State of the University 2023

It has been quite a first year together. I now have a whole cycle of our academic rituals under my belt, those traditions that make our world so special. All culminating in a commencement where almost no one minded the rain because Stevie Wonder sang to us “the sunshine of my life.” It doesn’t get better than that.

Thank you for your warmth and welcome. For your willingness to keep an open mind about me and give me the opportunity to earn your trust.

And I know that I need to earn that trust. With transparency and new lines of communication.

By making shared governance both real and valuable. By listening to more voices, especially those pockets of people left out in a campus community divided by distance and structure.

I’ll continue to do town halls regularly, starting again on October 10. That’s when I’ll go through our data and metrics, talk about trends over time, and tell you where we struggle and where we flourish. But today isn’t that.

Today I want to talk about where I hope we are heading. And in my enthusiasm, I’ve written a very long speech, but I hope it will be interesting.


Crafting a vision requires patience -- because if I walked in the door with a plan, you would know I did not care to listen. One of the important insights the Jesuits teach us is that we cannot project the outside solution onto the complexity of our situation.

The first step of discernment is to learn, with openness and humility. To avoid jumping to conclusions, no matter how much I want to reassure you that I’ve got it all covered.

I’ve spent this past year diving deeply into data, spreadsheets, and taskforce reports, listening to so many of you, and reading hundreds of ideas you submitted on written forms. Thank you for teaching me so much. You are, by the way, very good at teaching.

As I told you last year, my Uncle Joe, my own favorite Jesuit, gave me the following advice during COVID. “The answer to the crisis can be found inside the crisis.” I keep mulling over that advice. There’s the obvious part of it – we have to diagnose our own particular problems. But I have realized the more profound part -- we also have to find solutions within our community, because we build with the tools available to us.

I have found such strength here. I am so excited to start the work of dreaming big, together, about the extraordinary things Fordham is capable of achieving.

Because the world needs us right now. We veer from determination to despair, sometimes unable to look away from the news and sometimes needing to turn it off.

This summer, we watched a planet convulsing with heat, terrible floods, and droughts. The very air around us turned orange with smoke. An entire community in Hawaii – I can’t even say the words – burned alive.

We cannot say we were not warned.

Last spring, we watched in awe at the sight of technology teaching itself, passing the LSAT and the medical boards, and writing lyric poems in seconds. We realized that artificial intelligence will transform not just the classroom, but education itself. Transform not just the skills our students need, but the disrupted economy they inherit. Like a sci-fi movie, even our imaginations struggle to keep up with the unintended consequences.

And just at the moment when society needs to rally around solving problems, we fracture into self-righteous individualism. We drown in disinformation and propaganda. We hear wails of increasing despair from those whose economic opportunities have withered to an illusion.

Disparities of wealth have returned to Victorian times.

And we wonder, in the midst of all of that – how do we at Fordham matter?

Within a university, it is easy to feel removed, stuck in our own traditions, hiding behind our walls (in our case quite literally). We forget that we are actually on the front lines, because so often we stumble.

Despite our ability to provide real opportunity, higher ed has become unaffordable to the vast majority of Americans, in part because America has stopped investing in education as a public good.

We’ve gotten distracted by the rankings, chasing ever-shifting goalposts (and again this year, U.S. News played Lucy to our Charlie Brown, pulling up the football just as we were running down the field. Private schools dropped a median of ten spots, for reasons I’ll explain at the town hall.)

Despite our ability to do groundbreaking research that solves pressing problems, higher ed focuses on the whims of government grant funding instead of the urgency of the world. We spend time clambering down a single branch of our individual disciplines instead of climbing the tree and solving real problems.

And we all – all of us – fall victim to the powerful sense of relative deprivation. We work in research institutions with remarkable resources, but we feel acutely that others have more. It never ends – the idea that it is not my job to act because someone who has more should do it instead.

Fordham -- what if we stepped outside of these constraints, this inertia, these temptations, and chose a different way? What if we decided to stop distracting ourselves by chasing status and just focused on mattering? We live in urgent times. When we look back on our careers here, will we ever wish we had been more self-interested? More short-sighted?

