
  4. Our commitment to being a diverse community
  5. The upcoming forum on energy and environment and our efforts at Notre Dame toward energy sustainability

I. Progress on Central Goals: Toward a Great Catholic University

Our central goals are to be unsurpassed in undergraduate education, to become a premier research university with a superb graduate program, and to ensure that our Catholic character informs the university’s activities in ways that enrich our intellectual, communal, and spiritual lives. More succinctly put, we strive to be a truly great, truly Catholic university. Pursuit of these ideals has been and will always remain at the heart of our efforts. Although we have much to do, I am deeply gratified by the progress we are making together, particularly in the last year.

Regarding our commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, we continue to work to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms, studios, and laboratories. Through the leadership of Associate Provost Dennis Jacobs, Notre Dame will launch this fall a new Course Instructor Feedback system to gather student perceptions of teaching and to provide helpful feedback to instructors for the continuous improvement of teaching. I am impressed by the generous spirit and dedication with which many of you have engaged our undergraduates in mentored research. Last May, Cecilia Lucero, the new Assistant Director for Undergraduate Research, successfully organized Notre Dame’s first annual campus-wide undergraduate research conference, an event where hundreds of our students enthusiastically presented their lines of inquiry. The Center for Social Concerns celebrated its twenty-fifth year of combining learning and service in a way that contributes to the education of both mind and heart, a defining feature of a Notre Dame education. In our efforts to join more closely together the vibrant spheres of academic and residential life, I am delighted that through the Residential Scholars Program, a few dozen of you gather regularly with a hundred first-year students from four residence halls to engage in a meal and conversation. Moreover, both Duncan Hall, the men’s dorm that opened this fall, and Ryan Hall, the women’s dorm currently under construction, are the first dormitories at Notre Dame to include classrooms, which will help deepen this integration of academic and residential life.

In the area of research, you continue your exceptional work of scholarship, research, and creative expression. In 2007-08, research funding at Notre Dame increased by 4% in a year when NSFfunding decreased in real dollars, NIH funding was flat, and the federal funding environment was increasingly competitive. And our faculty in the humanities continue to lead the nation in National Endowment for the Humanities awards. The first round of awards of the Strategic Academic Planning Committee has been completed and five projects have been selected from a total of 72 submissions. Together the selected projects have been awarded a total of $25,000,000 in one-time funding and $5,000,000 in continuing funding. Competition for another round of these awards will be announced soon.

One of the awardees, the MIND initiative in nanotechnology, was also selected by the National Research Initiative and the Semiconductor Research Corporation to head a consortium whose mission will be to discover the next nanoscale logic device, the successor to the transistor that is currently the building block of computers. Led by Alan Seabaugh with Wolfgang Perod and Craig Lent -all from the College of Engineering – the consortium includes faculty from Purdue University, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, the Argonne National Laboratory, and other institutions.

The new Innovation Park, which Notre Dame is undertaking in conjunction with city government and private business, will help move discoveries of our faculty to market. It has been constituted under its recently hired director, David Brenner.

And UNDERC, Notre Dame’s facility in Land ‘O Lakes, Wisconsin, has been selected as a core site for NSF’s National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON. NEON is a continental-scale platform for understanding climate change, land use change, and invasive species, and UNDERC’s selection shows Notre Dame’s growing leadership in environmental sciences.

John McGreevy announced at his faculty meeting last week that Chris Waller of our Department of Economics and Econometrics will serve a two-year appointment as Senior Vice-President and Director of Research for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In this role he will be the chief advisor to the president of the bank on monetary policy, oversee a staff of 75 people, including 25 Ph.D. economists, and will be one of the economists advising Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke at the Federal Open Market Committee meetings.

Other very important signs of progress include the opening of a new building for the Law School in January, and the Mendoza College of Business has newly remodeled space in the beautiful Santa Fe building in Chicago. The library has seen a third year of significant seven-figure investments over and above annual basic budget increases. Although we must do more, I am encouraged that in the past ten years the library budget has nearly doubled, from $10.9 million to $20.3 million.

In my address to you last year I spoke of our commitment to make ourselves a strong candidate for membership in the American Association of Universities, which includes the top research institutions in North America. We have made progress with respect to the criteria that I reviewed last year, though we have further to go. In the retreat for the Deans and Department Chairs a few weeks ago, John Vaughn, the Executive Vice President of the AAU and Deputy to the President came and spoke to us about higher education, research, and the AAU.

As I said last year, our goal here is not simply to be part of a prestigious club. Our goal, rather, is to become a better research university, and thus to make ourselves a compelling candidate for membership in the AAU so that we can reap the benefits of association, access to information, and reputation that such membership can bring. Although the AAU’s criteria certainly do not capture all that constitutes excellence for us at Notre Dame, we can improve as a research institution by tracking our progress in relation to its members and taking steps to improve in ways that are consonant with Notre Dame and its aspirations.

In graduate studies, thanks to a $10 million dollar gift from the Chairman of our Board of Trustees, Dick Notebaert, and Peggy Notebaert and their family, we have enhanced support for graduate students and their families. We also raised the level of University support for graduate student health insurance. The Office of Student Affairs and the Graduate School recently completed a study of Graduate Student Life at Notre Dame. As a result, on–campus graduate housing is being reviewed and a Graduate Residential Master Plan will be formulated, a member of the Student Affairs staff has been assigned to the needs of graduate students, and Campus Ministry programs designed specifically for graduate students have been introduced. More remains to be done in this area, and we will continue to strive to enhance our support for our graduate students.

Regarding our Catholic mission, Tom Burish recently sent out a letter to the faculty stating his decisions regarding the report of The Ad Hoc Committee on Recruiting Outstanding Catholic Faculty and bringing to conclusion a period of reflection and discussion on this matter. I join my voice with Tom’s in thanking the committee and all of you for a respectful, open, and constructive discussion of this matter and, despite differing perspectives, widespread support for the mission of Notre Dame. As Tom explained in his letter, the report and subsequent discussion identified a number of useful strategies which will be employed with care and thoughtfulness. To assist departments in this effort Tom has established the Office of Recruitment Support, which will be headed by Fr. Bob Sullivan, who has been named the Associate Vice President for Academic Mission Support.

In last year’s discussion of the report some expressed concern that religious affiliation will play a role in the tenure and promotion process. Let me join Tom Burish in stating unequivocally that although we proactively seek to hire minorities, women, and Catholics, nevertheless race, gender, and religion do not and will not play a role in our decisions about reappointment, tenure, or promotion. These decisions are made on the basis of the stated criteria and only on those criteria. In my experience, those involved approach this process with admirable conscientiousness and make the best and most unbiased decisions they can on the basis of those criteria.

Academic progress at Notre Dame requires the support of many offices and individuals. The Office of University Relations under Lou Nanni achieved in 2007-08 three new records in our development campaign: we raised $383M towards the campaign including pledges; $289M in actual cash receipts; and $33.3M in unrestricted gifts. Among the gifts and pledges, $215M was for the academy, which includes $30M for financial aid. Frank Eck, one of the most generous benefactors in Notre Dame’s history, passed away last year, and through his estate we received a $20M gift to support the Center for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, and an additional $5M challenge for fellowships in the Law School. Francis and Kathleen Rooney gave $10M in support of the Center for American Democracy. Bill Shaw, one of our trustees, made a commitment of $10M for the Center for Children and Family in our Psychology Department. Ralph Stayer committed $20M as the lead gift for the new Executive Education Building in Business. And Ed and Jeanne Arnold, members of our Library Advisory Council, gave $5M to endow digital collections in the Library for Science and Engineering.

From fundraising success, to recruiting Catholic scholars, to enhancing support for research and graduate studies, to finding ways to improve undergraduate teaching – it all serves the central goals of improving undergraduate education, becoming a premier research institution with a strong graduate program, and ensuring the vitality of our distinctive Catholic mission. I thank you for all your efforts to support these goals in the past year, and pledge my renewed commitment and ask for yours as we build on our progress and expand our efforts.

II. Longer-term Planning

Our central university goals guide the daily and yearly decisions and activities of our work as a University. But these daily and yearly decisions and actions must also be guided by a longer-term perspective and a consideration of external factors and forces that will shape the context for decisions in 2010, 2015, 2020.

