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Convocation Address Highlights Creighton’s Leadership in Education, Community

Convocation 2019Creighton University is strengthening its reputation as a national leader in higher education with the announcement of several new initiatives featured in the Feb. 5 Founders Week Convocation Address delivered by Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ.

Expanding upon strategic initiatives and diversity and inclusion efforts, Creighton will join other elite institutions across the nation by becoming a test-optional institution during the 2020 enrollment cycle.

“Going test optional removes biases that are often evident in the outcomes of standardized examinations,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

Students will still be encouraged to take standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, and to share scores with the University, if students believes their scores are reflective of their ability and potential. Some form of standardized testing will be required from students who attend high school outside the U.S., for NCAA athletes, home-schooled students and those applying to the Direct Entry Nursing program.

This academic year saw an increase of 250 students enrolled across all categories, including an uptick of Omaha-area students. First-year student retention rates increased .5 percent over last year’s fall-to-spring retention rates. A new cohort of Creighton Global Scholars is forming, as current participants are acclimating well to their first semester in Omaha, Fr. Hendrickson said.

Current programs, including ones in business and nursing, show notable growth, and with the strategic effort around professional and corporate partnerships, significant growth is anticipated in graduate programs as well.

Alumni, Fr. Hendrickson said, are strengthening both the city of Omaha and state of Nebraska, with the Greater Omaha Chamber noting significant numbers of working professionals holding Creighton degrees.

A change in the Carnegie Classification, a leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional distinction and difference in U.S. higher education, will likely affect Creighton.

Although U.S. News & World Report has not yet announced if it will adopt these new classifications for the 2020 rankings, Creighton will no longer be reviewed in the “Regional Masters” category, where the University has been ranked No. 1 in the Midwest for 16 years.

“The takeaway is that Creighton is now classified as a Doctoral/Professional University, rather than a Master’s College and University,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “For the scope and scale of our work and programs, I find this both accurate and favorable.”

This spring, Creighton will apply to host a presidential debate during the 2020 election cycle. The occasion would not be a campaign for a single candidate, nor a debate during the primaries; rather, it would be one of four presidential and vice-presidential debates that occur just prior to the national election in November 2020.

The Creighton Debate Committee is working with staff from the Commission on Presidential Debates in Washington, D.C., on requirements. If Creighton is chosen, the University would be notified in fall 2019.

“I think the attention Creighton would receive for hosting the debate would give us a global stage for promoting our academic programs and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher learning,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

To support the strategic plan’s Living our Mission goal, Creighton will launch a new Mission Week this fall, Sept. 9-13, Fr. Hendrickson announced.

Integral to the week’s events will be the presentation of a new Kingfisher Award, given to a faculty or staff member who demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to enduring values, principles and practices of the humanities as they relate to the work and activities of the University and community.

“The people selected for this award will embody the Jesuit tradition of contemplation in action – they are people who find innovative and inspiring ways to unify heart, hands, and minds to reveal the ongoing relevance of humanistic ideals and practices in our lives and our professions,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose poem, ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire,’ inspires these efforts, we truly continue at Creighton to say more.”

New committees were announced, focusing on community and strategic plan initiatives. First, the President’s Task Force on Catholic Clerical Sexual Abuse looks to assess how Creighton as a Jesuit, Catholic institution can better understand and respond to this crisis.

With the conclusion of the President’s Planning Committee for Strategic Planning, a new Faculty Advisory Committee for Strategic Planning will maintain faculty engagement in planning work of the University.

A Presidential Task Force has been formed to review and evaluate structure, costs, funding and campus engagement around Project Homeless Connect Omaha.

To better understand relationships and partnerships in Omaha, the Presidential Committee on Community Engagement looks to develop an infrastructure for inclusion and collaboration. The committee is already underway, setting up listening sessions and conversations with the North Omaha community.

In Phoenix, construction of Creighton’s new health sciences campus is scheduled to begin in July with an opening slated for 2021. A wide range of programs is planned in Phoenix, with a projected graduate and professional student enrollment of more than 800 by 2025. And, Phoenix continues to be a strong source of undergraduate enrollment for Creighton, with efforts to expand relationships with high schools in Arizona paying off.

Creighton’s clinical health care partner in Phoenix, Dignity Health, and Omaha partner CHI Health, merged Feb. 1 to form CommonSpirit – now the largest Catholic health system in the country, with 142 hospitals across 21 states. The headquarters of the new entity will be in Chicago.

“As Creighton expands its programs in Phoenix, we will become the largest Catholic health professions educator in the nation, and we have an opportunity to be thoughtful about how we position ourselves to help lead the future of Catholic health care together,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

Construction near and around campus continues with several new and refurbished apartment buildings able to accommodate growing student populations. Facilities Management, Central Receiving and Mail Services are in the process of moving north of Cuming Street on 20th Street, vacating the Murphy and Jelinek buildings, which will be razed within the next year and a half for additional parking and green space.

The Kiewit Fitness Center and Mike and Josie Harper Center both will see renovations in the coming years. Expanded facilities within the old pool area of the KFC will accommodate a growing exercise science program. In the Harper Center, Enrollment Services facilities will be updated, and access and space around the Hixson-Lied auditorium will be enhanced.

Also announced was the 2019 commencement speaker: Nebraska native, former governor, former senator and president emeritus of New School University, Bob Kerrey.

The next Planetary Emergency Series, led by theology professor Richard Miller, PhD, will be held on April 1. The Human Trafficking Initiative will host an International Conference on Human Trafficking Research May 28-30.

Several awards were bestowed on distinguished Creighton faculty, staff and administrators. The following individuals were recognized:

New Endowed Chairs
Carol Zuegner, PhD, Inaugural Holder of the Joella Cohen Endowed Chair in Journalism
The Rev. Henry D’Almeida, SJ, PhD, Anna and Donald Waite Chair in Jesuit Education

Distinguished Educator in Teaching as Scholarship Awards
Lisa L. Black, PT, DPT’06, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions
Mary Ann Danielson, PhD, College of Arts and Sciences

Distinguished Service Awards
Staff: Karen R. Thurber, Creighton TRiO Student Support Services
Faculty: Barbara Harris, PhD, School of Dentistry
Administrator: Mary V. Kunes-Connell, PhD, RN, College of Nursing

Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality Award (St. Ignatius Award)
Gerald B. Kuhlman, College of Arts and Sciences

View a video recording of convocation here.


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