Wednesday August 10, 2016

A Shared Vision

By Eric Spina

Ever since I was announced as the next president last fall, I have been in “deep learning mode” to understand our history, our core values and our people.

Some aspects of the University didn’t surprise me. For example, I discovered our Catholic, Marianist traditions are indeed the bedrock of all we do — in the classroom, in the community and in the world. I also quickly learned that our students truly do have selfless professional ambitions that are focused on making our society better.

Other aspects of the University did surprise me. While all universities say they value shared governance, here the level of faculty voice in consultation and decision making is purposeful — and commendable. In higher education, for instance, it’s rare for the president of the academic senate to be an active member of the president’s top advisory council or part of trustee meetings. Students also are elected to the body, another distinctive feature of our shared governance system.

On my first day, I met with Professor Joe Valenzano, newly named president of the academic senate, and Provost Paul Benson to talk about shared governance — and a shared vision for how we move forward to engage faculty and establish academic initiatives. Both are committed, caring leaders with the University’s mission at heart.

My first brush with faculty leadership came much earlier — when the UD presidency was still a twinkle in my eye. During interviews, I met Professor Carissa Krane, who served on the search committee in her role as the then-president of the academic senate. She represented the faculty well, speaking passionately about the central role of faculty in teaching, learning and discovery at the University of Dayton, and asking me questions about my approach to shared governance and lessons learned as a provost.

Once I was appointed, Professor Krane was a key adviser to me as I considered options for conducting searches for the open senior leadership positions, helping me think about process and communication. I believe that the warm welcome received by the four new leaders appointed this past spring is a testament to the advice and support that Professor Krane provided to me.

In all that Professor Valenzano does — whether chairing the communication department, teaching core undergraduate classes or mentoring students — and all that Professor Krane does — whether mentoring undergraduate researchers, offering service as the Schuellein chair or writing proposals to NSF — they bring a deep sense of purpose and an optimism about what we do here at UD. I feel blessed that these selfless faculty leaders serve as president and vice president of the academic senate on top of their other duties. Provost Benson and I look forward to working closely with both of them, their fellow officers and the full senate this year and beyond.

As we begin a yearlong strategic visioning process, I’m confident we have faculty leadership in place willing to honestly confront the challenges facing the University of Dayton. Through a respectful, consultative, and inclusive process, we will challenge ourselves to think in new ways about our future.

Then, we’ll design that future — together.

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