USD Magazine
The Gift of Hope
President Lyons reflects on the future of USD
Summer 2010

What do you think are USD’s greatest challenges today and in the near future? What do you see as the most pressing opportunities for the future of the institution?

If I were being cavalier, I would fall back upon a glib response to this answer: Most problems can be solved, most challenges can be met, most opportunities can be seized if you have enough money! While this is somewhat true, it actually misses the mark.

Rather, our greatest challenge has more to do with having and promoting a great vision for our university and, subsequently, generating a culture within our vast community — students and their families, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, alumni and friends — shaped by that vision.

If we truly embrace the mission and vision of USD, have the will to work for the goals that derive from these, and commit ourselves to lead others in that direction, the university will continue to flourish.

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Catholic education today? What have been USD’s responses to these challenges?

USD is an academy founded and sustained by a belief in the essential goodness of creation and the worthiness of a lifelong commitment to understanding and working on behalf of the human condition. In this pursuit, our Catholic character opens to us the riches of the Church’s intellectual, spiritual, cultural and moral traditions. Its social teachings provide a foundation and an inspiration for our important efforts to teach and work for peace and justice. Above all, this Catholic university is an institution of hope. And what a gift this is during an era marked by economic uncertainty, pessimism and polarization.

USD’s strategic goals have led to the creation of a number of centers, such as the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture and the Center for Educational Excellence. What can you tell our readers about the new Center for Inclusion and Diversity?

The most effective and sustainable achievements at USD have been those that are conceived, initiated, developed and implemented by representatives from the entire community. The Center for Inclusion and Diversity is the most recent example of this.

One of the strategic priorities we defined in 2004 was to become a more “culturally diverse and culturally competent community.” We also recognize our obligation to provide special outreach to those who have been traditionally underserved in higher education. A follow-up action to our 2004 plan was the creation of the Committee on Inclusion and Diversity, a campus-wide group of students, faculty, staff and administrators who explored what options would best help us achieve our goals. A result of their work was the creation of the President’s Advisory Board on Inclusion and Diversity in 2008.

Alberto Pulido, chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, and Stephen Pultz, director of Undergraduate Admissions, co-chaired this effort, which defined five strategic directions, recommended the creation of a permanent Center for Inclusion and Diversity and adopted a statement capturing the goals of this initiative.

In March of this year, I announced the appointment of the co-directors of the Center: Carlton Floyd, assistant professor of English, and Mayté Pérez-Franco, director of the United Front Multicultural Center. Professor Floyd was also appointed Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity. The Center is now under development and will focus on these strategic directions: Diversity of Place, of People, of Pedagogy, of Life Experience and of Culture and Community.

The University of San Diego has come a long way physically, academically and socially since your arrival in 2003. What further progress do you anticipate for USD in the next several years?

I hope that our readers will take a leisurely tour of our website — — and discover the many, many ambitions of our College of Arts and Sciences, our professional schools and the School of Law.

A dynamic university like ours requires that our students absorb both the wisdom of the past and participate in the discovery of new knowledge. To that end, each of our divisions has plans for developing programs, supporting faculty and student research, and, in some cases, renovating and expanding spaces to accommodate their creative work.

Over the next five to seven years, this trajectory toward greater academic excellence will continue, with corresponding development of programs that enhance student life, including expanding the fruitful collaborations between academic affairs and student affairs that has resulted in superb programs for first- and second- year students. Related initiatives that are directed toward moving from “good to great” include achieving the goals of our Sports and Recreation Master Plan and increasing our network of alumni whose involvement is so critical to the future growth and development of their alma mater.