I imagine that all of you have been watching, as I have, the exciting and encouraging political events of the last week, as well as the continuing, sobering reports on our economy. The current volatility of the economic situation and the excitement of the election have had worldwide effects. President-Elect Barack Obama has said: "We are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime." I add to these words the thoughts of David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities: "…the full-blown effects of the credit crunch and the nation's economic struggles are yet unknown. It is impossible to predict the possible future consequences of the nation's continuing economic struggles on students and colleges."

We at Saint Mary's are facing the same economic challenges as virtually all private and public institutions. Most are taking reactive and proactive measures similar to those underway here. I am personally encouraged by the level of commitment the faculty, staff and students have shown to ensure that we maintain the level of excellence and efficiency in our academic programs and in the overall student experience. Last Thursday's staff appreciation day was for me a vivid reminder of the excellence and dedication of our staff, recounted in the many testimonials given at the luncheon. I express again my heartfelt thanks to those individuals whose many years of service to our mission we celebrated on that occasion.

As we move forward in this semester, we are identifying particular ways and means to keep Saint Mary's College affordable, to become more efficient and economical, to protect the academic excellence of the institution and to maintain the positive momentum of current projects and planning. We need, for example, to maintain a high quality of delivery of student services, to continue improvements to the physical plant, to support ongoing efforts at student retention, to address technology needs, and to keep positive momentum in a variety of faculty-led efforts in curriculum development, research, scholarship and student advising. Finally, we need to keep our momentum in areas of fundraising and development and make progress on the Building on Strengths tasks.

Each of the cabinet members will continue ongoing efforts to address these priorities in their various areas of responsibility. They are looking closely at savings in administrative expenses, travel, staffing needs and collaboration where possible, and at overall efficiency in operation. I have asked them to communicate regularly with staff and faculty in their areas about these tasks and to explore ways in which we can involve the whole community in a common effort to address the challenges before us.

I offer also a final word of congratulation to our students for their achievements this semester. Whether in areas of service, cultural sensitivity, athletics, artistic expression, gardening or academic achievement, their efforts have succeeded in making Saint Mary's a vibrant and exciting community.

In St. La Salle,

Brother Ronald Gallagher

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Saint Mary's College of California
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