Office of the President

Drop Shadow

State of the University

September 9, 2004

Last year when gathered for this luncheon, I shared with you my “first impressions,” emphasizing the accelerating momentum of this relatively young university as it fulfills its mission to students and its public purposes for the larger community.  Little did I know then that the metaphors I chose would take on greater meaning throughout the year as we conducted our own version of an academic marathon, a comprehensive strategic planning process that included updating our mission statement, creating a vision statement, and—from these—selecting five strategic priorities that will claim our attention and focus for the next several years.  Our vision is to become “a nationally preeminent Catholic university known for educating students who are globally competent, ethical leaders working and serving in our complex and changing world.”  Note the emphasis on global competency, ethical leadership, and the call for work and service in, what we all know to be, an increasingly complex and dynamic universe.

The University has, of course, been moving in these directions for many years.  But to achieve the fullness of this vision will take more focus, more time, and—not surprisingly—more resources.  What do we intend to do?  Over the next few years, you can expect the University to become a more culturally diverse and culturally competent community through recruitment at all levels, through deepening transborder and international partnerships, and through greater internationalization of our curriculum. Going forward, you should rely on the graduates you hire from this University to have an educational experience that integrates theory with praxis through internships, clinics, study abroad, and research.  As importantly, you will recognize in our graduates an even greater readiness to provide ethical leadership in the workplace because of the scholarly contributions and example of our faculty and staff.  And, thanks to the extraordinary vision and generosity of Joan Kroc, this University will assume an international place of leadership in addressing the most critical issues of our times through the creation of its School of Peace Studies and the expanded reach of our Institute for Peace and Justice.  These are not all of our ambitions, but they represent the commitments we are making to you, to our students, to this region; indeed, far beyond this region.

These ambitions did not come to me or to a committee in a sudden flash of insight.  No, they derive directly from our mission as a Roman Catholic institution committed to advancing academic excellence, expanding liberal and professional knowledge, creating a diverse and inclusive community, and preparing leaders dedicated to ethical conduct and compassionate service.  Inherent in this mission are our core values.  These are values that we all hold; to which we all aspire; that inform what we teach and how we teach in our undergraduate programs (liberal arts, science, business); in our graduate programs, education, nursing, business, and law.  The great challenge for us is persuading you and others that these values, this educational experience, these ambitions for our students are not mere abstractions; not ethereal flights of fancy. Instead, that they are the foundations of an intellectually serious University.  It was grappling with this challenge, compounded by the realization that the University of San Diego is not yet a “household” name, even in our own region, that informed one of the more valuable series of conversations I have had since arriving in San Diego.

Through the generous efforts of our Business Link partners, something wonderful and transformative happened.  This story is a great example of how relationships within and among us add value to our community.  Larry Shea, a USD alumnus and managing partner of Barney and Barney Insurance, hosted one of our first CEO luncheons.  Happily for us, Phyllis Schwartz, general manager of NBC 7/39 attended and heard me express a desire to connect USD even more visibility to the community.  A seed had been planted through that conversation that bore great fruit.  Thanks to Phyllis’s initiative, we connected with NBC’s marketing representative; thanks to the chair of our Board of Trustees, Bob Hoehn, we had the opportunity to work with the fantastic and creative forces at Meades/Durket and, thanks to the energetic persistence of USD’s own marketing team, lead by Coreen Petti, we took our first step into a world which is familiar to most of you, media marketing.

What did we, what did I hope to achieve with this creative effort?  Put simply, I wanted the world to know that here in San Diego is a University, highly respected for its academic excellence, and—more—greatly cherished for the quality of its graduates, men and women who really do LIVE our core values; make real our Mission statement; give us reason to respond even more aggressively to our changing and complex world.  So, this 30-second spot captures briefly and elegantly the lives our faculty, alumni, and students; the way in which our University lives and “is” its essential meaning: universitas, the whole world, the human family.  “Dreams” are made by people like Mike Whitmarsh who won his Olympic silver medal; “Success” is evident in the career of our law school alumnus, Steve Altman; “Tradition” is embarked by the fidelity of alumnus like our first degree recipient, Teri Whitcomb, who has sustained her service to the University for decades; “Compassion” is experienced everyday by those who benefit from the health care provided by Dr. Cay Casey and whose health may be improved by the “Discoveries” of physicians like Dr. Tom Kozak.  “Justice” is not an abstraction but meted out everyday by those of the legal profession and alumnae like Nancy Ely Raphel who is the Director of Save the Children in Washington, D.C.   Each person you see represents so many others who make up our USD family and, more, give so much to the improvement of the entire human family.  They are the University of San Diego; that was and is the point.  Not just prepared for the world; but prepared to change it.

This is a beginning.  We desire to do so much more; we need to do more; all we need is your sustaining support, your interest in our future; your own creative ideas and investment in realizing a vision that is shared.  Given the experience we just had during the Olympics; I am convinced that we will indeed—together—be gold medal winners!

Mary E. Lyons, Ph.D.


Thank you.