One thing Michael Lovell has learned about Marquette University since starting as president on July 1 is that there are many people on campus who have great pride in the institution and who want to make it better.
“There’s a lot of penned up energy,” Lovell said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall on Tuesday. “People have some great ideas and they’re just waiting to go . . . For some reason or other, they just didn’t feel empowered to take those great ideas and just make them happen.”
That will be one of his main goals, Lovell said: Providing the resources and guidance for fresh ways to improve Marquette in all its aspects.
But Lovell held off on giving many specifics on what his agenda will be. For one thing, he said he is planning to unveil some plans during the events marking his inauguration next week. He reiterated previous statements that filling “a lot of open senior positions,” as he put it, is his first priority. “It is so important to get the right thought leaders in place.”
Lovell said the search for a provost was underway and he hoped to have the position filled by February. Filling other key academic positions, including the dean of the College of Engineering, would follow. One of the prominent positions that had been open was filled Tuesday with the announcement that Bill Scholl, director of intercollegiate athletics at Ball State University, will become vice president and director of athletics at Marquette.
Lovell, the first non-Jesuit to be president of Marquette, said important things about Marquette will not change. One is Its Jesuit identity, its commitment to building values inherent in that identity in students, and its commitment to helping with community issues ranging from social services to education to economic development. “We are not doing our job as an institution if we are not helping Milwaukee solve its problems,” Lovell said.
Lovell agreed that big changes are likely in the way college-level education occurs nationwide, but he expects the Marquette campus to be place where students get a college education in a relatively traditional fashion. He pledged to do what he can to make a Marquette education accessible financially to a wide range of students, which means a lot of fundraising for scholarships. He said he expects Marquette to launch “a students-first campaign” to support scholarships by two years from now.
Asked by members of the audience if requirements for students to take humanities courses would change as undergraduate education changes, Lovell said liberal arts will continue to be central to a Marquette education. “We should never, particularly in a Catholic Jesuit institution, get rid of the core of what we do,” Lovell said. “You have my commitment to do everything I can to protect that part of the university.”
Asked about Marquette’s position on the construction of a new basketball arena to replace the existing Bradley Center, where Marquette’s men’s basketball team plays, Lovell said, “As a citizen of Milwaukee, I think it’s very important that we do get a new Bradley Center. We don’t want to lose the (Milwaukee) Bucks (professional basketball team). It would send a bad message about our city.”
But as leader of Marquette, he said, he needs to know more about the specifics and financial details before he can give an answer. “We want to be at the table, we want to be part of the conversation,” Lovell said. He said he understands “we’re going to have to make an investment up front” if there is a new arena project, but he couldn’t judge now what the level of that investment would be.
Video of the conversation with Lovell may be viewed by clicking here.