Oct. 9, 2019

Oct. 9, 2019

Presidential message

As we near the midpoint of the fall semester, I would like to provide a few updates, offer congratulations and gratitude, and share my reflections on what has been a full, fruitful, and engaging beginning of the 2019-2020 academic term.

In and of these first months of the academic year, we have so much for which to be thankful. We celebrated a highly successful inaugural Mission Week, a ceremonial groundbreaking for our new health sciences campus in Phoenix, and, on Tuesday of last week, a naming ceremony for the Heaney Pedestrian Bridge over the North Freeway that connects the Atlas apartments and our main campus.

Also, with so many colleagues here on campus, I recently stood in solidarity with local government officials, community leaders, and a crowd of several hundred at the Douglas County Courthouse to commemorate the horrific mob lynching of a black man, Will Brown, at that very site 100 years earlier.

Creighton’s participation and leadership in this event and related conversations and programs is remarkable, if not prophetic. The ceremony served as a powerful reminder of the evils of racial violence and its reality in our world, as well as a hopeful call to seek racial justice and equality. Representing many corners of our campus and beyond, the presence of Creighton faculty, staff, students, and alumni was clear, and inspirational.

Also in September, we welcomed Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Blight to campus for separate lectures. Their talks on the plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq and the legacy of Frederick Douglass, respectively, were both informative and insightful.

I also appreciated the opportunity during Mission Week to address the campus community at the Presidential Town Hall and Kingfisher Award Presentation. Congratulations again to theology professor and documentary filmmaker John O’Keefe, PhD, on receiving the inaugural Kingfisher Award, which recognizes an extraordinary commitment to the enduring values, principles, and practices of the humanities by a Creighton faculty or staff member.

As I shared during the Town Hall, and congruent with the work of the task forces aligning our goals with our strategic plan, I have outlined five priorities for the 2019-2020 academic year: mission, academic planning and review, lifelong learning, Phoenix health sciences campus, and stewardship of resources.

In regard to mission, I presented a slide highlighting leadership values and behaviors, and four primary areas of focus. The document can be found on the Strategic Plan website, under Events and Forums, and I encourage you to review it. We have an opportunity to keep reflecting upon the identity and impact of our honorable mission of Jesuit higher learning as well as our own unique contributions and influences with and among each other, in our departments and units, and across campus.

At the Town Hall, I also shared some important metrics on the changing national landscape in American higher education – a declining number of high school graduates and increasing opportunities in lifelong learning and graduate education.

Graduate enrollment growth, in fact, is projected to outpace undergraduate enrollment by nearly 20% through 2022, with interest in graduate certificate programs rising dramatically.

Undergraduate enrollment faces pressures from an expected, precipitous drop in college-age students after 2025 and increased price sensitivity among students and families. I referenced the latter change in previous Town Hall and Convocation addresses, and more recently with you gave it even greater attention.

At the Town Hall, in Academic Council, with the President’s Council, and with the President’s Faculty Advisory Group for Strategic Planning, I have asked for extra mindfulness of these realities, and I ask you, too, to engage these national trends. In your college, school, department, and division, I ask that you meet within your “teams” and units to talk about changing enrollment patterns, and to identify challenges and opportunities.

It was not at all happenstance that I ended our Town Hall conversation with a reminder of innovative, efficacious, and pioneering benchmarks and milestones at Creighton over the course of many years, including very recently. Creighton continues to be true to its mission and identity, and a force of commitment and creativity in American academe. The following resources may help frame your thinking and discussions, including leading to other data points and national dialogue:

As you are able to meet in your departments and units, it is necessary that we come together as a University community to hear from one another. I am keenly interested in hearing your thoughts, including offering clarity and answering questions. Please hold Tuesday, Nov. 19, on your calendar. Shortly, I will send you a registration link for coming together during that day during one of a few sessions that works in your schedule.

I also continue to work on the idea of a campus forum, here in Omaha, to celebrate and provide a strategic overview of our health sciences campus in Phoenix, and I am grateful for your patience. Phoenix is another moment of courage, vision, and hope in our impressive history.

Too, I have been working with Provost Murray on an incentive program that I announced at the Town Hall for research and coursework development, the President’s Distinguished Curriculum Innovation and Pedagogical Research Grant. As you may remember, this initiative will focus on three key areas: interdisciplinary or interprofessional health education; lifelong learning innovation; and community engagement. I have added a fourth category, Exigent Issues of Global Concern, to this program. The description of this incentive plan is now available online.

Finally, an announcement is forthcoming concerning ongoing energies and creativity with the Creighton Global Initiative.

This is an exciting time in the life of our University, and I welcome the full participation of the entire Creighton community as we engage in further developing and implementing our five key priorities for 2019-2020. Your support and input are essential as we move forward.

Thank you, again, for making this first half of the semester so meaningful and impactful. As many of our students head out for time with family and friends, or to participate in a Service and Justice Trip through the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, I hope that you, too, can enjoy a bit of respite and renewal as we begin the week of fall break on Oct. 14.

I am encouraged by all that we have accomplished, and am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. In American Jesuit higher education – as well as in the academy of the United States – we are recognized as bold, visionary, and mission-focused. Our leadership inspires others.


Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD