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Strategic Plan

Building a Future Full of Hope 2025

Introduction to the Strategic Plan

Spring 2019

When I was selected to serve as the 14th president of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, I accepted with a sense of duty to honor those who came before me, as well as with a sincere desire to steward well our resources in order to better serve the educational needs of our students in a faith-based context. Over the course of the past 15 months, as I have become more familiar with this community of thought leaders, collaborative innovators, dedicated educators and staff, along with passionate students, I have seen the sincere desire to grow, develop, and succeed. Each person in the Saint Mary’s community is committed to ensuring its sustainable future along with its impact both locally and globally.

Embarking upon the strategic planning process was made possible by this commitment. In fewer than 10 months, we have created a pathway to success for our university, a pathway that embraces our Lasallian Catholic heritage while remaining open to all people of good will; a pathway that manages our resources responsibly while creating capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship; a pathway that positions Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota to become, over the next five years, a leader for regionally dominant and nationally prominent programs and services that emphasize excellence and competence.

We will achieve this vision together. In creating our strategic plan, we involved more than 1,500 stakeholders. As we now implement it, we will continue to need involvement, engagement, and support from thousands more. This knowledge, this abiding belief in the Saint Mary’s community, is the basis for the plan, and the basis for its name: Building A Future Full of Hope.


Father James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D.
President, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Progress on the Strategic Plan

Spring 2021

I am pleased to share that significant progress has been made on our strategic plan, Building a Future Full of Hope 2025. The advances have been especially rewarding given the many challenges our university has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to improve Saint Mary’s and set a course for a prosperous future. This work embraces our Lasallian Catholic tradition of ethical leadership, character and virtue focusing on its social impact while expanding offerings and growing enrollment through excellence and innovation. This includes providing greater access and relevance through programs that are practical and outcomes that are tangible and which go hand in hand with student success.

We have advanced on all five of our phase one initiatives. These form the foundation of our five strategic goals. We now begin work on phase two initiatives as we approach the third year of the five-year plan. Successes to-date include:


Initiative 1: Lasallian Catholic Initiatives

  • Establishing the Lasallian Catholic Mission Advisory Council, launching a Lasallian book club, and initiating numerous interfaith efforts and leadership development opportunities
  • Launching the Character and Virtue Education website at, which includes resources, information on our speakers series, and perspective stories
  • Enhancing the Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) program with plans to host the first summer institute to prepare future educational leaders to be ambassadors of character and develop schools of character excellence
  • Appointing Leon Dixon as our new vice president of inclusion and human dignity and a fully funded director of the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership
  • Establishing a President’s Council on race and diversity as well as one on bioethics

Initiative 2: Collaborative Nursing Programs

  • Establishing the Advisory Board for a School of Nursing
  • Preparing for a fall 2021 launch of our new proposed B.S. in Nursing program
  • Launching the DNP in Nurse Anesthesiology
  • Initiating the search for and naming Sister Agnes Mary Graves, RSM, DNP, the director and inaugural Jack and Mary Ann Remick Chair of Nursing to lead our B.S. in Nursing program and RN to BSN online program

Initiative 3: Pilot Pathway Concept in Business

  • Launching more than 20 new graduate certificates, which have enrolled close to 400 students as of April 1, 2021
  • Continuing to develop additional certificate programs
  • Launching digital badges and micro-credentials that provide students a way to showcase their new skills and training to employers (in partnership with Wiley Education Services and Credly)

Initiative 4: Philanthropic Growth

Initiative 5: Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Analytics

  • Starting the process of building out a comprehensive data dictionary and data governance structures
  • Planning for implementation of a university data warehouse

Under phase two of the plan, initiatives two, three, and four have now moved into operation mode, whereas the work of initiatives one and five will continue throughout the planning process while we begin other phase two initiatives. As I stated when we launched the plan in fall 2019, we will achieve this vision together. Our progress to date, in the most challenging of times, bodes well for our ability to implement the plan in a focused and cohesive manner.

I am deeply grateful for the good work, grace, and care which our Saint Mary’s community has thus far exhibited to make this all possible. I look forward to our collective progress in living more fully our Lasallian and Catholic identity while strengthening our university for generations to come.


Father James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D.
President, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota