By Kate Arenchild | News Reporter

President Donahue’s address was given in the Soda Center during Community Time. (Kristen Geibel/Collegian)

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, President Donahue delivered his third President’s address. His goal was to clarify the priorities of Saint Mary’s College and outline how these will be focused on exactly. The event was heavily attended by staff, administration, and faculty from across campus. A small handful of students were present.

The address began by a prayer using the Lasallian invocation, “Let us Remember…that we are in the Holy presence of God.” He continued, “Lord, God of life, Creator, Savior, and constant companion, let us remember that we are always in your presence and that you are both our source and our end. Help us to follow the way of John Baptist de la Salle, to be witnesses of hope and channels of love, to be effective educators and advocates of our students.”

He then listed many accomplishments, showcasing the rigor and vitality of Saint Mary’s academics. He highlighted the 75th anniversary of the Collegiate Seminar Program, the 25th anniversary of the Performing Arts program, and the recent opening of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Center in Assumption Hall. He boasted of Saint Mary’s being placed within the top 25 percent of higher educational institutions according to the Wall Street Journal as well as being in the Top 10 Regional Universities of the West according to U.S. News and World Report.

He then stated his three priorities for moving forward: further stabilizing the financial situation of the College, fostering collaborative leadership, and reaffirming the Lasallian-Catholic Mission.

Of primary importance, he stated, was the health of the budget. The voluntary separation program last year saved the College $7.8 million. As a tuition-driven institution, enrollment is of high priority for Saint Mary’s,  and the undergraduate population is higher than the previous year. The school raised $13.7 million, and its endowment is at $182 million, both of which reflect a growing “culture of philanthropy” at Saint Mary’s, the President said.

There is new leadership within the Board of Trustees, aimed at shifting from cost cutting towards investing in the College’s future in an entrepreneurial way. There is a new committee being founded called the Business and Academic Committee that will be comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees. Saint Mary’s must innovate, Donahue emphasized, or suffer the consequence.

While a growing student population is necessary for Saint Mary’s as a tuition driven institution, he stated that the school is already dealing with capacity issues. He spoke of how much financial aid is appropriate to be giving out, keeping in mind both the mission and the financial health of the College. Currently, 80 percent of students receive financial aid. He proposed that the question be asked if we need to admit more full-paying students. He emphasized that whatever financial decisions are made, the mission of the school will remain in the forefront of all decisions.

Next, he spoke of “superb, collaborative leadership.” The search for the new Provost culminated in four candidates visiting the school during October. President Donahue will be releasing his decision soon. The question of shared governance is one that he remains committed to, especially when trying to understand the needs of faculty. There has been a $50,000 increase in funding for faculty to conduct research, attend conferences, and pursue their academic vocations. This announcement was met with a quiet cheer, presumably from the faculty members in attendance.

The third priority was how, as an institution, the College is to be Lasallian for the present moment. “We must capture the past while simultaneously incentivizing programs to bring us to where we need to be for our mission,” he said. Donahue spoke about vocation and its relationship to mission. “Vocation calls us to ask certain questions. What are my purposes? What are our purposes? Where do my intellect, my experiences, my aspirations, my skills, my joys, my passions, lead me? Wouldn’t you like to think that most of our students ask that question on some level? How do you create purpose, direction, and meaning? The entire campus needs to do it. There must be a connection between education, purpose, and direction.” In January, Donahue will be starting faculty and staff vocation groups to discuss how the college can do this better. He asked: “How is God acting in our lives and in the life of this institution? What is God calling us to do and to be?”

The school’s commitment to inclusive excellence and diversity remains strong, he said. Diversity is key, Donahue stressed, because the faculty should come to closely match the population of the students. It is fundamental to realize the rich diversity that we have as a community. Conversations across differences need to occur, and students should understand how rich of a resource diversity is in their lives. President Donahue joined college presidents across the country to sign a letter supporting DACA and asking for Congress to address the issue. Additionally, he has been in conversation with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier about DACA and other issues surrounding higher education.

He continued speaking about various programs used to advance the cause of diversity on campus, from the CCIE hosting 44 days of black history beginning in January to celebrate the US’s first black president to the advances of the GUIDE (Gaels Uniting for Inclusion and Diversity through Education) training. He will also be seeking to raise salaries and benefits of the employees of the campus, reinstating benefits that were removed last year during budget cuts and even raising salaries.

He ended by stating: “I take no greater pride than seeing our students work through the issues—intellectual, academic, social, political, cultural, religious, and sexual, that are critical to defining a life, and we do that extremely well. I am committing myself and this institution to making sure that we achieve the goals we have set out for ourselves.”

There will be a Q&A session at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8 in the Soda Center.

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