Therefore, as we build on the progress of recent years, we must also continue and even deepen our attention to long-term strategic planning. Real and sustainable progress for a university is not the work of one or two years. Sustained improvement is the work of many years according to a plan that is well-conceived, ambitious, flexible, and realistic. And because higher education in this country and the world continues to evolve, and the circumstances in which we work continue to change, we must continue to update plans, adapt, and innovate.

In this academic year we reach the fifth year of implementing Notre Dame 2010: Fulfilling the Promise, a university-wide strategic plan that was completed in 2003. The plan led to The Spirit of Notre Dame development campaign, whose goal is to seek funding of the priorities of the Fulfilling the Promise plan. We can be pleased with the 2003 plan and with our success to this point in funding and implementing its priorities.

But circumstances and goals evolve. So in the coming year – the five-year mark – I will begin working with Deans and the heads of key divisions to update the university strategic plan. Obviously, because the priorities of the current development campaign have been set, we cannot count on new resources. We will use this effort as an opportunity to articulate ways in which the university goals and the context in which we work have evolved, set targets for the next five years and beyond, and decide on how we will assess our progress.

The process of formulating a longer term plan and regularly reviewing and updating it is a feature of all very successful organizations, and one we want to make a routine part of our culture at Notre Dame. Because such planning is so important to us, we have expanded the portfolio of Erin Hoffman Harding, who has to this point served as Assistant Vice President under John Affleck-Graves. Erin will be Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning, she will report to me, and she will be a member of the Officer Group. Erin will assist with support, analysis, and coordination of the planning efforts of divisions across the university as they relate to our central university goals. Erin has extensive experience in this area, and she will help us to become the truly superb and distinctive university we want to be.

III. Transitions

Erin’s appointment is one of many exciting changes in the leadership of the University. Indeed, this academic year is unique in the number of transitions among our Officer Group and Deans. We are extremely pleased and excited to welcome into the university leadership a number of new members:

  • Jan Botz, will be our Vice President for the Office of Public Affairs and communication, and will assume her responsibilities in mid-October.
  • Marianne Corr will be our new General Counsel, and will assume her responsibilities on October 1.
  • Greg Crawford is the new Dean of the College of Science.
  • Peter Kilpatrick is the Dean of the College of Engineering. Peter of course joined us in January, so many of you have already worked with him.
  • John McGreevy, formerly chair of the History Department, is the Dean of Arts and Letters.
  • Greg Sterling is the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Jack Swarbrick is the Director of our Athletics Department.
  • Erin Harding is our new Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning, who I just mentioned earlier.

In the modern history of Notre Dame, there has never been a year in which eight new people joined the Officers and Deans group. We face, then, a year that is unprecedented in the number of transitions underway in the central administration. Transitions are usually times of steep learning for the new leader, and of some anxiety, uncertainty, and adaptations for the college or division under her or him. But these are primarily moments of great opportunity. These new leaders bring fresh perspectives and new ideas. And they also bring – and unleash – new energy. No matter how progressive our past leadership — and the leaders who departed have left great records of accomplishments – new leadership provides a valuable opportunity for progress. A central task for me and for all of us this year will be to welcome these new leaders, assist them as they advance new initiatives, and also support them as they do their best to inspire and draw upon the energy and ideas here at Notre Dame.

IV. Reports on Diversity and Women

At Notre Dame we are committed to be an academic community in which faculty of color and women are full members, full contributors, and fully supported. Our commitment in this regard derives, of course, from our mission at an institution of higher education committed to excellence.

Like many other colleges and universities in the country, we recognize that an academic community that is more diverse ethnically, socio-economically, and by gender is a richer community for learning, discussion, and inquiry, and one whose graduates are better prepared to live and work in a world that is ever more global and diverse. In such a community we can encounter, better understand, learn from, and have the experience of working with fellow students, teachers, and colleagues from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds and of different gender.

Because of Notre Dame’s distinctive mission, however, our commitment to diversity flows from an even more profound source. For this university is committed to the principle that every individual has an intrinsic dignity as a child of God, that every culture in its highest and best expression reflects God’s grandeur, and that all are part of a human community. A Catholic university with a large “C” is compelled to be one that strives to be catholic in the sense of universal or embracive, drawing all into a community grounded in God’s creative and redemptive love. So we strive to be a university in which we not only learn from the various backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives of others, but also form a community with them in which the gifts of each individual enrich the lives of every individual. Thus we better appreciate and embody the richness of creation and the embrace of God’s love.

We will make better progress in this area if we appreciate the efforts and accomplishments of the past. It was Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., a leader in the Civil Rights movement, who helped make Notre Dame more diverse and who, in 1972, made the historic decision to admit women to Notre Dame. Fr. Malloy continued this legacy; indeed, he made it a central concern of his presidency, establishing an endowment for minority scholarships, nearly doubling minority undergraduate enrollment in three years, establishing the University Committee on Diversity, increasing the number of female undergraduates to parity with males, establishing the Institute for Latino Studies, the Department of Africana Studies, and the Center for Asian Studies, and increasing the number of minority faculty by 6% from 1987 to 2005. Whatever our current challenges, Notre Dame is today a more diverse and rich institution because of these leaders and the many people who worked with them. Our task is to build on the progress that has been made.

The University Committee on Diversity and the University Committee on Women Faculty and Students were designed to bring the President’s Office and Provost’s Office together to attend to issues of concern across the university, but especially to the academy. Both committees report to the President’s Office, yet the Diversity Committee is co-chaired by Don Pope-Davis of the Provost’s Office and Frances Shavers of my office, and the Committee on Women Faculty and Students is chaired by Susan Ohmer Associate Professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Theater.

And so, after consultation with Tom Burish, in the Fall of 2007 I asked each of these committees to present to me recommendations on ways in which we can enhance our support for women faculty and students and for ethnic diversity at Notre Dame. These groups worked diligently over the course of the 2007-08 academic year and presented reports to me in May of 2008. Several weeks ago Tom Burish and I met with the chairs of these committees and of their respective sub-committees and thanked them for their work. As I told them, a number of proposals will require some further thought and I would like to ask for comment from the faculty before offering a full response. Yet, there are some proposals we can adopt immediately, and we will do so. We will be making the committee reports available to the faculty shortly, and I will make available my response when I complete it.

(See Figure 1) When we compare the percentage of full-time instructional female faculty with AAUprivate universities using the data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, orIPEDS, Notre Dame lags behind and, from 2001-2006, there is a worrying trend downward in the ratio of female faculty at Notre Dame relative to AAU peers. While at the Assistant Professor level, Notre Dame exceeds the benchmark of AAU privates, it lags at the levels of Associate and Full Professor (See Figure 2). Clearly, we must do better at retention and recruitment to increase the number of women at senior ranks.

With respect to racial and ethnic diversity among teaching and research faculty (See Figure 3), from 1997 to 2006 we have seen an increase in faculty of color of 25%, from 81 to 102. As a percentage of the entire faculty, this change has realized modest growth from 11% to 13%. This slide (See Figure 4) shows the number and percentages of Notre Dame faculty from various racial groups. When we compare ourselves with select peers (See Figure 5), we must use IPED’s data, which counts all faculty and not simply teaching and research faculty. Although near the middle of that group, we must not be complacent, for we seek excellence in this area just as in others.

As with women, while we must increase faculty of color at all ranks, a central challenge is to recruit and retain them in senior ranks. (See Figure 6). As we continue to think about this issue, we must look at the data for specific units. I have been able to review here only composite data for the whole university, yet we find that some units do extremely well in the percentage of female faculty and faculty of color with respect to the data on national availability, while others do not do so well. These considerations must factor into our plans and actions.

I do not believe that in this area there is a “quick fix” that will suddenly make us into the fully diverse community we want to be. Other very distinguished universities have also devoted substantial time, resources, and energy to these issues and still face many of the problems that we face. At the same time, I am convinced that if all of us—the President, the Provost, the Deans, the Department Chairs, and indeed every member of the faculty—work together, we can and will make progress.

It is critical that we have a clear understanding of our objectives and make a sustained commitment over time to achieve them. For any particular initiative we undertake to achieve our goals, we must be wedded to results, and not to any current or proposed means to achieve these results. Indeed, different means may be effective at different times and in different colleges or units. So we must be flexible about approach, insistent on results, and willing to revisit our decisions in light of new information.

V. The Energy Forum and the Office of Sustainability

The proper activity of a Catholic University, wrote Pope John Paul II, is: (and I quote): “Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.” Our ability to serve humanity is magnified many times over by the knowledge and discovery that comes with scholarly and educational excellence. And we serve humanity better, when we make a point of engaging humanity’s deepest problems.

