By Joyce O’Connor Davidson
In your recent letter to President's Council members, you talk about the imminence
of a capital campaign. Would you explain the need for a campaign?
A: When we look at the select colleges with which we are competing, we see how
far behind we are in resources. Of the schools that we compete with in the liberal
arts category, many-in fact most-have an endowment two, three, four or five times
what ours is. Holy Cross is now playing in the big leagues, but in many ways
we have a minor league budget. In order to go where we want to go, we need to
raise some significant money.
Q: Where did the idea for a campaign come from? Would
you elaborate on some of the early priorities of this campaign?
A: The campaign actually has been in the planning stages for a while.
It was delayed because of the presidential transition, but a great deal of
work has already been done by Frank Vellaccio, Paul Sheff, the Trustees and
When I first came here in June, I was very fortunate because I was able to
go to a retreat held by the Trustees to talk about strategic issues here at
Holy Cross-where we need to go and what our priorities are. A number of things
came out of that retreat.
One was the commitment to raise our academic quality by adding 25 new faculty
in the next five years and to use these positions to increase the range and
quality of the things we do for our students. There is a need to look at the
housing situation-especially apartment-style residence halls for seniors-to
attract them back to campus and to facilitate more of an educational experience
for people living on campus.
There has been a lot of planning for the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture.
The Center is very, very important to us. It will emphasize our Jesuit, Catholic
and religious identity, values and mission. It will give us a distinctive and
very significant voice in higher education by creating a high profile program
that does serious intellectual work around questions of values and religion
in American society and education. It certainly has the potential to increase
our name recognition and prestige. We think it will bring our spirituality
and values into the political and professional arena and will give us a vehicle
for the promotion of justice and service. It will also deepen the impact of
our values on our students.
The Center has already started under the direction of Professor David O'Brien,
who is very well known for his work on Catholic history and Catholic studies.
There is a mission statement and goals, and a series of projects is being discussed.
There will be an inaugural conference on forgiveness next fall.
So, we need to find resources for the center to provide stable funding for
its staffing; to sponsor lectures, a national seminar on religion and liberal
arts education, and a distinguished advisory board; to fund fellowships that
bring in scholars of various disciplines to the center and grants for people
doing projects in keeping with the center's mission; and to endow professorships
to give it consistent, ongoing expertise. Of course, the center will be housed
in Smith Hall, which is already well under way and should be done by next fall.
It will be a signature program at the very center of our campus life. Resources
from the campaign will help fund the center.
We've also talked about renovating the downstairs of St. Joseph Memorial Chapel
to provide more effective prayer and worship space for people.
Another very important issue that we all agree on is the need to increase the
diversity of the student body, especially racial and ethnic diversity. To do
that we need funds for staffing, for recruiting, for financial aid and for
academic and social support for students, to increase retention.
I should also add that technology is always important. We need to be able to
fund it better than we do now. It is here, as it is everywhere, an escalating
cost, but one that we can't skimp on. It is very important for learning in
today's environment and is certainly something that all students expect.
Q: I'm wondering if one of the motivations for this campaign
is competition. Do the U.S. News & World Report rankings
figure into this campaign for Holy Cross?
A: We certainly pay attention to the U.S. News & World Report ranking.
It's not an accurate benchmark for us, because it really doesn't capture the
things that we feel are most important and are trying hard to accomplish. It
does very little to measure what effect you have on your students, except in
very crude and indirect ways, such as retention and graduation rates. It certainly
does not look at personal growth, service, or the values our students acquire,
elements that we think are essential to our mission here. Nevertheless, people
pay attention to it. It is one way in which they rate quality, and there are
some things in it that show us where we stand among other schools, which is
important. What we find when we look at the ratings is that we are in the top
40 liberal arts colleges. We have been in the 25-to-30 range now for a while,
and there isn't much difference among the schools in that range. It represents
a tremendous accomplishment for Holy Cross to be in that elite group of schools,
and we intend to stay there and to move up if we can.
When we analyze the results, we find we are about where you would expect in "selectivity," right
in that 25-to-35 range. We do an outstanding job on "outcomes" (such as they
are) with the students who come to us; our retention and graduation rates are
among the best. Our "alumni giving rates" are very strong, which is an indication
of the impact we have on our graduates. We fall way behind in the "resource" category.
Our student-to-faculty ratios are higher than any of the schools we compete
with. Of the top 40 liberal arts colleges, we are way behind in spending per
student and in faculty compensation. The lack of resources is really what is
holding us back right now.
Q: To what extent might the marketing initiative that's
under way affect the campaign and the way Holy Cross thinks
A: The Trustees have told us, and we agree, that we need to be more sophisticated
in our marketing. Institutions of higher education have become very professional
in this area. We need to pay attention to that. We have three goals for our
marketing. The first is to broaden the pool of students that we draw from,
both geographically and among different ethnic and racial groups, and so on.
The second is to give us more of a voice in higher education, to give us more
of a presence among the top schools on the national stage. The third is to
get the word out about who we are and what we are doing and to make us more
attractive to potential benefactors.
We are engaging some consultants to look at and develop a marketing plan that
will certainly support the campaign. One specific way that our marketing analysis
will help us is in development of the campaign case statement-who we are, what
our goals are and what specific needs we have.
The case statement will try to capture why we think Holy Cross is worth an
investment on the part of benefactors and will put in detail how resources
will be used. By early this winter we will have a draft of the case statement.
We are going to take that out to select groups of benefactors and get their
feedback on what we have, and whether that really is effective in representing
who we are and what our needs are.
Q: What specific steps has Holy Cross taken to ready
itself for a campaign?
A: We have formed a campaign steering committee, which is being chaired by
Jack Rehm '54, and includes staff at the College, Trustees and other long-time
supporters. We have just finished a 10-year re-accreditation that, along with
the preparatory self-study, gives us some guidance. We have been soliciting
Trustees and others who are very close to the College. We have received a number
of very significant pledges and gifts, so we are building the nucleus fund
that will be in place when we announce the public phase of the campaign. There
will be a major campaign kickoff event in Worcester in the fall, followed by
events in major cities across the country. Then we will be under way.