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Faith in our future

9:00 AM  Dec 26th, 2016
by Eric Spina

When University of Dayton students left for fall break, faculty and staff played with Legos and took a stroll through virtual reality.

But they weren’t playing. They were dreaming together about the University’s future and using creative ways to express their hopes and dreams.

One group constructed a monorail that would run between the center of campus and River Campus. Another built an urban farm in a reclaimed factory as an experiential learning space. Using virtual reality, others walked through a classroom of the future and considered ways they might revolutionize teaching by supplementing their lectures with engaging, immersive experiences.

This was the scene on campus on “Visioning Day,” a series of opportunities for faculty and staff to think seriously about our future.

I am asking the University of Dayton community and our alumni to think big, even audaciously, as we create a strategic vision together. We’re a great university with a collaborative spirit, but we would be a shadow of who we are today if, throughout history, we had not had big aspirations and adapted and changed for the times.

And, quite frankly, we are better than we know we are. We are better than others know of us.

Here’s our collective challenge: We must look honestly at our strengths, weaknesses and the challenges ahead of us. As we gaze 20 years into the future, we need to develop a few powerful, transformational ideas that will provide strategic direction, help prioritize investments, spark private support at higher levels — and move the University to a new level of excellence. At the end of our strategic visioning process, everyone needs to feel they’ve been heard.

That’s why I’m crisscrossing the country — from Dayton to Chicago, New York to Los Angeles — to talk to alumni about their dreams for their alma mater.  I’m encouraged by the level of engagement and the wealth of creative ideas.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the core values of UD that resonate with you. What differentiates a UD education? What areas of excellence will we be known for in two decades? What are those areas in which we fall short, and how do we tackle the issues of affordability, accessibility and diversity so that students from all socio-economic walks of life feel welcome and supported?

Thousands have already weighed in, and you can, too, at udayton.edu/VisionUD.

Join me at an upcoming alumni gathering for a dialogue about our future. Tap into weekly online conversations as we grapple with questions about the growing influence of digital educational technologies and the significant trends in American society that will shape the curriculum of the future. Read my fall faculty and staff address, where I candidly lay out the challenges and invite all who love the University of Dayton to help shape our aspirational vision.

We teach our students to adapt and change in a changing world, still true to the urgings of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Today, we embrace that same challenge — with imagination and faith in our future.

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1:35 PM  Oct 10th, 2016
by Eric Spina

During times of transition, I think it’s important to step back and reflect.

We teach our students to change and adapt to meet the needs of the times, but let’s face it, change is rarely easy for anyone.

I have been so impressed by how the University of Dayton has handled the presidential transition — from honoring the legacy of outgoing president Dan Curran to welcoming me and my family with open arms and open minds.

I’m particularly grateful to President Curran, who worked selflessly to make the transition seamless. Before I became president, he supported my working with him and others to fill four important administrative roles with outstanding leaders who will put their mark on our curriculum, diversity, student profile, and fundraising and alumni engagement efforts well into the future. 

With a smile and with grace, Dan made room for a new president. Together, we appeared at alumni community gatherings and followed the NCAA-bound Flyers to St. Louis. We jumped on a plane headed to Washington, D.C., to promote regional economic development at the annual Dayton Development Coalition’s Community Leader Fly-In.

We drove to Cincinnati to meet Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and talk about faith and identity, the soul of any Catholic university.

I’ve discovered that continuity and change are not mutually exclusive at the University of Dayton. We embrace both.

Nothing illustrates that better than this photo showing three presidents — Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., Dan and me — in a lighthearted moment. Its composition speaks volumes: Three presidents, three eras, one university.

As I pause to reflect on this smooth presidential transition, I know I’ve landed at a university that’s a model for higher education. This is a strong campus community that supports one another and looks to the future with confidence and faith. I believe, working together in the Catholic, Marianist spirit, we can reach higher than what we have imagined possible.

As we start a new chapter in the University of Dayton’s history, I am committed to listening to a diversity of voices, and I will strive to communicate in an open, transparent fashion. For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of campus life, subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Twitter or take a look at my daily Instagram photos @DaytonPrezSpina.

I’m inspired by the power of this community — and blessed to be a part of it. For that, I’m filled with gratitude.

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Our common home

12:49 PM  Dec 10th, 2015
by President Daniel J. Curran

We are being called to be good stewards of the Earth.

As Pope Francis wrote in his groundbreaking encyclical on the environment, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”

The pope asked us to “care for our common home” — and, ultimately, to care for the world’s most vulnerable citizens who are being affected the most by environmental degradation. (See story, Page 38).

