One-on-One with Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

We talked with University Provost Donald R. Boomgaarden in detail about the University's new Strategic Plan.

You are presently overseeing the implementation of the University’s new five-year Strategic Plan for “an engaged, integrated and global student experience.” Tell me how your music career might influence the planning.

As a musician, I have been trained to analyze, memorize, and publicly perform complex works. Music (and I could easily extend this to all the arts) requires us to synthesize disparate components and reshape them into something meaningful. This process is all about variety of approaches and creativity, and the process of creating and then implementing a strategic plan is not unlike this. So, I believe that my training and focus is helpful to me, and hopefully the University, as we move forward.

What are some outside pressures driving the Strategic Plan?

A clear demographic shift is occurring as we speak — over the coming decade there will be fewer traditional college-age students, and the composition of that group is changing rapidly. We are now a much more diverse nation, and the University must find ways to keep up with these changes. Much of what we do is, fortunately, timeless: the core of a Jesuit education, the basis for our approach and way of proceeding is refreshingly apropos, even after 500 years. We are called to offer our students an education that matches the needs of the current world. The Strategic Plan is all about this mission, to offer an integrated, engaged and global experience to our students.

Tell me about the planning process.

We started with our University planning committee, but expanded it in size and scope, adding more faculty and more students to create a better blend of visions and ideas. We presented the group with the basic idea of the three major areas, and then they took off! It was a fantastic experience, and I think the process of planning was very valuable — it brought people together who had not really worked on projects like this before. Eventually, the plan was presented to the major constituencies on and off campus, and we took in that input as we created the final version of the draft. By the end of the year, we were ready to present the results of all of this to our Trustees, and they enthusiastically approved the plan.

The former Superior General of the Jesuit order, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., noted, “What our students want — and deserve — includes but transcends ‘worldly success’ based on marketable skills.” In the current environment, with so much pressure on colleges to impart “skills that get jobs,” why is this idea so important?

First of all, if you are only what you do, when you are not doing it, you no longer exist. This is not the purpose of a Jesuit education! We are all much more than what we do. Through a blend of teaching and experience, we offer our students a value-added education, not just a diploma or certificate. Our goal is to transform young people so that they can go out and transform the world, to make it a better place.

Fr. Quinn has said, “We will need to be clear on what it means to be a Catholic and Jesuit master’s university in these uncertain times.” Can you tell us what this means in relation to the Strategic Plan?

In regard to being Catholic and Jesuit we need to ask, “Do we talk enough about who we are?” Fr. Quinn’s decision, for example, to rename “Student Affairs” to “Student Formation” is a manifestation of this desire to ensure that The University of Scranton is focusing on creating men and women of adult faith. We do not expect all of our students to embrace Catholicism, but we do expect all of them to learn to support the mission and goals of Jesuit education.

Fr. Quinn has also talked about making the University distinctive. What do you think makes us so?

When students come onto campus, they will meet people who genuinely care for them. Our faculty and staff members understand that this is a faith-based institution, and implement that awareness into their daily work. Along with this, our campus is gorgeous and the setting quite spectacular.

Fr. Quinn has also said, "We have an extraordinary opportunity to reimagine the mission of the University.” What does this mean?

The engaged, integrated and global themes stem from Fr. Quinn’s belief that our Jesuit universities and colleges have to contribute to the community as well as to the students. We do not exist in a vacuum, and the mission of a Jesuit university cannot be to merely educate students in their fields and provide them with academic credentials. The greater mission is beautifully represented in the talk given in 2010 by the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, "Depth, Universality, and Learned Ministry: Challenges to Jesuit Higher Education Today." Fr. Nicolas focuses on exactly these areas and explains the Jesuit point of view in great detail. I’d recommend this essay to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of what we, as a Jesuit University, are attempting to do at the University of Scranton.

Read more about the Strategic Plan in the related article below or at

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