Here is the irony. In this never-ending and rigged race of higher ed, the way that Fordham can actually succeed is to stop trying so hard to compete and just focus on making a difference.

Why? Because this generation of students demands it. They inherit a broken world determined to fix it before it’s too late. As in our sci-fi movies, they need the skills to go out and fight a battle of survival for humanity. They want to know that we, their teachers, understand the stakes. They want to know that we actually care about them. And they can smell the difference between virtue signaling and real values.

We have those real values. This profound sense of mission isn’t new to us – it isn’t a marketing ploy – it is the whole point of Fordham.

Let’s double-down on mission. Let’s be ourselves, our unabashedly determined selves. Without apologizing for the fact that we honestly care. And we aren’t playing a game.

What would that look like? It would focus on a university’s three sources of power: research, teaching, and opportunity.

First, in research, to turn our expertise even more intently to solving the urgent problems of the world. Not just with science, not just with further technology, but by defining the core of what it means to be human, before we lose that core. To propose ethical and legal guardrails to the unfettered growth of technology. To persuade industry to use their powers for good.

To cut through human denial and wake people up, especially with the clarion call of faith.

In other words – the work that many of you are already doing, but with new support, new urgency, new willingness to work with each other.

Second, we can remind the world that it has never needed transformative Jesuit teaching more.

We instill the core values that help our students navigate ethical confusion. We teach critical thinking to cut through the fog of disinformation. We teach courage, to face crises with steely determination.

We do that inside the classroom, and far more often, outside the classroom, pushing, challenging, and mentoring. We do that with brilliant faculty and compassionate staff – from the library, to the playing fields, to service work.

We already have well-designed plans to do more, in the existing strategic plan which I love and will continue to execute. In the work of transforming our students’ lives, the work that fuels us all, we will never stop trying to get better. One student at a time.

And third, we must continue Fordham’s proud tradition of providing opportunity. We exercise enormous power as gatekeepers, even as the Supreme Court has tied our hands. We make the dream of meritocracy real and we know the impact we have – all of us -- on the trajectory of our student’s lives.

That all sounds good, but how? What would this look like exactly?

I want to dive deep into each of these areas, opportunity, research, and teaching.

To explain opportunity in this country, it is worth describing how we got here.

We are, after all, one of more than 4,000 colleges and universities across the country. Have you ever wondered why we have so many schools – rural and urban, public and private, tiny liberal arts colleges to enormous state flagships? That diversity is a real strength, but it also reminds us of our historic divisions -- so many schools created for those left out of so many other schools.

Our history is a story of a very slow and contested march towards progress.

Given that, I’ll skip over the first three hundred years since the founding of Harvard and start at the beginning of World War II, when still only 4% of Americans had a college degree.

Almost all private schools remained divided by race, religion, and gender, as did many publics, which educated the vast majority of graduates.

The Ivies were busy pretending to educate the best and brightest, horrified that this group might include people like us. They designed elaborate holistic admissions processes, with legacy preferences and interviews, to redirect people of color, women, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and anyone without money. In other words, all of us.

Other schools emerged for the excluded, Catholic schools like Fordham, African-American schools like Morehouse, and women’s colleges like Wellesley and Spellman. Working with far fewer resources and achieving remarkable outcomes, as they still do.

The trickle of growing economic opportunity became a flood with the GI Bill. Congress worried about the millions of young veterans who would soon stream home from the front, just at the moment when the military-production economy would shutter to a standstill. (An economic kick in the shins bigger than COVID would be.) Instead, they sent those returning veterans to our schools, flooding us with millions of new students.

The GI Bill represented an enormous leap in meritocracy, though it left too many behind – the black soldiers who had far fewer educational options available to them. The women not allowed to serve.

But here is what it DID achieve -- it forever proved that higher ed is a public good. It represented an investment, not just in opportunity, but in the economy, one that paid for itself in three years because of the higher earnings of college graduates.

How many of you here are the product of a GI Bill education yourself, or for your parent or grandparent?