Before the pope called for global stewardship, we made sustainability a major initiative.

In 2013, I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging that we will take steps to achieve carbon neutrality. We reduced our energy usage and mandated LEED guidelines for new construction and renovations.

We’re making strides. Even as we built substantially more new facilities and increased enrollment to a record high, we reduced greenhouse gas emissions 5 percent per student over our 2006 high.

In the School of Engineering, enrollment in the renewable and clean energy master’s degree program has tripled as we prepare students to design energy-efficient buildings and develop clean energy for the developing world.

In the University of Dayton Research Institute, we’re conducting high-impact research in renewable energy technologies.

In the School of Business Administration, students are learning socially responsible investing, and we don’t have to look too far to find teachable moments. Our board of trustees spent more than a year developing a philosophy called “Catholic, sustainable and responsible investing.” Over the last year, in a phased approach, we eliminated fossil fuel holdings from domestic equity accounts, invested in green and sustainable technologies, and divested from all mutual funds.

In November, the Hanley Sustainability Institute brought together faith-based organizations to advance the global conversation about divestment and the pope’s call for climate solutions.

This is a complex issue with no easy solutions. In times of social change, we draw upon the Marianist philosophy. We must stay at the table, listen to each other, harness the gifts of all and work
together toward a shared vision of the Earth.

As the pope wrote, “The notion of the common good also extends to future generations.”

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The world is our classroom

9:28 AM  Sep 27th, 2015
by President Daniel J. Curran

During my first year as president, I drove to Salyersville, Ky., where students have spent the last 50 summers living among the people.

As we sat on the porch of a 1930s farmhouse, we talked about their volunteer experiences in Appalachia and the impending war in Iraq. Cars passed by, often with a honk of the horn or a shout of “Hey, Dayton!” Later, we joined hands and prayed for the families of Salyersville, our University and for peace in the world.

For us, porches are an enduring symbol. They represent the Marianist sense of hospitality and openness to the world around us. From the porch, our students step out into the world — to study, conduct research and use their community-building skills to serve others while they discover their true selves.

Learning from young people in a place far from campus — it’s how I started my presidency, and it’s how I also spent part of this summer, the start of the final year of my presidency. I joined 21 students in the historic Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, Italy, on their first day of an interdisciplinary course taught by art historian Roger Crum, paleontologist Dan Goldman and medievalist Bobbi Sutherland.

I offered a sociological perspective while my colleagues talked about the significance of this ancient public square from their disciplines. We then sent the students off in four directions to bring back artifacts illustrating what they had just learned. They returned with a holy card, a flower, a stone and even a piece of fruit masterfully interpreted — all to communicate that all knowledge is connected.

We provide students with an education that connects their majors to the world they will enter upon graduation. This summer, more than 400 students earned credit or participated in service opportunities in 17 countries. They studied automotive engineering in eastern Germany, psychology in Paris and peacebuilding in Kosovo. In a remote village in Zambia, students volunteered in schools and hospitals. Doctoral students in physical therapy taught classes at Nanjing Medical University in China, while other students studied at our China Institute in Suzhou.

From Salyersville to Suzhou, we are connected by the bonds of knowledge, by the bonds of community.

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This Is Our House

9:33 AM  Jun 29th, 2015
by Daniel J. Curran President, University of Dayton

This spring, Father Jim Fitz, S.M. ’68, and I carefully climbed up temporary steel stairs and entered the highest point of the Immaculate Conception Chapel just above the old choir loft.

We stood on the scaffolding and admired a vintage circular stained-glass window, uncovered during the renovation and now restored to its original beauty.

I was struck by its clarity, elegance — and undeniable symbolism. As our University adapts and changes for the future, we strongly value continuity and tradition. Those seemingly contradictory traits have always defined the Catholic, Marianist philosophy of education.
Nearly every week during the past two years, Father Jim, vice president for mission and rector, has met with the chapel renovation committee to consider every detail behind the chapel’s first complete renovation since it was constructed in 1869.

This dedicated group was guided by a vision and a set of unwavering principles.

We would preserve the historic exterior and much of the chapel’s sacred art while improving the interior to meet contemporary liturgical norms. We wanted to bring back the warm colors, wooden pews, artistic touches and the simple elegance that have defined the chapel’s identity throughout history. And we needed to add practical enhancements, such as accessible entrances and parking, restrooms, a reconciliation room, a reservation chapel for private prayer, a bride’s room and new devotional areas.

