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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Faculty Convocation -- Spring 2005

Georgetown University
March 15, 2005

I deeply appreciate the opportunity to be with you today. And I look forward to introducing Professor John Glavin, who will deliver the inaugural "Life of Learning" lecture.

Professional Milestones

Each year, this convocation offers us an opportunity to reflect on our own lives of learning, lives sustained and strengthened by this academic community. Today we recognize three kinds of achievement by members of our community:

  • In our newly tenured faculty, we acknowledge the demands of scholarship and the excitement of making an enduring contribution to one's field. We also recognize an enduring characteristic of this University - our commitment to excellence in teaching. You, like those who have come before you, have attained this balance, this synergy between scholarship and teaching. Congratulations on beginning the next phase in your career.
  • To faculty members who have been promoted to full professorships this year, all of those who are involved in the rank and tenure process are inspired by your excellence in research, teaching and service. You set the highest academic standards for this university.
  • And of course, we recognize our Vicennialists, who have demonstrated an enduring engagement with the mission of this academic community. You have our respect and our deepest thanks for your contributions to Georgetown.

Let me also recognize just a few of the achievements of faculty members this year:

  • Dr. Paola Barbara, assistant professor of physics, was honored by the White House with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for her work in nanotechnology.
  • Two assistant professors in our chemistry department have received important honors recently. Sarah Stoll has received the Early Career award from the National Science Foundation. She is the fifth member of the department to be so recognized. And Jennifer A. Swift has received the 2005 Margaret C. Etter Early Career Award from the American Crystallographic Association.
  • Douglas Reed, associate professor of government, has been selected as one of 15 Carnegie Scholars.
  • Professor Carol Lancaster, Director of our African Studies Program, has been appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan to serve as an advisor to the UN on African development issues.
  • Pietra Rivoli, associate professor of finance, has chronicled a remarkable journey in The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Power, Problems and Politics of World Trade, published last month by John Wiley & Sons.
  • John L. Esposito, Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, was awarded the American Academy of Religion's 2005 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.
  • And Patricia O'Connor, associate professor of English, has received a national "Unsung Heroes" Award from Mitsubishi Motors in recognition of her work assisting women with substance abuse problems. She is also director of the University's Prison Outreach Program, through which she and students teach inmates at local prisons.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer our very best wishes to David Lightfoot, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, who will take a terrific new leadership position at the National Science Foundation in June. Dean Lightfoot will serve as assistant director for the NSF's Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. His responsibilities will include oversight of the Foundation's research investments in these critical areas, and thus he will have the opportunity to influence science policy at the national level.

During his time at Georgetown, Dean Lightfoot has strengthened the academic stature of the graduate school and championed research collaborations in cognition and neuroscience and in other areas. We're very pleased that he will continue as a valued member of Georgetown's linguistics faculty.

In the theme of comings and goings, we are making progress in several searches for senior leadership, including Dean of the McDonough School of Business, Vice President for the Office of Alumni and University Relations, and Athletic Director. I expect appointments in all these areas this year.

Now let me say a few words about two matters of University significance.

Sharing Information and Inviting Dialogue

First, I'd like to say a few words about this very event and its place in our community. Now that I've been in this role for a few years, I see opportunities to expand the ways that our administration and faculty share information as well as the ways that we come together, like today, for academic ceremonies and intellectual dialogue.

I have been a member of this community all of my adult life. I have come to place the highest value on your thoughts and opinions on issues of importance to this community, and I wish to ensure that we have more opportunities to share information and exchange views. At the same time, we need moments to celebrate and to convene as a university to consider the great questions that the academy calls to our attention. Let me talk first about the sharing of information.

Each fall, I plan to host a town hall event focused on the state of the university, where I'll share my perspective on financial and programmatic issues. As you all know, our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. We are able to complete our financial report on our fiscal year by mid-September when we present this report to the Board of Directors for formal approval. Following this closure of our fiscal year, it is my intention to present to the faculty an overview of our overall condition. I wish to do this in a "town hall" format, which will allow for plenty of time for questions and answers.

At the start of the second semester, it is my intention to host a second town hall-style meeting with faculty that will address important issues that unfold in the course of the academic year. I participated in such a meeting this past January and found it to be an invaluable way to engage with you on issues of mutual concern.

For our annual faculty convocation in November, once again I plan to invite a distinguished scholar from outside our community to enrich and broaden our perspective on the aims of education. Last fall, Nicholas Boyle, cultural historian and Cambridge don, delivered that inaugural address.

At the spring convocation - this event -we will honor our newly tenured faculty, those promoted to full professor, and our Vicennialists. I will also invite a member of our own faculty to deliver the Life of Learning Lecture that is inaugurated today.

Finally, I wish to ensure that we place appropriate emphasis on larger themes in the academy that demand our care and attention. Next month, I would like to initiate this deeper exploration of an issue with an address on diversity. I hope to consider several questions:

  • How can we build on past efforts to ensure that we continue to educate a student body that is racially, ethnically, economically, and culturally diverse?
  • How do we make Georgetown a leader in higher education in recruiting and retaining diverse faculty?
  • What strategies might we consider for recruiting talented individuals from a wide range of backgrounds for positions in senior leadership and administration?
  • How does a University respond to the challenge presented by the opinion of Justice O'Connor in the University of Michigan affirmative action case?
  • How do we ensure that an education like that provided at Georgetown will be accessible and affordable to a more socio-economically diverse student body?

 

These are among the questions I wish to explore in this talk later in April.

It is my expectation that I will select another theme during the next academic year that can be the focus of similar careful reflection.

