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Introduction

The right questions have transcendent power. They become the catalysts that move the world.

But at this crucial moment in the human story—a time of unprecedented change and often contentious interdependence—who will ask those well-formed, urgent questions? Who will have the courage to demand: Why this narrative and these “givens”? Why these structures and boundaries? Why this research sample, this protocol, or this algorithm?

This strategic framework is rooted in the belief that few institutions are better positioned for this moment—for asking these hard questions—than Fordham University. Together, the Fordham community is imagining how to prepare, and, when necessary, reinvent the University to ensure we remain on the frontlines of civic discourse—fulfilling our essential commitment to transformative teaching, research, and service.

Like all institutions of higher education today, Fordham faces some formidable external and internal challenges. But we also possess a significant advantage: our people. Our scholars and our students strive to be people of restless hearts and bountiful, discerning curiosity—they possess a “bothered excellence” that rejects complacency in every aspect of life, never settles for half-truths, and seeks to serve the good of the world. Those who possess this quality are equipped to lead the difficult, urgent conversations, whenever human dignity is ignored, imperiled, or diminished.

We start from a strong foundation. Our dialogic approach to knowledge; our zest for complexity, peripheries, frontiers and openness to new and different cultures; our worldembracing faith and our healthy skepticism; our insistence that excellence and mastery must be in service to the human family—these constitute our indelible Jesuit character—and they are the traits we seek to instill in all our students, whatever their beliefs or faith.

But what makes Fordham truly different among the 4,100 institutions of higher learning in America is that we are the Jesuit University in and of New York City. As inheritors of a tradition that began in 1548, we at Fordham stand on the shoulders of fearless humanistexplorers and great intellectual adventurers—the world’s first anthropologists, linguists and lexicographers, ethnographers, sociologists, and social entrepreneurs.

New York is the capital of the world, where social, economic, political and cultural forces converge and clash as nowhere else. The limitless opportunities to do good and do well in New York fire the imagination of our students. And thanks to our reputation and deep connections throughout every sector, we can offer them an unparalleled proving ground for their passions and professional aspirations.

But even more importantly, New York is a place tailor-made for people who seek the magis—who go beyond their comfort zones and routines to be more and do more for the world. Breathtaking in its complexity and restlessness, New York is a landscape where frontiers are never settled. And with its invigorating, endearing, and occasionally maddening sense of exceptionalism, New York will never let Fordham be complacent or self-satisfied. Our engagement with the city is rigorous, imaginative, and continually evolving; we could ask for no better sparring partner for our minds and our hearts.

This ongoing interplay between our mission and our environment defines Fordham’s institutional character and gives every idea we generate a distinctive signature: knowledge and insight not just for the development of the individual student or scholar but for the sake of the whole human family. Many of our current and emerging areas of scholarly and program excellence already address the most pressing concerns, challenges, and civic mandates of our times:

  • Exposing the root causes of rampant inequality and stalled social mobility;
  • Upholding human dignity amid rapid global urbanization;
  • Fostering ethical decision-making in every sector;
  • Illuminating the role of faith and religion in a secularized and polarized society;
  • Reestablishing the centrality of the arts and humanities in the public conversation;
  • Addressing the legal, ethical, and policy implications of Big Data and cybersecurity;
  • Developing innovative responses to humanitarian crises in an age of non-stop geopolitical upheaval, and
  • Reconciling the sciences and humanities, ensuring that breakthroughs—and the people responsible for them—are first and foremost in service to saving humanity from despair.

So while it is easy for some to retreat into narrow, myopic specialization, at Fordham, we expect our more than 15,000 students, at every level of study across all of our ten schools, to connect with and confront the world beyond our campus: to make intellectual leaps over conventional academic boundaries, to synthesize disparate knowledge into solutions with real-world impact, and to understand the driving force of faith in all human affairs. From the first-year student whose major is “undecided” to the 2L in our law school to the doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, no one is exempt from this expectation.

It is a tall order. But because our students know that we are committed to attending rigorously to the care and development of each one of them as a whole person, they feel equal to the task. Wherever their professional passions take them, they have the habits of mind and empathy to ask “Why?” This habit is their competitive advantage, and distinguishes them throughout their lives as men and women for others.

The paragraphs above speak of the questions that Fordham asks of the world. But this strategic framework asks several key questions of Fordham, which the University must respond to first:

  • How do we marry the demands of pursuing wisdom and learning in the 21st century with our passion for ethics and the service of justice and faith? And how can we ensure that students and society fully understand the importance and relevance of these pursuits?
  • How do we embrace, support, and promote more fully our role as a highly competitive research institution—particularly in terms of innovative and interdisciplinary initiatives that directly address critical societal problems and needs?
  • How do we deepen our engagement with New York City: both in the communities that surround our campuses and in businesses and centers of creative activity throughout the metropolitan region?
  • How do we broaden our global engagement and ensure that we have the resources to make the whole world our arena for exploration?
  • How do we build on our history as a school of immigrants and our longstanding leadership in holistic, student-centered education to promote greater diversity and inclusion?
  • How do we become more strategic and agile, so we can secure our financial future, act with foresight, and move quickly when opportunity presents itself?

Fordham’s founder described the University as “a dangerous and daring undertaking.” With this plan, we seek to renew our commitment to bringing our knowledge, discoveries, and talents to bear in New York City, where all the world’s cultural challenges and opportunities are manifest in one chaotic, exuberant place. Let’s begin answering the most profound questions our community can address: How can Fordham be even more dangerous and daring on behalf of the world? Where can the pursuit of bothered excellence take us?