The chapel’s western façade and the towering iconic blue dome — a touchstone for generations of students, alumni, faculty and staff — have been repaired and preserved. The hand-carved woodcuts of Mary and the four evangelists from the former pulpit will be incorporated into the baptismal font. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary will continue to be featured in a prominent position behind the altar, flanked by the 1876 statues of St. John and St. Joseph.

Some stained-glass windows will be restored. The new ones will feature 10 medallions, each depicting an image of Mary from the Scriptures. Marianist artist Gary Marcinowski is designing and building the liturgical furnishings — the altar, ambo and presider’s chair. The overhead lighting will be reminiscent of the chapel’s first lights.

When students and faculty return to campus in August, they will enter the chapel’s bold wooden front doors into a new gathering space that reflects our deep sense of hospitality, our commitment to community.

I invite our alumni and friends, many of whom supported the renovation, to join us later this summer for worship after the chapel reopens.

Every great Catholic university needs a sacred space in the heart of its campus. This long-overdue renovation goes beyond bricks and mortar to the heart of our identity.

We are — and will always be — a community of faith.

Chapel Reopening
The chapel is on schedule to be completed by the Aug. 16 grand reopening. Here’s a list of events:

• The first Mass, grand opening and rededication will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16. This is an invitation-only event, but a video will be available immediately after the service for public viewing.

• Daily midday Masses will resume Monday, Aug. 17, with start times at 12:30 p.m. each day. The public is welcome to attend.

• Faculty and staff can tour the chapel immediately following the 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, prayer service for the new academic year.

• Sunday, Aug. 30 will be the first weekend with a full schedule of Masses. A prayerful recognition of the rededication will take place at each Mass that day, as well as receptions with the student body.

Details on the renovations are at go.udayton.edu/chapel. Read the autumn UD Magazine for a detailed look inside.

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At home in China

9:31 AM  Mar 19th, 2015
by President Daniel J. Curran; Photo by Ty Greenless, Dayton Daily News

When I step down as president in June 2016, I plan to spend part of my time teaching students at the University of Dayton China Institute because I believe our graduates need an international perspective.

They need to excel in their chosen professions — and develop the cultural skills necessary to collaborate in the workplace locally and globally.

That’s why I was so moved by the words of junior chemical engineering major David Borth at a January announcement of Fuyao Glass America Inc.’s $7 million gift. We will use the company’s generous donation to purchase the building that houses the China Institute in Suzhou, China (see story, Page 8).

“When employers hear that you have been to China, they are intrigued and want to know all about it,” David told the audience of state legislators and community leaders. “It speaks to what kind of person you are — that you are not just willing to go outside of your comfort zone but are willing to go very far outside that comfort zone. Employers know that you are willing to challenge yourself.”

The value of Fuyao’s gift is priceless for countless University of Dayton students. When students study abroad, it changes their lives. It prepares them to live and work in a borderless world.

The China Institute — slightly larger than Miriam Hall on campus — sits 7,000 miles away, but it’s become a home away from home to all those who study and conduct research there.

Our students are gaining invaluable experience conducting hands-on projects with such partner companies as Emerson Climate Technologies, GE Aviation, Johnson & Johnson Medical and Lilly Pharmaceutical.

Fuyao’s gift is both visionary and bold. With a presence here in Dayton and on the other side of the world in China, this company knows the power of intercultural partnerships. Just a few miles from campus, Fuyao is undergoing a $250 million renovation of a former General Motors assembly plant for a large automotive glass manufacturing facility. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Fuyao’s headquarters in Fujian Province in China twice, and it’s an impressive operation.

As a Marianist university, we believe building community begins with building relationships, one at a time. We’re discovering that’s a mission that resonates in every corner of the globe.

In December, I traveled to China to join the U.S. ambassador to China as we dedicated the new American Cultural Center at the China Institute. It is one of only 20 such centers funded by the U.S. Department of State in China — and the first to be established outside the campus of a Chinese university. That speaks volumes about our reputation for building bridges.

When making the gift announcement, Fuyao Glass Group Chairman Dewang Cao said the China Institute “has the potential to become a center of international goodwill.”

For our students, globalization is not part of the future. It’s right now.

And it’s quickly becoming part of their comfort zone.

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The power of possibility

10:15 AM  Dec 29th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran; Photo by Andy Snow

I remember feeling at home the moment I walked onto campus.

As the familiar strains of the hymn, “We are Called,” filled the chapel at the opening day Mass of my presidency, I felt so welcomed by the Marianists, students, faculty, staff and alumni. I felt so inspired by the University’s powerful heritage and sense of mission.

