CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
During an all-student strategic planning meeting on Jan. 22, more than 70 students offered their ideas on how Franciscan University of Steubenville can improve or grow as it continues the process of its 20-year plan.
Bill Gorman, the university’s chief operating officer, gave a brief introduction to the process and presented the students with three questions to guide their discussion: What about Franciscan makes it attractive to students? How can Franciscan evangelization efforts reach more people? How do Franciscan students need to be equipped in order to be better leaders?
The students then broke into small groups, ranging from 3-10 students in size, to discuss each question individually before presenting to the entire group.
Groups diligently discussed the questions, reflections on their own experiences and how the university should move if it wants to reach its end goals of increasing enrollment to 25,000, increasing outreach and having more influence in the development of Catholic leaders in the United States.
Students’ feedback included reevaluating the Center for Leadership program to be more career-outcome based, a larger budget for the Missionary Outreach Office and improving the universities digital promotion, specifically its Instagram account.
One group suggested that the university create international satellite campuses, beginning with the study-abroad campus in Gaming, Austria, because it could prove to be “a hub of missionary outreach.”
Another group said that the university should do a better job of caring for a diversity in Catholic spirituality, including, but not limited to, offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass more often than once a month and at a better time than 7 p.m., its current scheduling.
Gorman said that the university was taking great care with putting the 20-year plan into action and had already engaged over 4,000 people through one-on-one meetings and focus groups, similar to the one attended by the students that evening, across the country.
While many students were glad to have their input heard by the administration, several others felt they had been misled to believe the event would be a Q&A session to respond to the recent controversies the university has faced and were disappointed to find that it was not.
“I came here to get answers,” one student said, “but now I’m leaving with more questions and more confusion.”
Some students asked Gorman questions regarding the controversy around English professor Stephen Lewis and the other reports by media outlets like Church Militant, in addition to concerns about how the school would maintain its Catholic identity in light of such a large increase; but they were disappointed by what they felt were lukewarm answers by Gorman that dodged the real questions.
“I appreciated the fact that Mr. Gorman attended the event,” said sophomore Clement Harrold, “but I found his handling of students’ concerns to be disappointing. When asked about how Franciscan would maintain its Catholic identity going forward, it seemed the best he could offer was some vague … I think it is important now that the university administration … (offers) concrete explanations of how we are going to retain our orthodoxy as we continue to grow as an institution.”
At the event’s conclusion, Gorman thanked the students for their input, which would be helpful to the administration as it continues to move toward the 20-year plan. Gorman said the next step was to formulate concrete goals to make the plan attainable, which he hoped to do by April.