Bold. Imaginative. Distinctive.
Eric Spina has been doing a lot of listening these days.
The University of Dayton’s president criss-crossed the state this week before coming home to meet with 80 community leaders on a “listening tour” designed to generate and test creative ideas for shaping the University’s future 20 years on the horizon. “Being bold is in our DNA. Now is our time to be bold,” he told 80 Cincinnati alumni at the Kenwood Country Club Feb. 16. “I’m here to listen to you about the University we want to create together.”
In sessions in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton, Spina asked participants for their feedback on six potential strategic aspirations — from striving to be known as “the premier Catholic university for leadership development in civic engagement, community building and social innovation” to achieving national leadership in such growing research areas as environmental sustainability and energy.
Before hitting Ohio’s major cities, he visited alumni communities coast to coast and held a Facebook Live event in Dayton Spina will go live on Facebook again at 6 p.m., Feb. 22, to talk to alumni about their aspirations for UD’s future.
“I’ve learned that the heart of the University of Dayton, the community spirit, is here in spades. In being bold, we’ll build on our Catholic, Marianist core,” Spina told Cincinnati alumni before asking, “Which of these strategic directions resonate with you? Which are critically important? Is there something not on here? We want to be bold, imaginative, distinctive.”
Alumni in this session expressed support for greater experiential learning and leadership development opportunities for students, but shared concerns about affordability and diversity.
“Those are two existential threats,” Spina acknowledged. “It would be very easy for us to slip into being a university only for the wealthy. We’re also not where we need to be from the boardroom to the student body in terms of diversity. We need to prepare students for a world where other people are different from them. For me, this is a very high priority.”
A mechanical and aerospace engineer by training, Spina said he believes the University of Dayton can become nationally recognized in a range of scholarly and applied research fields.
“We’re ninth in the nation among private, comprehensive, research universities without a medical school in the amount of research we do,” he said, noting last year’s record $117.6 million in sponsored research contracts. “We can take it to the next level and move more technology (from the labs) to the marketplace.”
Spina, who became UD’s 19th president last summer, said he’s spent the last seven months learning the University’s story and its values. In all, 2,700 alumni, faculty, staff, students, trustees, supporters and community leaders have weighed in on the University’s emerging strategic vision that will lay the foundation for a major fundraising campaign and guide future curriculum, facilities and research endeavors.
As he’s done in group gatherings, Spina closed the evening’s conversation by sharing red-and-blue “friendship bracelets” personalized with an image of the chapel and the words, “Learn. Lead. Serve.” in bold white type.
“This reminds me what we’re about. It reminds me I’m connected to you,” he said.