It was a policy that fueled innovation --- producing countless scientists and entrepreneurs,

Nobel prize winners, and those who would make the American economy a powerhouse. It was a major force in the rise of a proper middle class in the 1950s – a time of meaningful social mobility for many and enormous global competitiveness.

The next big turning point for economic opportunity? In the mid-60s, Lyndon Johnson helped create federal financial aid, grants that would follow students to the school of their choice, public or private. He signed the Higher Education Act, with tears in his eyes, at the Texas community college on the border where he once taught desperately poor and talented Latino students.

Those first Pell grants were enough to cover full tuition, room, and board for those who qualified. Can you imagine?

It would take major battles throughout the twentieth century – and I’ve taught whole semesters on this, so forgive me for skipping forward – to pry open the doors of universities and remove barriers of race, gender, and religion. Sometimes with court orders and armed marshals.

Here is a question we sometimes forget – what then happened to all of those schools founded in response to exclusion, as our students were suddenly welcomed elsewhere?

Many closed, and some became co-ed. 100 or so HBCUs remain. 26 women’s colleges. They remain places of fierce community – of support against discrimination – and the data shows that it matters.

What happened to Catholic schools when our students (both Catholic and Jewish) were welcomed elsewhere? We filled our ranks instead with students of other faiths, and in some ways, became more secular. We had to work harder to compete.

By the 1970s, the American higher ed system became the envy of the world. It created more meaningful economic mobility than we have today, though it was just getting started on race and gender.

But the modern era brought a profound shift away from that social mobility. This is the context we now find ourselves in.

First, there was a disinvestment in higher ed.

In the 80s, and again after the 2008 recession, state funding of public institutions plummeted.

Federal Pell Grants failed to keep up with inflation.

And public support for taxpayer subsidies of college education also declined, creating a strange dichotomy. As a society, we still see K-12 as a basic right, something we fund through taxpayer dollars not as some kind of commie experiment. But higher ed is now increasingly seen as a private good, to be paid for by families themselves, or by massive amounts of borrowing – debt that can never be discharged in bankruptcy. That idea of the GI bill – an investment that paid for itself so quickly –has gone out of favor.

For all but the wealthiest private schools, it becomes harder and harder to provide excellence at a price our students can afford, because students bear that burden alone. Our graduates have no choice but to worry about the ROI of a college degree given the price they pay, the debt that constrains their options.

Second, costs went up because competition within higher ed became fierce and national.

We used to have a model in this country of regional commuter schools, as Fordham was for most of its history. In the 1980s, many schools like ours built residence halls and worked to become more national. Students traveled farther to come to school.

There had always been national markers of status, like the Ivies. Yet we used to have an understanding that you could get an excellent education all over the place, closer to home.

And then came the rankings.

Given the remarkable variety and number of institutions, it is just silly to put them all in a row.

So many schools that are effectively tied are instead pushed far down the list.

At first, the US News rankings were essentially reputational. But in 1988, the magazine introduced algorithms, all of which could be gamed. Standardized testing would suddenly have to matter more, to prove status. Judging us by our selectivity motivated us to drive up applications so that we could reject more people. (My favorite satirical headline declared -- “Stanford achieves 0% admission rate.”).

All of which accelerated the cleaving of universities between the haves and have-nots. The lure of status, of the ivies and near-ivies is ever more powerful, though the data shows that for most of us, that degree on its own confers little in success and earning power. But the obsession with getting into the top few schools grows, causing ever-more anxiety and disappointment.

And we all compete in expensive ways to attract those students, spending more on recruitment and marketing, on the facilities students will value instead of what is most valuable to them.

Meanwhile, elite schools get to educate those who can afford to pay more and more, who become wealthy alumni who give back more and more. It all fuels a growing divide. Famously, the top schools educate more students from the top 1% of society than the bottom 60% combined. Poor students who are brilliant, who have perfect grades and ace the standardized tests – they are far more likely to go to community college than a highly selective school.

For the rest of higher ed, without those multi-billion-dollar endowments and without the line of full-pay students – it’s gotten really hard. How do we bridge the gap between what our students deserve, and what they can afford to pay?

Because we are hitting the ceiling of what our students can afford to pay, while our costs keep going up.

Where is Fordham in creating opportunity? The reason I came, the reason many of you tell me you are here, is that we are proudly not a school that functions merely for the entitled.

20% of our students are first-generation and Pell, and I am proud to announce, 48% of the incoming class are students of color – the most diverse in our history.

In the shadow of the Supreme Court decision, we work ever harder to create a community of welcome and inclusion while battling against the forces that would divide us. For an academically elite school, we do the work of creating opportunity better than most.

BUT – we have a long way to go. We do not come close to fully meeting the established financial needs of our families. That’s a big part of why so many of our accepted students turn us down and our yield is so low. It makes us vulnerable to a recession when families would have no choice but to prioritize affordability over quality. And it is so very hard on many of our students.

To give you an idea of how daunting it would be for us to bridge that gap, to fully meet need, for undergrads alone, would require an extra $43 million a year.

There are some who helpfully just tell us that we should take more full-pay students. Here is what I need for us to understand – as the disparities of wealth grow, there are fewer of them.

How do you attract those few full-pay students? By focusing resources on the markers of status that the wealthiest students crave and can afford. Once you’ve done that, if you’re lucky, the wealthy students may come. Which will be important, because you’ll need them to pay for those markers of status. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Even if we could win that race, do we want to? Isn’t there another way?

Now, let me circle back far more briefly to tell the story of research:

For much of the history of higher education, faculty didn’t do research – they didn’t seek to create new knowledge, but to preserve it and teach it. Research generally happened outside of the university.

That began to change in the late 19th century with the birth of modern medicine. As we moved beyond a reliance on leeches, blood-letting, and superstition, new universities like John Hopkins formed with a focus on scientific experiments, to invent the very subject that they would teach.

And again, WWII changed everything. Government suddenly needed a great deal of science to help win the war. It made a critical decision, to invest heavily with taxpayer dollars rather than to rely entirely on private industry and defense contractors. Because if you leave science to the private sector, it will always require a quicker return, a more clearly pragmatic application.

Science done for its own sake creates unexpected abundance, all sorts of practical applications that you can’t predict.

Another choice – government could have relied entirely on its own labs. Instead, it gave grants to universities and funded research through faculties, who had greater independence. The National Science Foundation. Later, the National Endowment of the Humanities, though always with vastly less funding.

Finally, in 1980, Congress passed a law allowing universities to patent and license the results of federally-funded research. This encouraged a new wave of cooperation between private industry and universities, launching the wave of what would drive places like Stanford to new heights of capitalizing on biotech.

American university research continues to fuel much of the innovation of society.

It also comes with its own tradeoffs. Because, for all of the billions of research dollars, universities have been expected to spend just as much, often more, to attract those grants.

Increasingly, universities use tuition dollars to hire faculty not to teach our students, but instead to do ground-breaking research. We do that in part because it matters to society, but also because it is also a marker of status in our industry.

Where did Catholic Schools land in this modern era of research?

In 1955, Monsignor John Ellis wrote a famous book that shook American Catholic education to its core. He challenged the “Catholic university” as a contradiction in terms. He criticized their lack of rigor and quality, and their inability to compete on a national playing field.

This criticism came at a crucial moment. Catholic students had finally been welcomed in elite protestant schools and were leaving ours. Society in the 60s went through roiling change, as did the Church. The religious men and women who made up so much of our faculties were leaving in record numbers (like my father. Sorry about that.)

Schools like Fordham began to make a big pivot.

To recruit religiously diverse student bodies.

To hire faculty from a more national market, and in turn, give those faculties much of the power over hiring other faculty, and over the curriculum.

To transition to boards made up primarily of laypeople.

This came with the risk of diluting mission, but schools that didn’t adjust risked outright failure.

Despite all of that change, few Catholic schools became serious research institutions. The AAU, a prestigious group that claims to represent 71 top research institutions, includes only one Catholic school, Notre Dame, which it invited only this year (though I would argue several others belong there.)