As a community, I knew we were poised to do great things together — to make a bold leap forward. In the Marianist tradition, we would build upon our core values, read the signs of the times and embrace the power of possibility.

Today, 12 years later, I feel the same way. This is my home. And the University of Dayton is fulfilling that promise of greatness.

That’s why this is the ideal time to look for a new leader to take our University forward. In December, I announced that I would step down as president in June 2016 after a 14-year tenure. The board of trustees has initiated a national search for my successor.

Two years ago, a reporter looked at the growth of the University’s physical size and academic prestige and noted, “The pace of change has been among the most rapid and substantial seen at any American university.”

When I became president in 2002, I inherited a university on the move from longtime president Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., and discovered a community willing to ask the big questions and seek out answers together. I have been humbled and privileged to be the steward of such a remarkable legacy and to be able to continue our historic upward momentum.

When other universities stepped back and froze faculty positions during the recession, we stepped forward and hired some of the brightest minds in the country.

We didn’t turn away from the brownfield and vacant corporate headquarters on our border, but instead embraced the potential. We felt confident community and government partners would help us secure the funding to bring new life to that land. Today, that land is the canvas for the future and will benefit generations of students.

This fall, we welcomed our largest, most academically prepared first-year class. Faculty, staff and students gathered in the Central Mall as George and Amanda Hanley, through their Chicago foundation, committed $12.5 million — the largest gift in school history — to support curricular innovations in sustainability. We honored Brother Ray by renaming the College Park Center as Raymond L. Fitz Hall, and community and state leaders helped us break ground on Emerson Climate Technologies’ $35 million global innovation center at the corner of Main and Stewart streets.

As I reflect on my presidency, I am most proud of the cumulative successes of our students, alumni, faculty and staff. You have spread the University of Dayton’s excellence and reputation around the world.

Our work together isn’t finished.

I will continue to advocate for social justice and sustainability, which stem from our religious mission to stand with the poor and promote the common good. With the help of alumni and friends, we will raise funds to renovate Chaminade Hall as a home for the Human Rights Center and the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

In 2016, I will take a sabbatical, then return to the students and classrooms I love and continue to build the University’s international relationships, particularly in China.

The Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, inspires us to be visionaries — to create our moment in history, to act upon this University’s strong foundation of educational innovation and deep faith.

That’s our calling.

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A new chapter

10:31 AM  Sep 5th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran; Photo by Jim Witmer

We’re writing a fresh chapter in the history of Dayton innovation.

On a crisp, sunny summer morning, I walked from my office in St. Mary’s Hall to the corner of Main and Stewart streets. Under a tent on an expanse of green lawn, I joined leaders from Emerson Climate Technologies and the region to announce that the University of Dayton is leasing this land to Emerson to build a global innovation center.

On our campus. On land that once housed NCR’s booming cash register manufacturing facilities.

I gazed out over the lawn and envisioned the future.

When the Emerson Innovation Center is up and running in late 2015, students from various disciplines — engineering, marketing, even dietetics — will head over to a world-class facility to take classes, work as interns or co-ops, or collaborate on research. Our researchers and faculty, who are experts in advanced materials and energy efficiency, will help Emerson’s engineers drive innovation. The technologies of tomorrow — from smart thermostats for homes to smaller, more efficient air conditioning systems — will be showcased in this building.

The University’s master plan devotes space on this part of campus for attracting high-tech companies that can spur research, serve as real-world classrooms for students and spark economic development for the Dayton region. I believe universities that will thrive in the future are the ones that forge strategic partnerships to advance innovation, provide students with priceless experience and create jobs.

In 2013, GE Aviation opened a $53 million research center nearby. It was recently named the state’s best economic development project. In the same year, Midmark moved its world headquarters to the 1700 South Patterson Building, where we house the Research Institute and offer graduate classes, executive training and lifelong learning courses. Our students intern and co-op with both companies.

With the vision of our trustees, administrators and faculty, and with the support of so many regional partners, I believe this portion of our campus will stand as a testament to what imagination and collaboration can accomplish.

We are among just a handful of universities nationally that are partnering with companies to establish large research facilities on campus, according to Rich Overmoyer, executive director of the University Economic Development Association. He called these partnerships “the future for research institutions.”

The University of Dayton has always looked forward, has always embraced the possibilities. Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., my predecessor, worked with the city, Miami Valley Hospital and Citywide Development Corp. to reinvigorate the Fairgrounds neighborhood with new housing. That sparked the redevelopment of Brown Street and led to the renaissance we’re seeing today on the land we purchased from NCR.

