The recent Pelican News article regarding Student Life restructuring falls short in describing the true impetus and rationale behind the decision to create new positions. In the interest of clarity, I feel it necessary to respond and offer sharper context.
The headline “Student Letters Prompt Student Life Restructure” completely misses the mark. Over the last two months, a group of students wrote letters regarding their concern with various aspects of Student Life administration. They wished to convey these concerns privately, and I will always listen to student feedback with whatever degree of confidentiality that is requested. Prudential judgment, however, always demands listening to both sides of every story, so I specifically sought out students, staff, and faculty who would give contrasting opinions. It was clear that there were many positive students who had a high degree of respect for the professionalism of the Student Life team.
The investment in Student Life came as a result of a long process of discernment on the challenges of serving a growing student body. Our community has rapidly grown, but the resources invested in serving that community have not grown proportionately. Through many conversations over the years with students, faculty, and staff, it became clear that there are three primary functional units to Student Life – Spiritual Formation, Residential Life, and Student Success (i.e. academic counseling, learning accommodations, and career services). In my conversations with the Trustees, Faculty Chairs, and Cabinet, a consensus emerged around how we can fortify each of these functional units. The new investment and structure will strengthen our support for the student experience at JPCatholic.
The particular challenge we have at JPCatholic is living our mission to Impact Culture for Christ. The feedback that really drove this process of discernment was not actually contained in the controversial letters. Students approached me about ideas they had to strengthen the spiritual community, and filled me in on what they perceived was lacking. The mission to create a truly Catholic environment, where students can grow in faith and discover their vocation, is the reason I and many others have sacrificed so much to build JPCatholic. I am very pleased with the outstanding work that Austin, Fr. Eleuterio, and Sr. Tarbytha have been accomplishing in our community. I am continually impressed and grateful for the students and staff who spend so many hours planning campus ministry events and retreats. There are so many good things happening in our community, but we are continuously challenged to build on these successes to create a more dynamic environment. We believe that there is a need for a staff member who can bridge the intellectual formation that happens in the classroom with formation in the extracurricular life, and who can provide additional support and leadership for the activities led by our Campus Formation team.
I hope that you all will understand the benefits of this new arrangement, and that you will come to share my enthusiasm for these changes. You are always welcome to contact me or any member of the administration with any concerns or questions you have. Please join me in praying for the success of this endeavor – both the restructuring of Student Life, and for JPCatholic as a whole.
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Derry Connolly
Ed. Note: The Pelican News, after six weeks of collecting and reviewing documents and conducting numerous interviews, stands by its reporting.