This wasn’t because of outright resistance from the Church. The Catholic intellectual tradition embraces research, embraces science, the Jesuits, in particular. But our American Catholic schools remained more inward-looking, focused on that other goal of creating opportunity.

Many Catholic schools that did decide to compete seriously in the research market had a few things in common – a medical center, often with its own hospital system (very high risk, and sometimes, high reward, sometimes financial disaster.) A focus on the kind of scientific subjects that the government tends to fund.

Ultimately, the hope for those schools is that status will create the kind of resources that allow them both national prestige and opportunity, without dramatic tradeoffs between the two. But for now, the tradeoffs are clear. There are quite a few Jesuit and Catholic institutions at the bottom of the list of percentage Pell. Remember that 36% of college students qualify for Pell.

But they make up 12% of the student body at Notre Dame and at Georgetown. 13% at Boston College. And 11% at Santa Clara.

Where is Fordham on markers of research success? We do very well in competing for humanities grants, but there just aren’t so many of those. We are proud of the progress we have been making in attracting overall research funding, but let’s put this in context. Fordham’s annual research expenditures are $17 million, in comparison to Boston College at $65 million,

Notre Dame at $240 million, Georgetown at $280, and NYU and Columbia each at $1.1 billion.

Should we dream of becoming a Research 1 institution like those? (We are RO2 right now.) I worry it’s a race we couldn’t win if we tried. It would require us to invest almost exclusively in STEM and to catch up from 0 to 60. It is a race that does not value what we are good at – the humanities, the professions. And it is a race that requires serious hits in our other goals. It would mean investing even less in opportunity and teaching.

What if we focused on the research that matters most to the world instead of what matters to the AAU? What if we figured out how to move beyond our disciplinary silos to find the answers to complicated problems? If we could be the ones to solve the puzzle of interdisciplinarity?

Let me be clear, I do not have the power to decree this from on high. It will only happen if the faculty want it to happen. Together we can come up with creative ideas to seed the change, to make it more likely and possible, but it has to come from your passionate desire to make a difference. To understand that all of our research is important, but to decide together that some areas might be more urgent. The kind of black hole problems that swallow all the rest, render them moot.

And, as I heard from so many of you, and as contained in the existing strategic plan, this will require strategic new investment in STEM. We will never be MIT and we shouldn’t try. But in order to be a serious institution, to provide a well-rounded education, we cannot have labs that look worse than my underfunded public high school. In order to address the world’s pressing problems, we must be in conversation with science and technology.

STEM is expensive and so we will have to be strategic. We’ll need to connect to our existing strengths. To do the cutting-edge, interdisciplinary work that can leapfrog ahead to where we know the world is heading. And we’ve already begun to raise millions from donors to help us.

Finally– transformative teaching.

Here are just two examples of how much teaching matters, right now..

The Annenberg Foundation recently asked Americans to name the three branches of government. Let me test your optimism -- how many of you think a majority of Americans could do that? Nope. Less than half. A quarter couldn’t name one branch of government.

In K-12, civics and history scores, which were never high, declined this year for the first time in decades. (I’ll just stop to note that all of us who are middle-aged are sitting here thinking we need to bring back Schoolhouse Rock.)

This isn’t just a problem of shocking ignorance -- the results are chilling. Right now, 55% of Americans report being dissatisfied with democracy. Half of young people polled prefer a “strong leader” over a system of elections.

When we do not teach political science and history – and by that, I mean actual history, not the fake kind – citizens stop participating in democracy, or even believing in it. It may just be the ultimate sign that the subject you teach matters, when it starts being banned or messed with across the country.

There is also a new pushback to the teaching of real ethics in K-12, as we navigate between honoring the ideological diversity of families, but end up failing to take a stand on anything. In higher ed, we’ve also diminished how we teach ethics – those rooted not just in vague platitudes about integrity, but in the serious, in-depth engagement that comes in a theology or philosophy class. We resist these subjects as somehow impractical, a waste of resources without immediate ROI. We are finding out exactly how much they matter.

At Fordham, we focus on the central tenets of Jesuit teaching:

We imbue in our students the Jesuit sense of purpose, of determination and courage, particularly as they face a daunting world ahead.

