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UD Inaugurates Eric F. Spina As University’s 19th President

Eric F. Spina, 19th president of the University of Dayton
University of Dayton

The University of Dayton Tuesday inaugurated Eric F. Spina as its 19th president. The Buffalo, N.Y., native is only the second lay leader in the school's 167-year history. Spina is a mechanical and aerospace engineer who previously served as vice chancellor and provost at Syracuse University.

In a special ceremony at UD Arena, President Eric F. Spina called on the school to help "shape a more just future" by preparing all students to advance the common good.

"Our Marianist commitment to building community and our history of adapting to the needs of a changing world compel us to ask how we will educate students to confront the tests facing humanity," Spina said in his inaugural address.

He also called for expanded community engagement initiatives both on and off campus, including the creation of a so-called “ideation center” to be located at the proposed Dayton Arcade complex in downtown Dayton. The mixed-use project would include retail, housing and office space, and shared creative work and event spaces. The city of Dayton recently okayed $1 million to help finance preliminary work on the project.

Collaboration was a major theme of Spina's address.

University of Dayton officials say Spina's strategic vision for the school's future incorporates ideas from a comprehensive "visioning process" that included more than 3,000 faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees and others.

Spina is pushing for, "a blurring of the lines between the University of Dayton, the city and the world, and an emphasis on developing students’ intercultural, applied creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship capabilities, preparing them to be, “socially conscious leaders,” and, “innovators, scholars and builders.”

Other highlights from the University of Dayton’s strategic vision:

• Continued focus on improving affordability, accessibility and diversity as well as enhancing the dialogue between faith and reason, “a centerpiece of Catholic intellectual tradition.” Spina described these as foundational commitments for the University.

• Creation of an “ideation center” at the historic Dayton Arcade in the heart of downtown with community, higher education, research and corporate partners.

• Inclusion of community co-working space in Chaminade Hall for nonprofit organizations, who will collaborate with faculty, staff and students on issues ranging from alleviating food insecurity to creating alternatives to violence. The building, once renovated, is expected to house other interdisciplinary UD centers and programs devoted to addressing urgent human challenges through community-based education and scholarship.

• Enhancements to the curriculum that ensure students graduate with hands-on experiences in community engagement in Dayton; intercultural immersion; or innovation, applied creativity and entrepreneurship, of which every student will be required to take at least one course. At the graduate level, the University will strengthen its curricula to “prepare professionals for the work of social transformation.”

• Growth in research in three multidisciplinary areas: sustainability and human rights; autonomous systems; and health and bio-sciences. Spina challenged faculty to develop the country’s first dedicated, interdisciplinary autonomous systems master’s program and compete for designation as a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in the next decade. He invited high-tech companies to consider building research centers on campus, modeled after the GE Aviation and Emerson partnerships.

• Expansion of intercultural and international immersions for all students, no matter their financial circumstances.

• Hiring and development of faculty who can work across disciplines to create experiential learning opportunities and curricula to support the school’s vision to “prepare students for leadership roles in building socially just communities,” expand partnerships and harness innovation.

Read more about the University of Dayton's strategic vision.