President Brown Launches $1.8 Billion Strategic Plan
Efforts will improve facilities, expand research, step up faculty recruitment| From Commonwealth | By Jessica Ullian
The construction of the Student Village 2 is part of a long-range effort to improve campus life. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky
Boston University has allocated $1.8 billion over the next ten years to increase cross-college opportunities for undergraduates, upgrade academic and residential facilities, and recruit faculty for the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, President Robert A. Brown announced in October.
Brown's strategic plan, titled Choosing to Be Great, sets goals for the next decade, with an initial focus on augmenting programs now seen as BU's strengths. The College of Fine Arts, the School of Law, the School of Management, and the School of Medicine, along with CAS and GRS, are identified as key players in the early stages, with longer-range goals including more research funding for students across the University and continued renovation of facilities for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
"The great strengths of Boston University are the breadth of excellence stored in its faculty, coupled with its focus on rigorous and well-delivered education," Brown says. "What has emerged is a plan that builds on this foundation, strengthens it, and leverages it to move toward a uniquely broad, but also collaborative university."
Brown's announcement caps an eighteen-month planning process that included a faculty-run task force convened in summer 2006. The strategic plan, created with significant input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, was released on a Web site for initial public review in December 2006. Nearly 100 members of the BU community have offered comments and critiques, which were reviewed before the proposal was finalized. The plan was first approved by the Board of Trustees last spring and reaffirmed at its annual meeting this past fall. The plan is online at www.bu.edu/president.
The cornerstone of the plan, which calls for more campuswide collaboration, is a focus on undergraduate education, which begins with encouraging undergraduates to benefit from both liberal arts and professional programs by cross-registering in the University's schools and colleges. Brown says that he hopes the effort to "unlock undergraduate education" will give students a more complete academic and cultural experience, enabling an aspiring business leader at SMG to study mass communications at the College of Communication or a chemistry major with a passion for the clarinet to learn from a distinguished CFA musician. Last fall Brown appointed Victor Coelho, a professor of musicology in CFA and CAS, as the first associate provost for undergraduate education. Coelho will be responsible for coordinating the core undergraduate experience, which includes designing intercollege academic opportunities and working with deans to realize these plans.
Arts and Sciences is set for expansion as well; the college and graduate school are slated to hire 100 new tenure-track faculty members over the next decade. Dean Virginia Sapiro says the move will build BU's reputation, locally and nationally. "Our reputation is built on our excellence," she says, "and the growth will be built both on advancing the quality of teaching and research and with our current efforts to increase the strength of our ties with alumni and the broader community."
Several of the University's professional schools have also been targeted as candidates for growth. The School of Management will hire 20 new faculty. The School of Law is launching a capital campaign for an expanded and fully renovated facility, with a dollar-for-dollar match in funding from the University. The College of Fine Arts, which has long collaborated with other arts institutions in greater Boston, also has plans for facilities renovation and expansion, with the same financial commitment from the University. With these plans in place, Brown hopes to draw even more prominent faculty and make CFA's resources more available throughout the University.
The School of Medicine is poised to expand its already highly regarded research efforts. "The recent completion of the Moakley Pavilion and the current recruitment of a new medical oncology chief should enhance our competitiveness in cancer research and treatment," says Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus, "and certainly the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories will contribute to recruitments and research initiatives in infectious diseases, virology, vector-borne diseases, and microbiology, as well as public health."
President Robert A. Brown (second from left) and his wife, Beverly Brown, chat with (from left) Deepinder Bedi (GSM'05), Ankit Goel (SMG'06), and Mrinal Chandran (LAW'06) at an Alumni Town Meeting and cocktail reception in New Delhi, India, last September. Photo by Stacylee Kruuse
Brown also plans to devote a significant part of the $1.8 billion to drawing outstanding students and world-class faculty to the University. Undergraduate financial aid aimed at keeping Boston University accessible to qualified students, regardless of their economic status, is a major priority, as is making faculty salaries and benefits competitive and strengthening graduate research programs, especially in disciplines where the University has or may gain national preeminence.
The ongoing construction of the Student Village 2 residence hall is part of a long-range emphasis on improving campus life and community, in part through renovation of housing, recreational facilities, and dining halls. There will be more opportunities for alumni, through mentoring programs that connect students to the professional world and a revamped and broadened career counseling system for graduates.
The financial implications of the plan are significant, calling for increased annual expenditures of up to $225 million for support of the plan's eight goals. More than half of the $1.8 billion required to fund the plan over the next decade will come from the operating budget. The University has had an impressive net investment return from its endowment in recent years — the 20 percent return for fiscal year 2007 was far above the average for peer institutions — but at $1.1 billion, the endowment remains relatively small. Brown has said that strengthening the endowment is a crucial part of the University's growth and that support from alumni and friends will be "critical to fulfilling our goals."
"After an intense process of discussion, debate, and hard work by the faculty, the University leadership, and our Board of Trustees, we feel we have a plan that will propel Boston University forward into the league of the very best large urban research universities in the world," says Brown. "This is our goal, and we owe it to our students, faculty, and alumni to succeed."