We teach our students to question assumptions and challenge authority. To teach them critical thinking at a moment when they drown in disinformation and have few touchpoints of truth and reality.

We teach our students to be challenged themselves, at a moment when this generation often feels fragile and under siege. They grew up in a maelstrom of anonymous social media bullying, and they often question the value of just countering insulting speech with more speech. But we have to teach them how to embrace growth, how to weather constructive criticism, and how to engage in civil discourse when they see few examples of it. That work will become harder and harder, particularly as the presidential election and our politics of division loom. But we cannot hold back in fear.

It is not just that we are Jesuit, but also that we are Catholic which gives us something very specific to contribute. None of this is unique to us, but it is fundamental to us.

Our focus on the common good pushes back on the unrelenting tide of individualism. Because it is simply not true that our world can survive if we each only think about ourselves.

Our focus on human dignity provides a powerful antidote to the hatred of the poor, racism and misogyny. With the moral imperative of the beatitudes, we welcome the stranger and feed the hungry.

We teach these lessons with real power in the humanities -- the moral reasoning of theology and philosophy. We help students question the justice of political and economic systems. We inspire empathy through the arts.

We also teach these lessons in our professional schools, linking them to the pressing moral choices our students will face the moment they graduate. And in our education school, we create a force multiplier, training teachers to fan out across the country.

So many of you participate in those countless teachable moments outside of the classroom. In student conduct proceedings. In the residence halls. In every interaction at the bursar’s office and financial aid. We model our values in how we treat students and each other.

At this moment, the undergraduate faculty are doing the difficult and critical work of reimagining our core curriculum. It is not easy and we are grateful to you.

All of the faculty continue to do that work -- within every department and every graduate program. How do we better prepare our students for the unrelenting pace of change? How do we hold onto what is core (quite literally) while acknowledging the new sets of skills our students will also need? In so many ways, you have pushed us ahead.

The existing strategic plan contains thoroughly researched ideas about how we can continue to up our game – to better engage students with research, with service learning, to connect them to the city and the community around us. Let’s finish getting that work done. Let’s forever try harder.


As I’ve described our three goals -- teaching, opportunity, and research –involve tradeoffs of resources and focus. Where are Fordham’s priorities? When we look at the data on our peers, we fall in the middle of all three.

That can seem like a real cop-out, straddling the middle. As we get more ambitious, shouldn’t we try to stand out in one?

But let me ask you this, when you choose a school for yourself, or for many of us now, for our children or grandchildren – do you want a school that prioritizes any one of these goals above all else? A school that pays for transformative teaching by only educating the most entitled elite? A school with brilliant faculty who never actually teach?

We can stand out for our balance. I want us to be ambitious in all three areas, while preserving that balance.

Given who we are, rooted in mission and purpose, given where we are – in New York, at the center of so much of the world’s power and blocks from the U.N. –Fordham can achieve so much more.

We can stand out from a crowded marketplace by actually focusing on what matters. There are neighbors in our backyard whom we can never out-spend, whom we will never beat in the game of status. But we can attract students with real credibility because we care more about the world. Our values, integrity, and impact are not merely performative. They come with 500 years of credibility as a Jesuit institution.


Let me address one last subject that includes the work of every single one of you. To prepare for the future, to launch our ambitions, we also have to get ourselves ready.

We have to make our 182-year-old bureaucracy more efficient, more agile, more data-driven, accountable, and innovative. That was the subject of my speech last year, and I’m grateful to all of you who have risen to the challenge.

First, to stop torturing ourselves with outdated systems and processes. To carve back time and sanity. We are working hard on fixing systems you’ve told us are broken, especially the unwieldy and lengthy hiring process. I.T. is busy finding ways to get more of our technology systems to talk to each other.

We’re also screwing up our courage and taking on some of the third-rail problems, like how to design a leadership structure for Arts and Sciences across our two campuses, one that creates a unified voice for the mission of the school and helps it function better for faculty and students alike An enormous thank you to all of you helping us to get that right.

