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Message from Deacon Vaclavik

Dear Faculty, Staff and Administration:

It has been some time since we reported on The Call Toward Tomorrow integrated planning process. When last semester ended the 30-plus member Oversight Committee had completed work on the internal operational and spiritual core values and the 100-year core purpose. These were framing pieces that were built upon the University’s Catholic identity and mission statement, Basilian values and motto. Together values, purpose, mission and motto established the foundation onto which we are ready to graft a five-or-ten-year vision or BHAG for the University of St. Thomas.

BHAG is an expression that comes from the work of Jim Collin’s in his strategic planning classic, Built to Last. It is an acronym that summarizes Big Hairy Audacious Goal. At UST, we have baptized this expression to be Big Holy Audacious Goal. In either case this goal names that singular focus that will draw the University in all its people and parts into a shared future. A common example of a BHAG was President John F. Kennedy’s 1960’s quest “to put a man on the moon and to bring him back safely.” It took almost a decade to realize that Big Hairy Audacious Goal that captivated a generation and that led to countless new technologies benefiting science, business and everyday households. To achieve this goal, engineers, mathematicians, astronauts, trainers, spacesuit designers, robotics experts, computer technicians all lent their particular skills, expertise and energy. This man on the moon BHAG was a singular mission that involved numerous and varied expertise, skills and personnel.

Before jumping to our BHAG, it may be helpful to review the core values and the core purpose statement that were established during the fall 2017. President Ludwick presented some explanations to our core value words at the last meeting of the Oversight Committee. These additions are included here:

a. Operational Core Values (Non-negotiables of how we work, study and live)

  1. Learner-centered: at the heart of our work are our students
  2. Catholic”:  we are universal; seeking to encounter all
  3. Inclusivity: we welcome and respect the dignity of each person
  4. Community: unity, dialogue, and belonging are important
  5. Holistic: our approach is to accompany the whole person – body, mind and spirit

b. Spiritual Core Values (With the lens of faith how we work, study and live)

  1. Hope: we long for the best and anticipate the best
  2. Servant leadership:  service not authority is our priority
  3. Vocation/call in life: we believe in lives of purpose with each one’s gifts brought to flourishing and freely shared
  4. Love:  God’s love of us motivates our own love and concern for others
  5. Sacrifice: we give of ourselves and lay down our lives in service day by day

c. Core Purpose (The 100-year rational for UST regardless of changing conditions)

To lift and inspire
through education, community, and service.

At the beginning of this Spring semester, with these tools in hand, we gathered two faculty focus groups and one staff focus group. The goal was to listen deeply to the concerns, desires and dreams of the University faculty and staff. We are grateful to the many who attended. Without attribution, the listenings from these groups were distributed to the members of the Oversight Committee. This was to help the members of this committee to carry the thinking of their colleagues into the next meetings.

On February 12, the Oversight Committee reconvened and held its first session of the new semester. At that meeting, the Committee began working toward framing a BHAG for the immediate five-year future of UST. With lots of discussion and sharing, the Committee ended the meeting with some general consensus around direction. There is still work to go to frame this BHAG. Once framed, the process will begin to expand as additional faculty and staff members are engaged to work on Task Teams relative to the five to seven most important specific issues that will impact the University’s ability to realize its BHAG.

While we are making progress, our efforts are more deliberate than calendar-driven. Based on the engagement of the University community, it is important to do this work well and to discern and name the right Call Toward Tomorrow. Your various emails, suggestions, ideas continue to be welcomed. Thanks for the attention that you are giving to either participating in or following this process. We are excited about the future of the University of St. Thomas and its Call Toward Tomorrow.

Blessings and best,


About the Author — Deacon Larry Vaclavik

AvatarAn ordained minister in the Catholic Church, Larry understands service and servant-leadership. A strategic thinker, out-of-the-box planner, wordsmith and seasoned fundraising professional, Larry is the kind of consultant you want if you want a mentor who loves bold dreams and new challenges. Larry’s professional career spans more than three decades, beginning with stints at The Catholic University of America, University of St. Thomas and University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. For the last 24 years, he has been leading consulting projects, helping organizations with everything from their major capital and endowment campaigns to strategic plans and leadership coaching.

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