May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

Creighton University President, the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, SJ

As we approach the end of the spring semester, I would like to update you on several important initiatives and other news from the University, including renovation plans at the Harper Center, the 24th Street revitalization project, a recent statement regarding investment policies, the inaugural Kingfisher Award, community engagement, a change in leadership in UCOM, and a wonderful exhibition at the Joslyn Art Museum that I enjoyed with many of our students.

I have previously mentioned that plans are being finalized to renovate the Mike and Josie Harper Center, and very soon you will see the start of initial work. This project will address the impressive enrollment expansion of Heider College of Business, as well as our need to improve spacing and related services in welcoming prospective students and their parents to campus.

The Harper Center project requires the relocation of the bookstore, Enrollment Management, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, and the Center for Health and Counseling. The bookstore will temporarily relocate to the Murphy Building in July, then occupy space in the lower level of the Harper Center when it returns. Also, the current two levels of the bookstore will be renovated for Enrollment Management. As other details are worked through, in the near future I will have more information about the Schlegel Center and the Center for Health and Counseling.

The 24th Street reconstruction project that I also previously mentioned, and which was scheduled for this summer, will now be delayed until summer 2020. Flood damage throughout the state has strained available resources, including expertise and crews that handle street-related projects. While limited, non-right-of-way work will commence prior to the primary street project, we are now focused on the bulk of 24th Street construction occurring next summer.

Also, the California Mall work between 22nd Street and 24th Street restarted a few weeks ago. The extremely wet summer, early freeze, and hard winter delayed project completion to July of this year.

On Tuesday of this week, a statement was sent to the campus community regarding our substantial work in sustainability across a broad spectrum of campus initiatives. It included a reference to our decision to not divest endowment funds away from fossil fuel-related companies at this time due to our reliance on those funds to support scholarships, research, and many other important priorities of the University.

I would like to emphasize that we regularly use the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Socially Responsible Guidelines regarding socially responsible investment of Church funds as a guide when reviewing ways to achieve maximum return on endowment funds. For example, this policy calls for the exclusion of companies that directly participate in abortion or contraception, discriminate against women or minorities, or primarily develop or produce military weapons, just to name a few areas that we monitor.

In addition, we collaborate with the Midwest USA Province of the Society of Jesus to purchase shares in companies with which the Province and other organizations are engaging to change or improve corporate behavior. If these discussions do not result in the desired change, a shareholder resolution is filed to more broadly promote the issue. Last fall, the University co-filed a Human Rights Shareholder Resolution with private prison company GEO Group. The resolution pointed to specific violations at GEO facilities and asserts significant risks in terms of human rights performance. We are hopeful that this action will result in meaningful change by GEO Group in its treatment protocols.

Again, and as noted in the aforementioned statement on April 29, while Creighton has pledged a campus goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the University should regularly look for strategic opportunities to advance that timeline and will do so imminently. I hope to share more on this when we begin our Fall 2019 term.

I remain enthusiastic regarding the creation of the inaugural Kingfisher Award, which seeks to recognize outstanding Creighton faculty and staff who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the enduring values, principles, and practices of the humanities as they relate to the work and activities of the University and our community. The individuals selected for this award will embody the Jesuit tradition of “contemplation in action.”

Please consider nominating deserving colleagues for this prestigious award. To submit a nomination, use this online form, or send a hard copy nomination to David Barnum in my office.

As I announced last August, a Creighton task force has been working on an application for the Carnegie Foundation Classification for Community Engagement. This elective classification recognizes institutionalization of community engagement, which describes collaboration between Creighton and our larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

This self-study has already helped us to better understand how we animate our Jesuit, Catholic mission through collaboration with our local, regional, and global communities, and Creighton will receive notification of our review status in December 2019. The application process is designed to be formative and to benefit institutions regardless of whether they attain the classification in this round. If our application is not approved, we will receive recommendations that can inform our institutional strategies going forward and, potentially, a reapplication in five years. If we succeed, we will still receive suggestions for areas of improvement and the opportunity for reclassification in 10 years.

Thank you to all members of the task force on community engagement, which represented many campus units, that worked diligently to prepare the substantial application document. To read more about the community engagement initiative and view a list of task force members, please click here.

I have bittersweet news to share regarding leadership of University Communications and Marketing (UCOM). Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Jim Berscheidt informed me and Executive Vice President Jan Madsen in late March that he is leaving the University in May after serving more than four years in the role. Jim has accepted an offer to become the next Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the University of North Texas.

For Jim, the move is a return to his home state and an opportunity to serve at one of the largest state universities in Texas.

Jim has accomplished a great deal as leader of UCOM. Among his many achievements is the creation of TEDxCreightonU, which, among many fine talks, features one by Dr. Leah Georges on Navigating the Multigenerational Workplace that is now being promoted by TED.com and has achieved nearly 800,000 views after only one week on the global platform.

In addition, Creighton magazine – recently honored as one of the best university magazines in the nation – was redesigned in 2017 and the Creighton 140 Presidential Lecture Series, which featured Dr. Madeleine Albright and Gen. Colin Powell in our signature event of 2018, was initiated by Jim to continue our focus on increasing national recognition for the University. Personally, I will also miss Jim’s counsel on the many communication initiatives we developed together.

Jan Madsen has appointed Senior Project Executive Pam Mortenson as UCOM’s interim leader while we explore options for Jim’s permanent replacement. I hope you will join me in wishing Jim and his family all the best as they begin the transition back to Texas. His last day at Creighton is Tuesday, May 7.

Finally, this semester I had the pleasure of hosting many Creighton students for an evening at the Joslyn Art Museum to survey the work of contemporary African American artists in the exhibition 30 Americans. Drawn from the Florida-based Rubell Family Collection, the exhibition features paintings, works on paper, sculptures, installations, and videos created over the past three decades.

30 Americans was first unveiled in 2008 and has traveled to museums throughout the United States, but it will be at the Joslyn only until Monday, May 6, so I encourage you to take advantage of the exhibition being in Omaha. The students who attended the viewing with me had wonderful reactions, questions, and perspectives regarding the stunning exhibition.

Thank you for all you have done for Creighton during a very busy spring semester. As our students prepare to leave campus, I know you are engaged in many end-of-academic-year activities, and I appreciate all you do every day.

Sincerely,

Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