Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., presented her first community address as Newman University president to staff and faculty during the 2020 annual fall meeting.
The event, formerly known as Fall Institute, was held in-person and online Aug 19.
The day’s theme was “One Community, Many Voices, Transforming Society,” and Jagger framed her remarks around the main focus of the event as she outlined an inspirational vision for the future of Newman.
“I feel totally blessed to be here with you all, the heart and soul of Newman University, taking after the model of selfless service the Adorers established some 87 years ago. It is among the devoted faculty and staff (and) sisters where this institution comes to life,” Jagger said.
GOALS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FUTURE
Jagger outlined four goals she believes are important for the university’s future success. They are:
- Newman University will be the Catholic University of choice for Kansas and the region.
- Newman University will flourish as a leader in Catholic education, service and scholarship, and be seen as an innovator in teaching and learning worthy of benefactors’ investments.
- Newman University will be a welcoming place for all students, faculty, staff and visitors, which will continue to serve those underrepresented in the college population.
- Newman University will develop a culture that sees diversity among students, faculty and staff as an asset not a threat or a limitation.
In support of those initiatives, she invited all community members to contribute to the vision and offer strategic suggestions. Explaining that everyone plays a role in the financial stability and growth of the university, Jagger challenged faculty and staff members to each become a “recruitment, retention and graduate specialist.”
Jagger outlined several ways they can help including helping with the university’s raffle ticket fundraiser for student scholarships, making a “student feel welcome each day,” looking for the face of Christ in everyone and seeking to “understand someone with completely different experiences than your own, empower them with affirmation.”
She added, “Be a shameless promoter of the Degree of Difference that is Newman University and the values-based education that Newman provides. … Pray, be positive, be hopeful and contribute in ways that makes that hope a reality. … Reach across the silos and collaborate (and) support rather than compete. Form an innovation circle. Share your ideas.”
WE ARE ALL EDUCATORS
Jagger started her speech by telling her audience that each of them are educators regardless of their title or role on campus.
“Our collective job is to cultivate in our students a love of learning that will transcend their time at Newman. … We all help create a space for that love of learning, for that truth-seeking, by giving ourselves over to creativity on behalf of our students. In addition to being educators, each of us must be a recruitment, retention and graduation specialist.
“We need to be working together to achieve our goals, we need to support each other, we need to row together. We need to break down the silos; being a thriving university requires a precision team sport mentality.”
COVID IS THIS DECADE’S 9/11
Jagger spoke about the current coronavirus pandemic, calling the fear it has instilled as the “elephant in the room” and saying that “COVID is this decade’s 9/11.”
She believes the university cannot be paralyzed by fear and this is a time to evaluate what everyone can do to move forward. One path is through innovation.
“While we all have great pride in Newman University, everything we do can be made even better in order to foster student development and a sustainable future. … Maria De Mattias was an innovator. The sisters who started this institution as a junior college were innovators. Now it is our turn to be innovators so as to ensure the survival of this institution in the time of COVID and beyond.
“I promise I will do my best to encourage innovation and secure resources to support and reward innovation. … It is up to us to determine if COVID will be a catalyst for positive change in higher education, or whether it will become an inflection point for the demise of a risk-averse institution and the dilution of high-quality education,” Jagger said.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LIBERALLY EDUCATED
During her speech, Jagger, who became the university’s 12th president July 1, quoted an essay by William Cronon. It noted 10 personal qualities that are cultivated in persons who experience a liberal education.
They are not necessarily common nor traditional traits normally used in describing a liberally educated individual, but Jagger called the list an innovative perspective Newman can foster in its graduates.
- They listen and they hear.
- They read and they understand.
- They can talk with anyone.
- They can write clearly, persuasively and movingly.
- They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.
- They respect rigor, not for its own sake, but as a way of seeking truth.
- They practice humility, tolerance and self-criticism.
- They understand how to get things done in the world.
- They nurture and empower the people around them.
- They follow E.M. Forster’s injunction from Howard’s End: “Only connect. In short, a liberal education is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect.”
DIVERSITY — BEING TRUE TO THE NEWMAN CODE
The Newman Code calls the community to respect the dignity of every member, and a portion of Jagger’s talk spotlighted the national dialogue about diversity.
“If we truly believe in our Catholic calling to look for the face of God in every human being, we must take a serious look at the diversity and inclusion on our campus in the context of recent events,” Jagger stated.
She added that Christ ministered to the marginalized, undervalued and the unrecognized and asked, “How can we use his example to build a community which universally welcomes all people, which authentically shows concern for all of our students?
“Only by practicing humility and self-criticism can we effectively serve the next several generations of college students. Only by doing so can we follow in the footsteps of our founders. These efforts are not to devalue those in the majority, but to include and revalue those who are not in that majority, or who are not advantaged.”
A NEW DAY
Jagger concluded her speech by encouraging the community to pray like university namesake St. John Henry Newman and embrace his insight that “God has created us (me) to do Him some definite service.”
Inspired by St. Newman’s example, she challenged her audience to do all they can to deliver to students the value-based, liberal education the university advertises. She encouraged them to communicate better, dream bigger and celebrate one another’s differences authentically.
“I believe we can, and we start today as one community, many voices, transforming society. It is a new day, it’s a new year, let’s begin the transformation right here at Newman University to make a great university even better.”