Reflections on the Month of September

Dear Members of the Saint Mary's College Community,

As we rush to the end of September in a very busy time, I would like to share some reflections on the year from several encounters this month.

I recently had lunch with three of our faculty who attended the Rome meeting for Lasallian and Catholic Higher Education Leadership. Like those who have attended the three previous Rome meetings, these faculty returned with a realization that we at Saint Mary's are indeed part of a global Lasallian enterprise. These faculty are enthused about the possibilities for networking with other institutions and individuals. Moreover, they look forward to meeting with the other SMC Rome participants to share their experience and seek to organize some collective initiatives for the College community.

The Mission Assessment Committee met with the combined Brothers' communities this month to discuss the first draft of the Mission Assessment document. This committee has put much thought and effort into its work and had a very productive conversation with the Brothers. I am convinced this internal assessment tool will assist the entire community in understanding how to carry out our Catholic, Lasallian and Liberal Arts mission and to see, as the committee is convinced, that these fundamental parts of our institutional identity are closely intertwined. We can look forward to further conversations with this important committee in the coming months.

I also encourage faculty to participate in the ongoing conversations about the Core Curriculum outcomes, organized by Professor Zach Flanigan and the CCIC committee.

At the President's Club reception just a week ago, several brothers shared insights about their lives as brothers in an "Oprah"-style interview in Le Fevre Theater, conducted by Regent Laura Garcia Cannon, an Emmy award-winning newscaster. This amusing and insightful conversation was followed by a reception for 200 President's Club members in Ferrogiaro Quad. Many in the group expressed their support and pleasure at the accomplishments of our students, staff and faculty. In these difficult economic times, it is encouraging to have the participation of these friends of Saint Mary's.

Reporting on his visits to high schools last week, Assistant Director of Admissions Damian Fatongia commented on how many school counselors (many alumni of the Kalmanovitz School of Education) "raved" about the continuing attention the College has received for its accomplishments in the arts, athletics and the recent Senate debate. As I have spoken with college presidents, alumni and members of the public in recent weeks, they too have often commented on the many recent achievements of our talented students, faculty and staff members. In their words, it seems as if Saint Mary's is seeing the benefits of positive attention and strategic initiatives.

This sense of momentum and forward trajectory is the result of the hard work of many in our community. In recent weeks Vice Presidents Michael Beseda, Keith Brant and Pete Michell have provided reports on record new undergraduate student enrollment, fundraising success and enhanced financial results. These achievements, while due in large part to the performance of staff in their respective areas, more broadly reflect the ongoing achievement of faculty and staff members across campus. The College Budget Committee is close to finalizing recommendations on how best to allocate unexpected resources in a prudent and sustainable manner. Soon after the October Board of Trustees meeting, I expect to be able to share information on enhancements to the College's compensation program.

Last week, Institutional Research Director Sam Agronow reported on a significant increase (4% - from 82% to 86%) in retention of last year's first-year undergraduate class. While the factors that contributed to this result are likely numerous, I am certain that new initiatives called for in BOS reports, including enhanced advising, required residence for first-year students, and the FYE have all played a part. My personal thanks to the many faculty and staff members, including Provost Beth Dobkin, Vice Provosts Jane Camarillo and Frances Sweeney, and Dean Russ Tiberii, whose ongoing dedication to student success led to these improvements. There is no better evidence of our shared Lasallian commitment to students than their academic success and the continued enrollment at SMC that results.

I encourage all in our community to attend this evening's lecture by DePaul University President Father Dennis Holtschneider. I trust his insights will contribute to our ongoing dialogue regarding our Catholic tradition and religious pluralism.

Over the next several months, I will share a draft of my vision for the College's development with groups across campus. While the sober realities of global and regional economic conditions will continue to in some ways limit our possibilities, I feel blessed to be charged with envisioning Saint Mary's future at a time when is served by such a talented and committed faculty and staff and is moving from one accomplishment to the next.

Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC