One Hundred Eighty Days, but Who’s Counting?
by Rick Artman
All cultures have a distinct view of time, a valuable perspective I learned early in my professional career as international student advisor at the University of Miami, Fla. Americans have a particular fascination, almost an obsession, with time. We mark it regularly—shopping days remaining before Christmas; even the president’s ratings after 100 days. That president, not this one! Well, lo and behold, the Strides editor does want something on THIS president, at the 180-day mark. In higher education, it’s not common to check the polls to see how one is doing—people will tell you, or if a president is really out of the loop, word spreads quickly through the campus and there is a secret meeting of the faculty.
I was eager to comply with the request to pen some thoughts after six months on the job, until I was told the section for my essay is entitled, “Final Word”! Was there a meeting of the faculty?
It is with pleasure that I offer my early observations and my thoughts for Viterbo’s future. The pace has been frenetic, though I expected such and was prepared for the demands on time and energy, having served as president at Siena Heights University for the preceding 12 years. The Presidential Transition Team has served Joan and me extremely well. In the early months, the team members organized campus tours, scheduled meetings with key constituents, provided a resource list of community services, and shed insight on the 225 pages of responses to the “new president’s questionnaire” that was available online to faculty and staff.
The transition with Chancellor Medland has been a smooth one; and I am grateful to Bill and all of the other presidential predecessors who have shaped the direction of Viterbo during their tenure. I have by now met most of our trustees and I can assure you these women and men are dedicated to our mission and to their fiduciary responsibilities—and they donate significant time and financial support toward the betterment of the university.
Meeting many of our Franciscan sisters has been utter joy. While my journey continues in understanding better Franciscan spirituality, getting to know the members of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration is a CliffsNotes primer to the values and spirit of Francis and Clare.
By all accounts, the university is financially stronger than any previous point in its history. Viterbo faculty and staff are exceptionally dedicated to teaching and serving students. Facilities are in excellent condition, even though several improvements are on my horizon. Community leaders hold Viterbo in high regard and our graduates are respected for their competence, ethics, and values.
A broad strategic plan was developed during the past two years, given the name: University of Opportunity. My immediate task is to define this more carefully and to set the institutional priorities for the next 3–5 years. I’m fond of the University of Opportunity banner—and after listening and observing, I have appended to it: “hope and help.” Viterbo presents an opportunity for students of all ages to realize their hopes and dreams. Yet, many institutions of higher education present opportunities. Viterbo’s distinctiveness lies within its total commitment to help our students manifest their aspirations.
Some preliminary thoughts about how we can expand opportunities and provide greater help include:
Growing the full-time undergraduate enrolment, from 1,400 to 2,000. Adding intercollegiate sports to our minimal number of seven sports is one growth strategy.
Fostering curricular innovation, such as offering five-year programs that conclude with a master’s degree, e.g., business and dietetics.
Increasing international experiences and summer research opportunities.
Employing new technology and applications for enhanced learning, distance education, and faster service.
Upgrading and/or building new facilities: nursing, residence halls, and outdoor athletics complex.
Introducing doctoral education to our portfolio of degrees, in ethical leadership and in nursing.
I am convinced Viterbo has significant momentum and strengths. We need to lead with those strengths and focus our attention and resources on a short set of priorities. Within these first six months I’ve tried to absorb Viterbo’s history and values; to know faculty, staff, and students; to meet key benefactors; and to capture the best we do. I’m feeling ready to launch—after all, a ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is made for.
Thank you for your expressions of welcome and best wishes. Joan and I look forward to meeting you in the months ahead.