President Plumb Recaps First 100 Days and Looks to a Thriving Future

In a forum co-sponsored by the Academic Senate, the Staff Council, and the Office of the President, Saint Mary’s President Richard Plumb, PhD, addressed the staff and faculty on his First 100 Days at Saint Mary’s. While the College, like many institutions, faces pandemic- and demographic-related financial challenges, Plumb assured those assembled and another 200 on Zoom that leadership is determined to make Saint Mary’s thrive.

“I am incredibly optimistic about the future of Saint Mary's,” Plumb said.

The president began the forum reviewing what the community told him last spring they wanted to see. “Four things came through loud and clear,” Plumb said. “You wanted transparency, collaboration, honesty, and leadership. I have taken those four elements to heart, and am working with senior leadership to instil them in all we do. The creation of the College Council with wider representation is part of that.” 

“The past two years in particular with the pandemic have really strained a lot of us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s been tough. And we have much to celebrate in how we very successfully navigated the uncertainty for our students and our community. I thank you all for your efforts these past two years.” 

“Now, we need to reaffirm our priorities, make tough decisions together, and we're going to be fine—we’re going to be more than fine. We're going to thrive.” 

Saint Mary’s status as a tuition-dependent institution, Plumb explained, presents challenges. With enrollment and related revenues lower than in the recent past, he said, “We are in a tough budget situation, but we can get out of it if we all work together. How do we come together as a community, doing our part to position this College to thrive?” Plumb asked. His answers included strengthening our values of community, respect for all, and the concept of shared governance.  

“In order for shared governance to work, we have to have the right culture. People have got to want to work together,” Plumb said. “Whether we are trustees, administrators, faculty, or staff, shared governance is critically important. We all have a role to play, and we need to know what that role is.”

“I've been at four other colleges, and no other school that I have been at is more committed and more focused on the success of each and every student,” Plumb said. “Furthermore, everyone here believes they have a role in our students’ education. That is the Lasallian tradition, that we are all brothers and sisters working with our students on their journey and helping them in their education. That is a phenomenal thing that we have here that we can never lose.”

After discussing the unsung heroes in several branches of the College’s administration, beginning with Facilities, IT, Finance and Administration, Public Safety, as well as the work of faculty and staff in Academics and Student Life, Plumb spoke about what the College represents to the Bay Area and beyond, and what students want from the institution in terms of education. “Students come to Saint Mary’s to earn a degree, but they come for an education. That education is also carried out in our programming in student life, in academic affairs, and  what we do with them on their emotional and spiritual journey.” Plumb pointed out that once students are here, they have an amazing and transformative experience. “Our retention rates and graduation rates remain very high, which means students who come here appreciate their Saint Mary’s experience. That is what we will build on.”  

Proposed future endeavors at Saint Mary’s include a $90 million investment in infrastructure, including a substantial renovation of two first-year residence halls, Mitty and Justin. The president also discussed keeping academic programs up-to-date and innovative, and reworking units for students to help them complete their studies, even double majors, in four years. He provided further details related to programming and student experience, such as building on the strong athletic success, creating strategic community partnerships in the Bay Area, and student experience such as Learning Living Communities. 

Plumb concluded by looking forward to celebrating the centennial of Saint Mary’s in Moraga in 2028—and talked about how we will get there stronger and better. “We're going to be creative. We're going to build on our legacy and think and organize ourselves for this new chapter.”  

“What you are hearing is a lot of change. We have to work on this change together. Change can be challenging, but we have to be committed, because if we grow and change in the right way, we will thrive in 2028 when we have that celebration here,” Plumb said. 

“We have an opportunity as a community—as trustees, as administrators, as faculty, and as professional staff. We can work together and we can make this institution thrive, living out our Catholic social teaching principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. In these first 100 days, I have been very impressed by the commitment and caring I see across this campus, and I am incredibly, incredibly optimistic about Saint Mary’s future.” 

After the address, President Plumb introduced the senior staff. All of them then took questions from the audience addressing how staff, faculty, and students can help contribute to Saint Mary’s success. These questions will continue to be discussed in the future in both newsletters and forums.