Strategy Update

Second, let me bring you up to date on our progress as we lay the groundwork for the next fund-raising campaign. Universities will typically spend 8 out of every 10 years in a campaign. It is my intention to ensure that we are able to sustain this kind of commitment to attaining philanthropic support for our University.

Our very successful Third Century Campaign concluded on a promising trajectory. In the final year of the Campaign, we set a new record for gifts and pledges -- $145 million. We are building on that momentum by undertaking the planning necessary to start the "quiet" phase of our next campaign, to be launched within the next year or so. To facilitate that process, we have been engaged in institution-wide discussions that will enable us to articulate the academic commitments, institutional priorities, and innovative new opportunities that we will present to our donors and investors.
In the next campaign, the core of our fundraising efforts will support Georgetown's enduring priorities, including the distinctive core programs that reflect our unique identity, strengths, commitments, and competitive challenges.

What do I mean by enduring priorities? These are priorities that transcend any particular time at Georgetown.

Regardless of the fashion or the urgent issues of the day, these priorities stand out for their constancy in the lived reality at Georgetown. They include:

  • Providing our students with the richest possible learning experience, both inside and outside the classroom;
  • Assuring that we are able to recruit and retain the very best faculty;
  • Providing deserving students with the financial support they need for a Georgetown education;
  • Assuring that we have an infrastructure commensurate with our mission and our ambitions;
  • Assuring that our libraries have adequate resources to serve the University's aspirations;
  • Ensuring that we have a campus ministry program that enables the members of our community to integrate-- in ways appropriate to their own lives-- the demands of faith; and

Ensuring that we will always seek to balance the demands of academic excellence with the responsibility of social justice.

These are enduring priorities; they are timeless in their presence here in our community. At the same time, the campaign we plan will need to identify a small, select group of "transformative" opportunities, initiatives that enable us to pursue our academic mission at an ever-deeper level.

Since January, a campaign planning team, comprised of members of our Board and the University's senior officers, has been meeting with deans, senior administrators, leaders of academic units, and leaders from the Faculty Senate to develop fundraising strategies to support these core priorities and new initiatives.

With guidance from the Board of Directors, we are focused on three initiatives, as I described last fall. Our commitment to promoting interreligious understanding has been the inspiration for an initiative entitled Religion, Politics, and Peace that could move Georgetown to a position of global leadership in this area. Professor Tom Banchoff is leading this exploration.

A second initiative focuses on the undergraduate learning experience. Jim O'Donnell and Professor Randy Bass are working with a number of faculty members on this initiative.

A third initiative, Reflective Engagement in the Public Interest, led by Dean Alex Aleinikoff, would strengthen Georgetown's role in the important debates that shape our nation and the world.

I appreciate very much the work faculty members are doing to identify important ideas for focusing our philanthropic efforts.

Main Campus Science

And finally, I want to report on the efforts to develop a fourth theme, the role of science here at Georgetown, particularly on the Main Campus. To significantly strengthen science on the Main Campus, we're going to need an integrated academic, financial, infrastructure, and fundraising strategy. Let me say a word about each.

The future of science was the subject of a rich discussion at the February meeting of the Board of Directors led by Professors Amy Liu, Ellen Henderson, and Nathan Hultman. I appreciate their valuable and informed perspective.
A financial analysis indicates that the costs connected with a new science building would exceed $100 million. As I discussed at the January town hall meeting, we must improve our overall financial performance if we are to move forward with this most urgent academic need. A first step is the university's financial plan approved by the Board in February.

This plan calls on the Main Campus to achieve an $11 million operating surplus in FY '06, a target that is consistent with our historical margin. We need to demonstrate to the Board and to major donor prospects that we have the financial capacity to take on the added expenses of building and operating the new science building. This remains the single largest priority we have for strengthening our physical infrastructure.

I am pleased that we have completed a sophisticated site analysis that addressed the complexities of putting a science facility on the site of the former baseball field and across from the site of the new McDonough School of Business. Under the leadership of Senior Vice President Spiros Dimolitsas, we have a far better understanding of the complexities of removing soil, installing infrastructure, moving roads, and managing construction vehicles at that site.

Lastly, we're bringing to our fund-raising planning the same commitment to comprehensive strategy. In our last campaign, we told our investment community, "We need a science building because science is currently an academic weakness for us." That was not a strong strategy. In the next campaign, we will share with investors an integrated academic, construction, and financial vision that will inspire their support.

Introduction of John Glavin

Now it is my privilege to introduce our keynote speaker. As we honor our Vicennialists this evening, it seems appropriate that we invite the academic perspective of someone who has made a life here at Georgetown -- a scholar and citizen who has played an active role in the growth and evolution of our academic community.

To inaugurate the Life of Learning Lecture, I could think of no one who better embodies excellence in the many aspects of our mission than John Glavin, Professor of English, University Fellowship Secretary, and Director of the John Carroll Programs. Dr. Glavin has spent 40 years on this campus, as a student, a scholar, and a faculty leader.

A Dickens scholar, playwright and literary critic, he is also a deeply influential educator and mentor who has guided his students to academic and professional success. His passion for Georgetown has helped shape the way we celebrate scholarship and contributed to the academic prestige that the University enjoys today. Dr. Glavin's commitment to academic excellence led to the creation of the John Carroll Programs. He is the architect of the inspiring convocation that opens the academic career of new students each August.

Dr. Glavin earned his doctorate and master's degrees from Bryn Mawr College, and his B.A. from Georgetown. His plays have been produced here in Washington, DC, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and in Philadelphia. His criticism has been widely published; most recently, Dickens On Screen, which he edited, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2003. He is working on "As Upon A Theatre: Dickens, Performance, and Adaptation," a book-length study of the problems of adapting Dickens for the contemporary theatre.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. John Glavin...

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