What must be done?
St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of organized charity and inspirer of the Vincentian mission, spent his life responding to that challenge by serving the material and spiritual needs of the poor and marginalized in a lasting and effective manner.
More than four centuries later, Niagara University has themed its institutional vision for the future with a contemporary response to what has become known as the "Vincentian Question."
The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of the Catholic and Vincentian university, presented details of "What Must Be Done"
during a community meeting held Thursday afternoon.
The 2018-25 strategic plan is rooted in university objectives to elevate academic excellence, enhance the living-learning experience for students, advance impactful community partnerships, graduate global citizens and expand upon its longstanding presence in Canada.
"The ambitious goals that we have delineated in our strategic plan will distinguish Niagara University from our peers in higher education across the globe and reflect our mission to transform the world through learning and service," Maher said. "Excellence at Niagara comes in many forms, be it academic rigor, faculty engagement, community service, or many others. Ultimately, our graduates are the next generation of leaders. We must build upon their talents and attributes by imbuing in them the critical thinking of the liberal arts as well as cutting-edge professional knowledge and skills. This will provide our students with the ability to lead fulfilling lives as civic-minded people and professionals."
Niagara University enters the next phase of its 162-year existence in a position of marked strength. It enrolls more students than any other independent institution of higher education in Western New York, with nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students who represent 53 nationalities and 36 states. Students say they are drawn to NU, in large part, based on the school's academically rigorous curriculum that pairs them with excellent and engaging faculty - Niagara's student-to-faculty ratio is 36 percent better than public colleges and universities in the region - and the fact that NU's four-year graduation rate outpaces its competitors, both regionally and across the country.
The university also continues to make investments in its strategic priorities, as evidenced by its introduction of new, innovative academic programs (a master's in information security and digital forensics, for example) as well as significant renovations to facilities that amplify the living-learning experience, such as the Russell J. Salvatore Dining Commons and John P. Bobo Field, the home of NU's baseball team.
Niagara's commitment to academic rigor and diversity can be seen in its establishment of an endowed program director of pre-professional health, the Niagara University Science Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, and the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equality and Mission.
"We are really looking to push the envelope when it comes to offering the best possible value proposition that we can to students and families," Maher noted. "Ninety-seven percent of graduates are employed in their field or attending graduate school within one year. That's because our size offers us the ability to be nimble enough to develop the types of academic programs that are relevant in today's global society, and because our faculty members are at the top of their profession in teaching and in placing our alumni in high-level careers. That engagement fuels what we call 'the power of Niagara University.' "
Indeed, 73 percent of NU students participate in an internship, co-op, practicum, field experience or clinical assignment before graduating, as compared to 50 percent at similar colleges, according to National Survey of Student Engagement data. Additionally, the rate at which Niagara students conduct faculty-led research is 16 percent higher than that at nearly 600 colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
Fittingly, development of "What Must Be Done" was a process that engaged university-wide councils and committees, sectors and divisions, alumni and students, and the external community. The result is a comprehensive blueprint that positions Niagara for long-term success in the evolving landscape of higher education.
"The strength of this plan is in the collaborative nature that was central to its development," Maher added. "This is a collective vision for the future that the Niagara University community took great pride in creating - and will take great pride in implementing."
Often recognized as one of the top higher education values in the country, Niagara endeavors to continue providing the foundation for its students to be successful. Its focus on developing the whole person - mind, body, heart and soul - inspires students to serve all members of society, especially the poor and oppressed, in local communities and around the world.
The university's strategic plan reaffirms and aligns concerted efforts to enhance these core strengths, while anticipating and responding to challenges.
With a view to 2025, the strategic plan identifies five key strategic vision goals:
•Academic excellence founded in interdisciplinary approaches to learning, capitalizing on Niagara's strong tradition in liberal arts education and high-quality, accredited professional programs.
•Social justice, with a campus dedicated to diversity and awareness of the local and global environment, and educating students as citizens of the world.
•Mission-driven transformative leadership, fostering economic and social development with the community and its strategic partners.
•A culture of care for the whole person and an organization strengthened by innovation and shared governance.
•An open campus environment created through the use of cutting-edge technology and improvements to facilities and outdoor spaces.
Kerri Winston, one of the students who spoke during Thursday's event, praised Niagara for cultivating a caring "campus environment that creates the conditions for students to excel."
"At Niagara, academic success begins in the classroom and in partnerships with faculty, but continues through opportunities for campus engagement that bridge academics and campus life," said Winston, a Chicago native pursuing a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. "Through the commitment that NU makes to academics, its students and to the local and global communities, NU knows what must be done and is prepared to accomplish it."
To learn more about Niagara University, go to www.niagara.edu
or call 716-286-8700.
NU was founded by the Vincentian community in 1856.