President Robert L. Manuel > Notes from Rob > 2022-23 > Academic Convocation 2022

Academic Convocation 2022

​​​​​​Good morning. ​Today marks exactly one month since I officially started as DePaul’s president. With every new day, I become more energized to be part of this diverse, creative, and dedicated community. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work together with faculty and staff like you who have kept this university moving forward through overwhelming odds. I very much look forward to recognizing your many collective achievements today, and as we celebrate DePaul’s 125th anniversary over the course of the next year.  
Speaking of achievements, congratulations to our newly tenured and promoted faculty - and to our staff honorees who received an award today. Thank you for the leadership and dedication you demonstrate every single day to uphold our Catholic, Vincentian mission. Thank you for being committed to the most sacred of tenets in higher education – intellectual inquiry, scholarly production, ownership of our mission, and the development of our students.  
It is an incredible honor to stand here today – in this place – at this moment. I can feel the weight of opportunity – the pressure to help our university realize its fullest potential. 
I’m extremely grateful to be part of this university’s unique and special story. I thank each of you for the role you have played in welcoming my family and me. You’re helping us quickly grow roots in an area where we had no previous connection – and that is a wonderful gift. 
During the early parts of my leadership transition, I have come to understand how difficult these last several years have been for you. Through my conversations with many of you, and from the results of the most recent climate survey, I have learned a lot. It is clear you have been directly affected by the turmoil and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, and the difficulties of the past few years. I have come to realize that we are now more isolated than ever, and that we need to reconnect to our mission - and each other - if we are to find our path forward.  
I can see the pain and frustration you are experiencing, and I am aware of the effect it is having on you. We must acknowledge the disorientation this period of time created in our lives. We must recognize the sacrifices you made over the past few years. And we must help each other through this moment.  
There have been a lot of disruptions to our sense of normalcy - and even with those disruptions - I want to tell you that I also see hope.    
The last few years showed increasing trust in DePaul’s academic departmental leadership and our staff leaders in many areas. Despite being overworked and called upon to do more with less, I am hearing from you that if we can craft a meaningful path forward - you are more than ready to engage in that work. You have told me directly that you are ready and willing to actively design our collective future. Goodwill and hope are only enough to start with – and we will use them to advance us to a place where civil debate, dialogue, and engagement design the future that we deserve.  
We stand on the threshold of opportunity at DePaul – a moment to access the unique, faith-based, and impactful educational programs that we offer, and then connect them to the community around us. If we dedicate ourselves to the big questions found in this moment - we can address the many issues surrounding access, equity, relevance, and affordability. In doing so, we will define the value of our mission and our institution to the world.  
We must do this together - we must all own the mission. 
What’s important to note here is that higher education is in a perpetual state of self-examination. Academic institutions continually evolve to meet the external demands placed on them. We perpetually search for ways to reconcile demands from a growing number of stakeholders, seeking to balance between delivering the education that the world believes it wants - against the kind of education we all know is needed for a productive citizenry, a competitive society, and the deepening of our intellectual base.  
While all institutions of higher education in America are experiencing similar challenges as the ones we face here, most are emerging from COVID looking for answers by chasing shiny objects and producing quick - but not sustainable solutions. 
If we connect the academic and co-curricular programming and dedicated people at DePaul to the main tenets of our Catholic, Vincentian heritage - and position that as scaffolding to help Chicago as it seeks to re-emerge economically and culturally from COVID - we will change our quality of life – and the quality of life for the people who live in our community.  
I believe DePaul is the university best suited - in the country - to do this.  
As we begin our work together - I charge us to become a university that is focused on the AND principle.
  • We should remember the effects of the past few years AND craft our path forward 
  • We should be devoted to our Catholic, Vincentian faith tradition AND connect it to the healing and progress of the communities we serve 
  • We should find meaningful ways to support our existing programs AND develop new ones that are consistent with our mission. 
  • We should hold our mission first in everything we do AND plan in a way that secures our future ability to carry that mission out 
  • We should debate, critique, and model the intellectual and empirical values that come from every part of our diverse community AND assume that every voice comes from a place of care and devotion to our mission 
  • We should know the examples of our aspirational competitors AND have the self confidence to create our own path that is right for our own population.  
By virtue of the incredible work of our faculty and staff - and the sheer determination of our students over the past few years - DePaul is positioned to be the national  model in the development of new quality standards for higher education in the United States.  
Our​​ moment is now. 
In my first 125 days in office, my goal is to provide momentum - to provide action that instills a belief in us all  – that we can make the needed advances to become that national model.  

I want you to feel invigorated.  

I want you to have a renewed sense of purpose and value. I want you to be involved.
I want you to own our mission.  

That’s how we emerge from this moment to our spot of national prominence – Today - let's commit ourselves to live our mission as a community that cares for everyone – serves everyone – and has a real impact on the most pressing issues of our day.    
So where do we go from here? 
As soon as convocation is completed, you will receive an email with links to the remarks I’m delivering right now. That email will also detail the immediate changes​ we will make, and initiatives we will undertake to begin our journey. Each change or initiative is tied to the emerging themes I gathered during my first conversations with you, and I articulated in the email message I sent on my first day in office.   
 Here are a few highlights. Beginning today we will: 

  • Establish presidential fellowships devoted to projects that help us reconnect our community on the principles of shared governance. We will work with the Faculty Council so that the projects undertaken are of meaning to us all. 
  • Continue my work with the Faculty Council and our board to make substantive responses to the five motions passed by the Council of the Whole last year. 
  • Convene a summit for all people who have formal responsibility for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the university. In this summit we will identify and connect the needs and initiatives from around the university, and connect them to a plan of action  
  • Begin the process of redesigning our shared Strategic Resources Allocation Committee (our annual budget deliberations known as the SRAC process) so that we can model true shared governance 
  • And lastly - celebrate the achievements of our past strategic plan, recognize that the world and our circumstances have changed, and begin the process of designing a new, organic, and community-derived strategic plan for our university. 
This is our moment to design a path that is as unique as our university - one that tailors its approach to the opportunities and history that only DePaul has; one that ensures each of you sees your fingerprints on the final project; one that is deeply connected to the dignity of the people we work – study – and share a community with.  
We have the talent. We have the tools - and I know we have the heart. 
With the examples of St. Vincent and St. Louise to guide us, we will define the model of faith-based education, impact, and value, for the country. 
I can’t wait to get started - and I hope you will join me.  
Thank you. ​​​​​​