Dear Marquette Colleagues:
As I begin this period of service to the Marquette community as Interim President, I thought I would reach out to each of you to give you an idea of what you might expect for our university and its immediate future. I might add that I did not have to have my arm twisted hard to say "yes" to taking on once again the responsibility of President. The Board of Trustees thought that it would be helpful in this time of transition to have someone of my experience and background in place, and that made sense to me as well. All told, I have spent twenty-five years of my life at Marquette, I love this place, I have great respect and regard for all of you who work here, and am very glad to help out on this interim basis.
So what about the university's future? Having talked with a number of people about our needs at this time, let me indicate some tasks that we have in front of us. First of all, under Fr. Pilarz the university has undertaken several important initiatives. With the Beyond Boundaries document now approved by the Board of Trustees (with considerable enthusiasm, I might add), we have a significant strategic planning effort well under way, and the challenge now is to begin implementation. That I want to push forward. All the more so since this planning effort benefitted much from input by faculty and staff all across the university, and so it is clear that this is our plan, the plan of the university community at large.
Secondly, I am convinced at this point in time that we should move to what many in university circles refer to as the "strong provost" structure of governance. This seems to be the most common model currently utilized in university governance, and so Interim Provost Margaret Callahan and I want to begin its implementation here at Marquette. We figure that most candidates for our presidency will be quite familiar with this structure of governance and that its adoption will make our open provost position that much more appealing to top-level candidates.
Thirdly, since we must keep a Marquette education affordable to students and their families, we are going to have to continue our efforts to cut operating costs. Last June we finished our fiscal year with a micro-thin surplus, the thinnest such margin in some fifteen years. Since we rely on a positive margin to enable us to pursue creative new projects, academic and otherwise, we need more running room in our annual budgets and must therefore do the necessary to achieve that. At the same time we intend to work to improve further our overall enrollment — candidates for improvement would include, for example, transfer students and our summer school operations. And through our efforts in advancement we need to bring in more money for our ongoing operations and our current use scholarship needs. In that regard, the good news from University Advancement at this point is that we are currently running ahead of last year's performance by about two million dollars. As Interim President I will be active in working with our Advancement team to boost our resources both for current use and for our long-term needs.
Just a word about our recent ten-year reaccreditation site visit by the team appointed for that purpose by the Higher Learning Commission. I was present and active during their time on our campus, and despite the presidential transition that had just been announced, the excellent work that had been done by many of you to prepare for this important event still enabled the university to put its best foot forward. Indeed, I thought the visit came off very well. I warmly thank everyone who had a role in preparing our truly excellent self-study document and all of you who participated in any event connected with the site visit.
I am also encouraged by the project now underway to renew and re-imagine the historic core of our university, Marquette, Johnston and Sensenbrenner Halls, as vibrant centers of learning and collaboration. And as the presidential search gets underway, I want to note how pleased I am that the search committee for the first time in university history includes both a member of the faculty and a dean. The search process will also include a number of good opportunities for members of the campus community to voice their opinion about the qualities that Marquette needs in its next leader, and I urge you to take advantage of these occasions.
For me in these days it has been a real pleasure to encounter familiar Marquette faculty and staff colleagues, students, alumni, and friends, and I welcome the chance for us to get acquainted or reacquainted in the weeks ahead. Your commitment to teaching, discovery, and care for our students is every bit as strong as I remember. Thank you for the warm welcome back and for everything you do for Marquette. May our good and gracious God bless you and our work together on behalf of Marquette's students.
Robert A. Wild, S.J.