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Jenkins’ address invokes Catholic mission

By CHARLIE DUCEY | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

 

Drawing upon Notre Dame’s Catholic mission, University President Fr. John Jenkins delivered his annual address to a theater full of faculty at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Jenkins celebrated the diligence of Notre Dame’s professors, deans, advisors and officials, while also calling attention to the University’s progressive aspirations.

Jenkins said the contributions of faculty members are of substantial importance for the University’s mission. He commended faculty for creating real, tangible value through academics, while reflecting upon an excerpt from the late Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and holder of an honorary degree from Notre Dame.

“Like Heaney’s poetry-writing, your work as faculty is generally not strenuous physical labor, but the work of the mind and imagination,” Jenkins said. “Yet it is as demanding and productive as [the work of] those engaged in physical labor.”

The University is seeking more funding to pursue its greatest aspirations, while being fiscally responsible and respecting the University’s Catholic mission, Jenkins said. Among these aspirations are newly proposed additions to Notre Dame Stadium, which Jenkins said are designed to enrich academics and student life. 

Jenkins said the Central Campus Planning Project has made great strides in planning potential stadium renovations. 

“The group has made great progress and considered the possibility of a student center adjacent to the stadium, buildings to house one or more academic departments and space for a digital media center,” he said.

In response to a question about the potential addition of sexual orientation to the University’s anti-discrimination clause, Jenkins said law mandates everything that is already detailed in the clause and he saw no need to tamper with it. He also said all specific matters of discrimination, no matter the cause, should be brought to his attention.

Jenkins’ address also touched upon key changes in the digital world. He said the University plans to create a modifiable website for tracking developments. He also discussed the reallocation of funds toward engineering and the sciences to prepare Notre Dame students for this changing world. 

However, in an age of online courses and virtual degrees, Jenkins said Notre Dame must continue to offer something more.

“I do not believe it will ever be possible to deliver the richness of a Notre Dame education wholly on-line,” he said. “An essential part of a Notre Dame education is the community that comes from physical proximity, the relationships that are developed among students and between students and professors, and the serendipity of critical insights through unplanned interactions.”

Jenkins said an example of Notre Dame offering more than an online experience is the University’s student satisfaction statistics. 

“The percentage of Notre Dame seniors who report being ‘very satisfied’ with the ‘overall quality of instruction’ at Notre Dame stands at 57 percent, more than 20 points above the national average among other highly selective private universities,” he said. 

Similarly, 98 percent of Notre Dame undergraduates consistently report satisfaction. Even with this level of student approval, Notre Dame’s true standard of education is not easily quantified, Jenkins said. 

“Although a Notre Dame education makes sense in financial terms, its value cannot and should not be reduced to an analysis of our graduates’ future earning potential,” he said. 

Jenkins said the moral formation and social efficacy instilled in students by the Notre Dame experience is what ought to be emphasized.

“As we undertake the curriculum review, we must do so with those educational ideals at the center of our concerns,” he said.