June 30, 2016

June 30, 2016

It is exciting to realize that one year has passed since I arrived at Creighton University to assume the role of president of this outstanding Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher learning. I want to express my profound gratitude to faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni for such a warm welcome to a wonderful University community. 

As I realize the completion of my first year on July 1, I am grateful for a recent opportunity to be with the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Rev. Adolfo Nicolás. Father General is eager to retire from his position in a number of months, and as such is keen to welcome to Rome this fall Jesuit delegates from all over the world to choose his successor. The University will provide you with updates accordingly. In our conversation, he named interiority as an important reality of our work, explaining that the growth we action and direct in the affective, spiritual, and intellectual lives of students, and the dimensions of transformation it reveals, is a salient characteristic of our educational mission. 

I am pleased that Dr. Tom Murray becomes our interim provost beginning tomorrow, July 1. Dr. Murray brings more than 34 years of academic experience to the position, and I, and other members of the University’s leadership team, look forward to his advice and counsel. I would also like to again thank Dr. Ed O’Connor, Creighton’s first provost, for his significant contributions to our academic mission over the past three years. I am currently reviewing options for launching a national search for a new provost and will offer an update as the summer proceeds. 

As we near the transition from CUMC to the new medical campuses, it is more important than ever for Creighton and CHI Health to work collaboratively to ensure the best affiliation possible in order to achieve a shared vision. With joint projects between Creighton and CHI Health continuing, Dr. Cliff Robertson, CEO of CHI Health, and I are announcing two joint appointments that will benefit both organizations.

Dale Davenport, senior associate dean in the Creighton University School of Medicine (CUSOM), will assume the role of temporary project manager for Creighton and CHI Health in order to focus on significant projects currently underway or planned for the future, including, but not limited to, the clinical research institute and expanded clinical teaching opportunities. 

Dr. Michael White, chief academic officer for CHI Health and associate dean for Educational Innovation in the Creighton University School of Medicine, will become the assistant to the provost for Health Sciences. Dr. White will focus on collaboration among Creighton’s schools and colleges and CHI Health. In particular, he will ensure that the affiliation addresses our academic needs and will work to expand educational opportunities for all of our learners. Dr. White will also facilitate integration efforts related to Creighton’s burgeoning Interprofessional Education (IPE) programs. While Dr. White will continue reporting to Drs. Robertson and Robert “Bo” Dunlay, dean of the Creighton School of Medicine, in his respective roles at CHI and CUSOM, I am grateful for his willingness to assist with academic initiatives.  

Creighton and CHI Health remain committed to enhancing and growing a relationship that has already produced positive results and provides significant benefits to the Omaha community and holds even greater promise for the future.
Dr. Mary Ann Vinton, associate professor of biology and director of Environmental Science, and Dr. Jay Leighter, associate professor of communication studies and director of Sustainability Studies, continue their work on forming the new President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, which will help me develop future priorities for the University in this area. Members of the new committee will be announced in the next one to two weeks.

Too, Jeff Branstetter, associate vice president for Human Resources, and Tricia Sharrar, associate provost for Academic Administration, are leading the new Diversity Committee, along with members Dr. Ivelisse Santiago-Stommes, associate professor of Spanish; Chris Rodgers, director of Government and Community Relations; Dr. Sade Kosoko-Lasaki, associate vice provost of Health Sciences; and Len Gordy, student and community outreach advisor. The committee has met and will propose a University-wide diversity assessment be conducted during the fall semester. The assessment will identify Creighton’s diversity strengths and improvement areas, and also help define the critical competencies and experiences needed to launch the search process to find an executive diversity leader for Creighton.  

Allow me to indicate that students are presently being invited to join each of the above committees. Their perspective is essential, and will greatly assist each of the groups. 

The University’s recent search to find a vice president for Finance did not yield a new hire. In consultation with Dan Burkey, senior vice president for Operations, we explored alternative options to gain assistance in this important area. Shannon Dill, the leading finalist in the recent search, will serve Creighton in an interim capacity. Shannon has 23 years of experience in financial management and planning with increasing responsibilities at ConAgra, and she began her work with us on Monday, June 20.

President’s Council convened in June with a new structure of membership and format. One change in its way of proceeding is to meet monthly for a longer period of time around a set of discussion topics. Last week, I asked members of the council to enter a period of assessment in each of their areas whereby we can begin appreciating the combined realities of institutional priorities and presidential initiatives that were named at the February 2016 convocation; campus-wide objectives that were voiced during listening sessions with you last fall, and some of which are referenced above; themes that emerged during the Area Examen process this past spring; and possible short- and long-term goals in our departments and colleges. With my cancellation of the strategic planning process last Oct. 1, I also asked the council to reflect on what was accomplished and operationalized, as well as lessons learned, from those efforts. We will discuss these at a day-long President’s Council retreat in August, and I look forward to sharing and discussing them with you when the new term commences. 

Regarding the extended closure of Burt Street, the goal is to reopen the street by Aug. 1. Due to weather and work by the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) and the City of Omaha, the project has taken longer than anticipated. The contractor hopes to make considerable progress in the next couple of weeks, including working with MUD to enable them to get started on the water main work by July 5, followed by street resurfacing. 

In addition, the bike trail project, which parallels Burt Street, is also continuing. The trail originates near Turner Park (30th and Dodge) and continues through campus and connects with the Webster Street mall. Eventually, it will extend to Mike Fahey and 17th streets. The project is expected to be completed before the start of the semester.

Further along Burt Street and in conjunction with the existing projects, preliminary site work will soon begin at the location of the new Creighton School of Dentistry building at 21st and Cuming streets in our desire to start construction this fall. Additional information regarding this important project will be announced in late summer.  

I have truly enjoyed my interaction this month with new undergraduate students and their parents, who have been visiting Creighton as part of our annual Summer Preview program. The goal of Summer Preview, which is administered by the Student Life division, is to provide an experience that begins rooting these young people into our community as well as introducing resources that will enable the incoming freshmen to be roundly successful at Creighton. I am very grateful for the many members of campus who extend them great Creighton hospitality. 

In just over three weeks, I will be exploring the countryside as I ride in the annual trek across Iowa known as RAGBRAI. The popular bike ride begins Sunday, July 24, in Glenwood and concludes Saturday, July 30, in the eastern Iowa community of Muscatine. Several members of the Creighton community will join me at various points as we ride 420 miles and visit eight towns. If you are interested in following my progress, I will be posting updates along the way on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

As we prepare to enjoy the upcoming three-day weekend and commemorate the founding of our nation, including the rights, liberties, and resources that we enjoy, please accept my sincere thanks for all you do to advance the mission of the University every day. I remain very excited about Creighton’s future and look forward to welcoming more than 1,000 freshmen to campus in August.

Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