It’s appropriate that this issue of Marquette Magazine focuses on elements of innovation and entrepreneurship flourishing at our university. As I’m gathering from my religious studies since coming to Marquette, focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship and, especially, change is consistent with Jesuit traditions from their beginnings in the 16th century.
In my many previous experiences with innovation, entrepreneurship and change, I’ve learned that you have to be open to the opportunities that present themselves. There are many similarities with my experiences and the accomplishments of Jesuit leaders. According to Chris Lowney, in his book Heroic Leadership, four principles that stand out when examining the success of early Jesuits is that they became excellent leaders by:
Understanding their strengths, weaknesses, values and worldview; Confidently innovating and adapting to embrace a changing world; Engaging others with a positive, loving attitude; and
Energizing themselves and others through heroic ambitions.
It’s that second point, especially, that excites me. Early Jesuits spurred innovation and entrepreneurship most notably by expanding the scope — spreading their Christian mission to four continents in a decade. Marquette should be no different (though I’m not suggesting international expansion).
About confidently innovating and adapting, Lowney, a former Jesuit, wrote: “Ingenuity blossoms when the personal freedom to pursue opportunities is linked to a profound trust and optimism that the world presents plenty of them. Imagination, creativity, adaptability and rapid response become the keys for finding and unlocking those opportunities.”
From Marquette’s vantage point on the near west side of Milwaukee, we can certainly see plenty of opportunities. It is not just me who sees them. More than a year before my arrival at Marquette, the faculty, staff and students here completed the strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries: Setting the Course for Marquette’s Future. Especially fitting are sentences within it like this one from the vision statement: “We must reach beyond traditional academic boundaries and embrace new and collaborative methods of teaching, learning, research and service in an inclusive environment that supports all of our members in reaching their fullest potential.” You can read more at marquette.edu/strategic-planning.
Another website is one we’ve been working on lately that examines innovation beyond boundaries: marquette.edu/innovation. This site directs readers to information about our new Strategic Innovation Fund, involvement at the Global Water Center on Milwaukee’s near south side and participation at Innovation Campus, the extremely promising development about five miles west of our campus that’s run by the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
The Strategic Innovation Fund is especially exciting, having far exceeded our original fundraising expectations and now totaling nearly $6 million to be invested in ideas. Initial proposals suggest new academic programs, interdisciplinary research clusters, community and industry partnerships, entrepreneurial student ventures and ideas to help the university operate more effectively. The hundreds of proposals and their breadth, which Vice President Jeanne Hossenlopp discusses elsewhere in this issue, are a little overwhelming but a lot energizing. I know I’m among many looking forward to the next steps of the process.
In the 16th century, Lowney and other writers tell us that Francis Xavier was the college roommate of Ignatius Loyola. They were among the group of seven who became the first members of what was later called the Society of Jesus. Xavier is called the greatest Catholic missionary of the past 500 years because of his subsequent work to establish Christianity in Asia. Xavier was a last-minute replacement for another Jesuit who was scheduled to make the journey to Asia. As Lowney writes: “Within 48 hours, Xavier had patched up his extra pair of pants, visited the pope for a blessing, packed up his life and departed.”
Today at Marquette, we take a little more time to consider our future and discuss alternatives. At the same time, we ask God to bless and strengthen our university — students, faculty and staff — and guide us to the right opportunities.
Dr. Michael R. Lovell