Strategic Plan Presented: Possibility of Semesters, Event Center

The Strategic Planning Committee presented an overview of their Strategic Directions proposition for the university to be carried out over the next five years. The convocation, held in Pigott Auditorium last Thursday, addressed the committee’s progress, the university’s need for a financial restructuring and a potential switch from the quarter system to the semester system.

Seattle University President Fr. Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., spoke to the five goals the Strategic Planning Committee intends on fulfilling: reimagine and revise the curriculum, strengthen professional formations, enhance the student experience, support the success of the community and reposition for change.

Sundborg explained to faculty and staff that his approach to entering the five year course of action was to sit and reflect on what the university has accomplished and struggled with and contemplate what it hopes to accomplish in the future.

“I came back to my room one day, and I sat down, and I said I gotta write a letter to Seattle University as if I were the president in 2030—and this would be an imaginary projection in terms of looking back on this very date 10 years from now,” Sundborg said.

Sundborg invited four Seattle U community members, spanning from faculty, staff and alumni, to provide their perspectives and insight on the changes that would happen within the Strategic Directions.

Director of Student Conduct and Integrity Formation, Armina Khwaja was the first faculty member to speak at the forum about their takeaways from the university’s current vision and her opinions about the strategic direction the university is taking.

“The first strategic direction to address is making the university more financially feasible for students who are unable to come without any kind of assistance. The second is the issue of supporting our community by addressing issues of salary and resources,” Khwaja said.

In Sundborg’s speech, he also commented on the importance of financial awareness and how planning and proper budgeting can help ensure that less cuts happen throughout the academic year and if they do, that they are carried out in a strategic manner.

“We need a financial repositioning for the sake of the university. We cannot have the future we want to have unless we have this financial adjustment. We’ve never done anything like this before,” Sundborg said. “The number of times this university put cuts in place at the beginning or end of the academic year was equally distributed across the university and hence they were not strategic.”

Khwaja also commented on her past experiences at two previous institutions where the semester system was a more humane approach where faculty and staff can spread out material throughout more weeks. Also, Khwaja expressed that when students fall behind or do not understand the course content it is more difficult to catch them up.

Connie Anthony, an associate professor in the political science department, spoke to how the switch to the semester system would allow the university to coincide with the academic calendars of a majority of colleges around the nation. She added that the quarter system has put students at a disadvantage when it comes to professional benefits and opportunities.

“Over 70% of colleges and universities are on semester systems,” Anthony said. “And what that means for both faculty and students is we don’t match with the larger academic calendar that drives conferences, internships and faculty development opportunities to provide just a number of things. The semester system starts in May, when we’re still finishing our spring quarter.”

Although Sundborg will be leaving the University in 2021, shortly he intends to have the community reflect on what they can do to move forward and ensure Seattle U continues to strive for Jesuit excellency.

“Just take stock of our experience, where we are, how we feel, what we hope for, what we feel challenged by and live with this for a while to metabolize it, to let it develop within us, and then get the word from the journey that’s ahead.”

Sophia Wells Contributed to this report.

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