End of Year — Faculty and Staff
“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins, not through strength but by perseverance.”
— H. Jackson Brown Jr.
As we celebrate the end of another academic year, I am reminded of the many achievements our community has made this year and of the persistent search for knowledge and truth that drives this University. I am grateful for all you do to support the mission of Valparaiso University and for all the ways in which you contribute to this exceptional community of learning.
There are many reasons to be filled with enthusiasm as we conclude this year. Yet, we are also mindful of the challenges we face as a University, a state, and a nation. Tension and uncertainty remain following the tumultuous 2016 presidential campaign, which surfaced the many divisions we continue to experience individually and as a nation in the current political and cultural climate. These tensions are compounded by lingering economic difficulties as many struggle to rebound from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
As an institution of higher learning, these national concerns greatly impact us, and we must continue to adapt to the challenges they present while remaining true to Valparaiso University’s unique mission, vision, and identity. To put it frankly, there’s a lot of noise out there, and that noise can threaten to distract us from our responsibilities and our purpose.
Valparaiso University continues to be a community that lives within and between the divides and considers our community most enriched when we do so. This community continues to persevere despite its challenges. Our shared mission remains the same, and we are able to achieve more because of you, our dedicated faculty and staff who each day uphold the values we hold dearly at Valpo — virtue, character, integrity, wisdom, leadership, and service.
In the years to come, we will often find ourselves at the nexus of many of the nation and world’s irreconcilable differences. The way forward may not always be clear. Yet, it is during these difficult and polarizing times that truth-seeking and truth-telling become even more precious and necessary. It is during these times that we must redouble our commitment to the pursuit of truth. And we must both model for our students and demonstrate to the world just how we make our way forward and create a community in which love abounds and where mutual dialogue and understanding prosper.
Yet, there are many reasons to be filled with enthusiasm and hope. Looking back over the past 10 months, we can see the 2016–2017 academic year was marked by many accomplishments and successes:
- We witnessed our highest undergraduate enrollment in 28 years, and our freshman applications and admits are at record levels, reflecting an upward trend that has sustained for the past five years.
- We officially launched Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future during a fun-filled kick-off celebration capped with a thrilling performance by Barenaked Ladies.
- We opened the Sorority Housing Complex and continued to make progress on the Center for the Sciences: Chemistry and Biochemistry, which will house classes this fall.
- Throughout the year, Valpo received numerous accolades, including being ranked No. 1 for both best value in the Midwest and best undergraduate teaching in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, as well as ranking No. 4 overall in the Midwest. In addition, Washington Monthly named Valpo the No. 4 best master’s university in the nation for contribution to public good.
- We welcomed engaging speakers to campus throughout the year, including Cornel West as our keynote speaker for the 27th annual Martin Luther King Kr. Celebration.
- Our men’s basketball team earned its fifth regular season championship in six years, while the men’s tennis team celebrated its second consecutive Horizon League title and returned to the NCAA Tournament.
- During Spring Break, students, faculty, and staff participated in service-learning trips throughout the country and around the world. And community outreach takes place every day through organized and grassroots efforts across campus and in our local community.
- And the graduates you have helped prepare continue to succeed, as our 2015–2016 alumni achieved a 96 percent graduate placement rate.
It has been an excellent year even with its many challenges, and a rewarding summer lies ahead. Students continue to strive for excellence, and members of the Class of 2017 will graduate equipped with a set of skills and experiences that will help them flourish. Our current students, faculty, and staff are preparing for productive summers filled with research, travel, and hands-on learning through numerous experiences. Here are just a few examples:
- The Institute for Leadership and Service continues its Calling and Purpose in Society Fellowship program, with 20 CAPS Fellows serving in nonprofit and service-oriented organizations in Northwest Indiana, Indianapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other major metro areas nationally.
- The Welcome Project’s digital media and humanities teams will continue work on the Flight Paths project, which seeks to map the changing racial and economic demographics of Gary and Northwest Indiana.
- Political science majors Josh Felty and Willie Boyd will complete internships at Senator Todd Young’s office in Washington, D.C.
- Church music major Hannah Koby will travel to Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where she’ll spend the summer playing the organ as many groups visit the church to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
- Biochemistry major Allyson Kneusel has been selected for the Amgen summer immunology research program at Washington University in St. Louis.
- Meteorology major Will Wight will complete internships at Weather Command, a private operational forecasting company in Palatine, Ill., and with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Ill. During his internship at Weather Command, he will work alongside two Valpo meteorology alumni.
- Professor Bart Wolf, Staff Meteorologist David Goines, and 17 students will participate in a convective field study to gain valuable hands-on experience.
- Professor Kevin Ostoyich has been named a visiting fellow and received a grant from the Sino-Judaic Institute to support research at the National Archives on newly released visa application materials from the Shanghai Jews.
- Professor Luke Venstrom will visit VIEP-French student Jack Hoeniges, who has an internship at the Solar Energy Research Facility PROMES in Odeillo, France. While there, Professor Venstrom will give a talk to the researchers about undergraduate research at Valpo.
- Professor Allison Schuette will attend the 13th annual Summer Session on Contemplative Learning and Higher Education, thanks to an award from the Valparaiso University Alumni Association. The six-day intensive workshop will help Professor Schuette bring mindfulness practice into her curriculum with the aim to better navigate conflict and to foster attention to texts and to peers.
- Lecturer Paul Oren will travel to Nanjing, China, to meet with faculty and students at Nanjing University of the Arts to explore the possibility of teaching a course on cross-cultural social media and to promote the partnership between Nanjing University of the Arts and Valparaiso University, particularly within the communication department and graduate digital media program.
These are just a few of the hundreds of interesting plans that will be pursued by faculty, students, and staff over the summer months.
Colleagues and friends, we are indeed blessed to pursue our vocations in this special community. I hope and pray that this summer offers an opportunity to spend time with family and loved ones and to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. And I welcome the opportunity to hear about your experiences when we gather together again in August. Until then,
Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.