Franciscan University “Be Light” Plan Sets Strategic Goals to Build on Success and Expand Reach

May 14, 2024

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Franciscan University of Steubenville announced new goals to confront the “powerful and inexhaustible headwinds” in higher education and society through its 2024-2027 Be Light Strategic Plan.

“This time of significant change in higher education presents Franciscan University with a tremendous opportunity,” said Father Dave Pivonka, TOR ’89, president of Franciscan University, noting woke campus cultures, moral relativism, and financial instability among serious issues in higher education today. “Now is the time to galvanize support and resources as Franciscan prepares to serve future generations.”

In its 78-year history, Franciscan University has emerged as a center of Catholic thought and culture, bringing faithful, scholarly reflection to bear on perennial issues and confronting today’s pressing questions in the public square. Its ever-popular Steubenville Conferences have formed over one million missionary disciples through teen and adult outreach efforts. In addition, for the past seven years, Franciscan University has broken enrollment records, even as enrollment at many universities continues to drop and more universities close every year. In fall 2023, Franciscan admitted its largest freshman class ever.

Reflecting on these and other recent successes and exploring future opportunities, Franciscan University’s strategic planning process identified areas for enhanced growth and new ways to expand Franciscan’s reach.

“To create this plan, we engaged in a couple of years’ worth of formal and informal listening sessions and surveys with faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and friends, asking them to imagine and envision the Franciscan University of the future,” said Brenan Pergi ’98 MBA ’02, senior vice president of Franciscan University, who led the year-long process.

Father Pivonka said, “We invited the Holy Spirit to inspire and lead our planning from beginning to end. With so many pressing current needs and so many ideas and dreams for the future, we knew we needed the Holy Spirit to help us discern where to invest our time and resources for the greatest impact.”

The Be Light Strategic Plan established three overarching strategic goals for the next three years.

“First, the University will do more to prepare our students to go forth and transform their communities, workplaces, and parishes. Second, we will extend the University’s impact to the world far beyond our hilltop campus. And, finally, we will galvanize the support we need so the University can serve future generations as well as our current students,” Pergi said.

To better educate, evangelize, and form students to engage fully with the world and make a transformative impact, Franciscan will greatly expand its undergraduate personal vocation preparation through more mentoring, internship, and leadership development opportunities among other priorities.

Extending the University’s reach beyond the walls of campus includes increasing the number of online students, new nontraditional programs for lifelong learning and career development, increasing attendance at Steubenville Conferences, and establishing a Washington, D.C., extension.

Franciscan will expand campus facilities, invest more in employee development, and enlist new donors as partners to expand its mission and set the institution up for even greater success in decades to come.

Father Pivonka said the plan’s name and goals derive from Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world.”

“Jesus tells us we are the light of the world, and our Be Light Strategic Plan goals will help us shine his light everywhere,” Father Pivonka said. “We need to be the light our world needs now as we continue working to rebuild the Church and sanctify the world.” 

Read the entire 2024 Be Light Strategic Plan and watch Father Dave Pivonka’s video:

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