As we build for the future, we are called to be builders of community.

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The open door

1:57 PM  Jun 17th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran

On a beautiful spring afternoon brimming with hope and promise, Father Jim Schimelpfening, S.M., spoke from the pulpit — and the heart — about the journey ahead for our newest graduates.

“Graduation is a moment on that journey,” he told students and their families at the Baccalaureate Mass in the University of Dayton Arena. “Journeys are so powerful. They are sometimes so powerful that they irrevocably change us.”

Alumni and students wouldn’t argue that point. A University of Dayton education transforms you — and prepares you for a changing world.

As I looked out over the sea of happy faces at spring commencement the next morning, I saw joy mixed with a few tears. Each spring, graduating seniors repeatedly tell me, “I can’t believe I’m leaving UD.”

It is hard to leave this great community. Think of the memories. This class will never forget the thrilling Elite Eight run by the men’s basketball team in the NCAA tournament. Other moments are more private, such as helping a child as part of a service project or pushing yourself to go beyond what you even thought possible in the classroom. They are all important.

This annual ritual always reminds me of an Alexander Graham Bell quote, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

There is rarely a straight path to happiness. I reminded our graduates that the plans they make today will inevitably need to be adapted. I urged them to remember Blessed William Joseph Chaminade’s words: “Read the signs of the times.” It is a call to be aware of the world around them, move forward and take advantage of opportunities.

The signs aren’t always positive. Sometimes, I told them, it will be easier to ignore the negative signs in our society and focus simply on getting ahead. We must see the bad with the good and try to make a difference. The world’s population faces hunger, overcrowding, disease, war — and more. Global progress requires the efforts, big and small, of people of all nations. It is the responsibility of this class — and all our graduates — to confront the global challenges, to be the ones who care.

I pray that the University of Dayton has educated these new graduates for service, justice and peace — while ensuring that they are prepared for adaptation and change. I trust that they will become community builders, serving as responsible leaders and promoting justice and peace for all persons.

They are ready for the next door. They have secured a great education and are ready to make a difference in the world.

Another door remains open, too — the door back to the University of Dayton. It is a place that will always
be home.

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A voice for the voiceless

9:56 AM  Mar 18th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran

When I addressed faculty, staff and students at my presidential installation 12 years ago, I talked about how a Catholic university must be a force for social change.

Today, I’m more convinced of that than ever.

At a February lunch with students, one shared an intriguing idea about how he could develop safe water in developing countries. During summers, teams of our students have traveled to Africa, where they’ve worked with villagers to install pipelines to carry clean water. Still, the problem of access to safe water persists in too many places in the world.

Our faculty and students have long fought against human trafficking — to the point of encouraging Ohio legislators to pass Senate Bill 235 that made it a felony. Still, more than 1,000 children in Ohio become victims each year.

In October, I signed an agreement with Catholic Relief Services that supports faculty research and advocacy in a campaign to eliminate slave labor in Brazil. Last summer, five professors visited the country to examine slave labor in the manufacture of consumer goods that Americans buy. They met with government and church officials to map strategies for change. Still, the International Labor Organization estimates that 40,000 people work in slavery in Brazil today.

News and social media show us faces of the poor, of refugees, of victims of starvation and genocide. We shouldn’t turn our eyes.

So last fall, we convened a global conference to share research on effective human rights advocacy and announced our intention to create and endow a human rights center on campus. In recent weeks, we’ve met with foundations and alumni to share our vision for a center devoted to education, research, advocacy — and action. We are seeking partners in this work deeply rooted in our mission as a
Catholic, Marianist university.

We will be a voice for the voiceless. To do so, we must continue to analyze the systemic causes of injustice, advocate solutions and educate students for work that will advance human rights.

We’re in an ideal position to make a difference. We started the country’s first undergraduate human rights program in 1998 and began offering a bachelor’s degree in human rights studies a decade later. Our alumni today work worldwide in humanitarian roles.

During the past two decades, we’ve held symposia on human rights issues, including the rights of the child and violence against women. Through a generous gift from alumnus Peter McGrath ’72, we began a rigorous research fellows program. Faculty and students conduct research in all areas of human rights, from human trafficking to refugee resettlement.

I’m reminded of Marianist priest William J. Ferree’s philosophy of social justice: It’s not up to individuals alone to make a difference. It’s the responsibility of all to work together to create change.

In the Marianist spirit, through the center for human rights, we will work together to address the world’s systemic injustices and promote the dignity of all people.

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