March 10, 2021
Dear Members of the University Community,
One year ago the Catholic University community began to respond to the threat of COVID-19 with a few goals in mind. First, we sought to keep our community safe. Moving our entire educational enterprise online and closing down our campus were necessary components of our action plan.
Our second goal was to get back together as soon as was safely possible. We began to do this in a stepwise fashion, first by inviting freshmen to campus in the fall, and the entire student body this spring. Even though many classes remained online, we were able to provide hybrid remote and in-person instruction thanks to the installation of new technology in our classrooms, the reconfiguration of our classrooms to allow for social distancing, the addition of sneeze guards, and new sanitizing protocols that provide a high level of protection against the virus. Our daily health checker and our on-campus testing program have helped us monitor the presence of COVID on campus and keep it in check.
I am happy to announce that Catholic University is ready to take the next step – a return to full in-person instruction beginning Fall 2021.
While there are many benefits to our newly developed ability to conduct classes online, the Catholic University experience is one that is lived together in community – in the classroom, in the lab, in the dining hall, on the sports field, and in St. Vincent’s Chapel.
The health and safety of our community remain a top priority. We will continue many of the safety protocols we have developed over the past year, and work with local and national public health officials. We will also continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccination, which provides the best hope of eliminating the threat of the coronavirus. We acknowledge that even with safety protocols in place, some members of our community will not immediately be able to rejoin us on campus. In these cases we will make the necessary accommodations for remote learning or teaching.
In the following weeks we will provide more details about our Fall 2021 Reopening Plan. I look forward to seeing all of you, in-person, next fall.
Sister Thea Bowman Committee
I have received many requests for an update on the work of the Sister Thea Bowman Committee. I am happy to report that we are at about the halfway point of our work, and we have covered a lot of ground. Under the leadership of Prof. Regina Jefferson we divided the Committee’s work among five subcommittees: Personal Formation, Workforce Development, Community Building, Academic Affairs, and External Affairs.
The subcommittees are in the process of presenting recommendations to the larger Committee. Recommendations that could be implemented immediately have been passed on to the appropriate area. Those that require more thought and serious budget considerations, such as an increased emphasis on recruiting more diverse students, faculty, and staff, are being developed further.
Four of our five subcommittees have now reported up to the larger Committee: Personal Formation, Workforce Development, Community Building, and External Affairs. Here is a brief summary of each one.
Community Building has been occupied with the ways in which the University influences non-academic matters, including the student experience, governance, and the surrounding community. One of its first proposals was a recommendation that diversity begin at the level of the Board of Trustees.
At our December trustees’ meeting, the Board unanimously amended the Charter of the Trusteeship Committee to say: “the Committee shall give attention to increasing diversity of the board, particularly with regard to sex, race, ethnicity and expertise.” It was a key gesture of support from the Board of Trustees for the work of this committee.
Workforce Development presented findings and recommendations on recruitment, training, and retention of staff and faculty. Among its proposals is a recommendation to increase the diversity of candidates presented to hiring managers. Human Resources has already begun to use more focused sources to field resumes from diverse candidates. And while work is underway to design and develop more staff training and development opportunities, our current Supervisor's Training has been enriched to include cultural sensitivity as one of the training objectives.
Personal Formation presented a long-term vision for ways in which the University can effectively influence the attitudes and experiences of the University community through intentional and strategic programming. They presented a three-part plan for Student Affairs and Campus Ministry to create a common Catholic University “Encounter” experience that would begin in the freshman year and continue through college and beyond. We will implement the first part of this plan this coming fall, with a Presidential Leadership Retreat Weekend for student leaders. The retreat will give the participants an opportunity to explore the idea of servant leadership in conversation with University administrators, faculty, and staff.
External Affairs gave the most recent report to the committee. The sub-committee proposed a substantial vision for participating in and influencing the conversation about race – within the academy, in the media, with the Church, and with our community and civic institutions (government).
The Bowman Committee has a lot more work to do, but I wanted to let you know that they have been hard at it through the fall and winter. We will look for more ways to keep the community informed and engaged in its work.
Dean Reappointments: Canon Law and Engineering
I am pleased to announce that I have recently reappointed two of our deans: Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, the O'Brien-O'Connor Chair of Canon Law, as Dean of the School of Canon Law; and John Judge, associate professor of mechanical engineering, as the Dean of the School of Engineering. Both are being appointed to a second term.
In his first term as dean Monsignor Jenkins grew enrollment year upon year. In addition to creating relationships with more dioceses willing to sponsor students, the School is now successfully promoting its programs with mission dioceses. Canon Law has also secured a donation that will help to fund the Monsignor Thomas Green Memorial Library in Caldwell Hall. Plans are underway, and construction should begin this year.
Monsignor Jenkins is an alumnus of the School of Canon Law who joined its faculty as an assistant professor in 2001. He received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Dallas in 1985. He continued his studies at The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, receiving a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology in 1988, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology with a specialization in Patristic Studies in 1990. He returned to the University of Dallas for an M.A. in philosophy in 1994. Five years later he received a doctor of canon law degree (J.C.D.) from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin in 1989. In 2008 he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI. Monsignor Jenkins was appointed dean effective January 1, 2017.
Dean Judge completed his first term as Dean of the School of Engineering with much success. Among his numerous achievements include growing graduate enrollment by launching new off-campus programs with the Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding, and several new graduate certificate programs. The school also launched a new master’s degree program in Data Analytics with support from Booz Allen Hamilton. The School of Engineering now boasts several renovated spaces in Pangborn Hall to modernize research laboratories and create a new 3500 sq. ft. Design Center for student projects. The school has also increased resources for undergraduate research activity and design projects, and launched new courses focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Dean Judge began at Catholic University as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 2004. He became associate professor five years later, and began serving as associate dean in 2016. Judge did his undergraduate work at Cornell and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, where he focused on vibrations in jet engines. In a postdoctoral fellowship at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, he turned to the study of microscale mechanical resonators, with applications in sensing and signal processing. Judge was appointed dean effective June 1, 2017.
Saving Ideas From ISIS
If you passed on the Phi Beta Kappa lecture earlier this month, you missed a fascinating talk by Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk of St. John’s Abbey and the executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.
Father Stewart has been described as a cross between St. Benedict and Indiana Jones. The description fits. For someone who has taken a vow of stability, he spends more time traveling around the world than anyone I know – the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, South Asia. His work in these places is to digitize manuscripts in danger of destruction.
He’s not only saving these texts from ISIS, but he’s also creating access in a digital age to the intellectual and cultural heritage of ancient Eastern Christian churches in places like Ethiopia, Syria, and Iraq. Many of these texts have been hidden and inaccessible to scholars for hundreds of years. He really is unearthing hidden treasures.
You can check out a recording of the event here.