We have also hired one of the coolest and most dynamic student groups on campus (and by that, of course, I mean the Physics Club, who tell me their goal is to become as exciting as the Philosophy Club). They will be our secret shoppers of student-facing systems, and because they are ridiculously smart, they will also probably fix all those systems for us.

What if Fordham became a model of a culture of accountability, starting at the top? Of excellence in everything we do? Because each day that we come to work full of passion and enthusiasm, it helps our students. It helps the trajectory of this university.

Finally, to prepare for the future, we have to spend more wisely. This first year was hard for me, because we were still crawling out of the last of our COVID financial holes. It was not easy to start our work together at a moment of constraint.

Let me be clear – Fordham has the resources it needs, we just need to spend them more strategically.

We will keep growing those resources in creative ways, and some of the efficiencies we looked for this year were for the purpose of seeding growth, with ideas you have been proposing for years: Launching high school summer camps that become admissions pipelines. Doing more continuing education. Recruiting more international students.

When we tackle waste and inefficiency, we are not doing it out of panic or retrenchment. We do it for two reasons.

First and foremost, every single penny we spend represents the life savings of one of our families. It sometimes makes us feel better to pretend otherwise, to live in denial, but nevertheless, it’s still true. Bridging the gap between what our students deserve and what they can afford to pay, IS the ballgame. That has been the mission of Jesuit institutions on five continents for five centuries. There is no shame in that work. It is not beneath us. It is our mission.

Second, the question to ask ourselves is not just whether the way we spend resources now matters – of course it does – but whether there are other things we could do that matter more.

Imagine a Fordham with innovation funds, where we could quickly invest in your best ideas across campus. Imagine a Fordham with the research support to have more impact on the world. We can redirect savings in one area to causes you believe in, with a transparent and engaged budget process.

I know that we feel strongly the sense of relative deprivation, that we define what is an acceptable level of resources by comparing ourselves to others. It is so very human to do so. I do it every day.

But we at Fordham have unimaginably resources compared to the vast majority of colleges in this country. When we say that we don’t have enough to make a difference, it breaks the heart of our Jesuit colleagues around the world, those who do more with less – with creativity and passion and grit.

There is a spiritual risk to our wealth, the ways it traps us in complacency. The best analogy I can give is this – which Americans give the highest percentage of their income to charity? The poorest 20%.

If we are careful and strategic, if we manage our resources well, we will be able to fund our ambitions. We will be able to make even more of an impact on the world.


I can feel the energy from some of you in this room, who like me, LOVE change.

But I also want to say that I have learned these past few years, that I actually love creating change, and I do not love having change imposed upon me. It’s the difference between being

the driver of the car on a windy, mountain road versus the backseat passenger turning green. Change is exhausting. Change can feel like criticism of the past, instead of excitement for the future. It takes bandwidth, time, and emotional energy. I do not take that lightly, and I promise to rein in any desire for change for its own sake.

I am very grateful to you for doing this hard work with me. And I promise that it will matter.

Strategic Planning

After I finish, which is a few short paragraphs away, we will start planning together. Hundreds of you have signed up to come in person – to do a SWOT analysis, to fix systems, and for most of you – to help us craft a vision. I’m eager for your feedback to what I’ve proposed, eager for your help in making it better. This is an iterative process. I’ll keep telling what I hear and what I think, and you will keep improving it.

As we move from big goals, to strategies and tactics, we will make use of the carefully constructed work teams necessary for the accreditation self-study, as well our Jesuit Mission Priority Examen. I am thrilled to have that work of deep self-evaluation also fuel our best ideas.

To ensure that the compliance work will actually matter to improving our performance.

The quality of our ideas, the scale of our ambitions, is also what will excite our alumni to give back. And it’s working. Last year was the second-most successful fundraising year in Fordham’s history.

Thank you all for coming today and for listening to this overly long speech. Thank you for the passion you bring to your work, the creativity, and brilliance.

In a world full of understandable cynicism, thank you for modeling something different to our students. We show them what it looks like to use every skill and talent we’ve got to make a difference. We show them what it looks like to hope.

I’ll see you in the planning sessions.