On September 24 we will host a Notre Dame Forum on issues associated with energy and the environment. The forum’s moderator will be Anne Thompson, the Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent for NBC News and a 1979 Notre Dame graduate. Panelists will be Jeff Immelt, a 2007 honorary alumnus and the Chairman and CEO of the General Electric Company. Under his leadership, GE has made significant investments in renewable energy, and Jeff has led a group of business leaders calling for government regulation of carbon emissions. Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. of Colorado will also join our panel. Governor Ritter has been a leader in clean-energy legislation, and has doubled his state’s renewable energy standard. Majora Carter, another panelist, grew up in the South Bronx and founded Sustainable South Bronx in conjunction with efforts to establish an 11-mile bike and pedestrian greenway to connect the rivers and neighborhoods of her community with the rest of the city. For her vision, drive, and tenacity she was selected as a MacArthur Fellow and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s young leaders in this area. Ernest Moniz is the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor at MIT and the Director of the Energy Initiative there. He has held positions as the undersecretary for the Department of Energy and as associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology of the President. These distinguished panelists will be joined by Frank Incropera, of the College of Engineering, Lourdes Long, a senior Anthropology major, and Sr. Anne Hoe, C.S.C. from Brazil.

This forum, like those before it, has been designed primarily to raise questions, introduce perspectives, and provoke reflection. It will serve its educational purpose only if thought and discussion continue and deepen beyond the two hours of the forum in class discussions, informal conversation, and further inquiries by our students and faculty. I encourage you, the faculty, to attend the forum and, as appropriate, to integrate in your classes and interactions with students questions and issues arising from this forum.

Issues of energy and the environment can only be adequately dealt with from a very broad interdisciplinary perspective, and so this topic has the potential to connect our varied educational efforts in a common conversation of the whole university community. The energy question offers many different angles for inquiry and action – How do we guarantee a cheap and abundant supply? How do we preserve our environment? What obligations do we have to future generations? How do we make energy available to people whose lack of it dooms them to poverty?

These and similar questions present both profound challenges and valuable educational opportunities for us at Notre Dame. They will touch every one of our students through at least one or more courses of study – whether biology, chemistry, engineering, government, business, law, theology, ethics, history, politics – and certainly in their lives and in their futures. If we can help our students think deeply and intelligently about these issues, we will better serve them and, through them, serve the world.

Our response to energy and environmental issues and our effort to educate our students cannot, of course, be solely at the level of theoretical and detached analysis and discussion. We must strive – as a community – to make a practical response to the energy challenge in our lives and on our campus. To assist us in this effort we have created the Office of Sustainability, whose mission is to integrate sustainability principles across all areas of the university and collaborate with relevant programs across campus.

We are extremely pleased to have James M. Mazurek as the first director of that office. Jim is a 1991Notre Dame graduate from the College of Science. After leaving Notre Dame he received anMBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern and a Master of Science in environmental engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He comes to us from Accenture, Ltd., where he helped lead that company in the development and implementation of a bold environmental strategy.

In coming months Jim will be formulating a vision and strategy, and developing a plan. I hope you will hear from him. I am sure he will hear from you. This is an issue about which so many of you are rightly passionate, and we hope to have the benefit of your insights.

So much of what we try to do here comes down to igniting the intellects and imaginations of our students. This is especially true in the area of energy. Indeed the long-term solution to our energy challenge starts with harnessing the energy of our students, and getting them to bring their idealism, imagination and problem-solving skills to this very practical and fundamental challenge. I’m eager to give special attention to this problem at Notre Dame, where our faculty and our students have a chance to use their intellect and passion to improve the life of the world. That’s what Notre Dame is for.

As promised, I spoke about a number of issues in this address. As I conclude, however, I am conscious that there are many more important issues and activities than I could mention in the course of a single speech. Yet it would be unkind to try your patience any longer—and it might be dangerous! Let me close then by re-affirming a point very important to me. Indeed, the most meaningful initiatives and activities of Notre Dame are the teaching and discovery you engage in every day. They are the life of this university. I look forward to working with you in the coming year to make your work even more successful and fulfilling. Thank you.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.