From the President
When the College of St. Catherine became St. Catherine University in 2009, we knew there would be change (perhaps not as much as we’ve tackled!), and we knew some things had to be preserved. The non-negotiables included the signature elements of our mission — Catholic, women and liberal arts — and, of course, the College for Women.
Then began the hard work of “adventuring” into the new while preserving the best of St. Catherine’s proud heritage. That meant designing a strategy to move us confidently forward as a mid-sized comprehensive university with a strong, prominent and academically excellent college for women at its heart; convincing faculty, trustees, alumnae and others that our strategy was desirable and feasible; and, most importantly, executing the strategy effectively.
We’re five years into life as a university now — years marked with a significant economic downturn, enrollment volatility nationwide and a hot spotlight on affordability, along with a disturbing reduction in the number and strength of women’s colleges across our nation. Indeed, between 1998 and 2010, enrollment at women’s colleges nationwide decreased by 21 percent, while enrollment in our baccalaureate programs for women increased by 22 percent and overall enrollment by 27 percent.
How has St. Catherine maintained the strength of its College for Women when so many others have weakened? Lots of work, work that never lets up:
- Capitalizing on our location in a vital urban area;
- Building our athletic program, which attracts intelligent and highly motivated students;
- Outstanding programs in the hard sciences, which led to a 31 percent increase in students majoring in those fields over the past five years; and
- Faculty who focus their work, first and always, on students.
We’ve added high-demand programs, especially at the graduate level, and made substantial curricular changes due to shifts in accreditation requirements, federal regulations related to the academic calendar,
student demand for hybrid programs (combining traditional classes with online activities) and the need to accommodate fully online programs. Those include the doctorate in occupational therapy and the occupational therapy assistant program in Virginia, offered in partnership with Genesis HealthCare and Orbis Education.
As the curriculum changes to meet market and employer demands, so does the co-curriculum change to address students’ emerging needs outside the classroom. That means new student clubs and organizations, changes in residence life options, facilities upgrades and new sports on the varsity roster.
At the organizational level, a recent realignment of the senior administration to better address the University’s needs has taken center stage, along with continued development of the schools and colleges. The 2014–17 phase of our strategic plan has a decided focus on sharpening the identities of the Graduate College and the College for Applied and Continuing Learning; those, along with the College for Women, are the “gates” through which students enter the University.
A lot of change at St. Catherine is structural and permanent. It sinks roots, gains strength and grows toward our vision — to be recognized as a leading Catholic university distinguished by its premier baccalaureate college for women and its innovative spirit.
Planning and executing plans always demand an artful blend of creative imagination, sober pragmatism and Mother Antonia’s “act as if ” boldness. We’re up to the task. More than ever, we believe the world can be immeasurably enriched by St. Catherine University. Thank you for believing with us and for helping to achieve our most expansive goals.