College unveils a new strategic plan to position itself as a leader across communication fields

By Marc Chalufour

As the editor in chief at Scientific American and an executive of its publisher, Springer Nature, Mariette DiChristina led the development of several strategic plans. Her goal each time: listen, learn and emerge with a list of actionable items. “I believe that the best leaders listen first,” she says. “It’s the community that you serve that knows the answers and the best leaders give that community a way to shape their ideas and move forward productively.”

“It’s the community that you serve that knows the answers and the best leaders give that community a way to shape their ideas and move forward productively.”
—Mariette DiChristina

When she began her new job as dean of COM in August 2019, DiChristina (’86) knew she wanted to apply the same focused approach to developing a strategic plan for the college. It was a process she had begun months earlier, even as she engaged with staff and faculty during search discussions. “It was clear to me that the college had all the ingredients for success, but what it needed was a framework to help us focus on the key areas,” DiChristina says. “That’s something I know how to do.”

One year later, COM has an approved plan in place and is poised to start working on specific initiatives and measurable metrics of success. It’s the college’s first strategic plan in a decade. The five strategic themes closely align with Boston University’s broader strategic plan:

  1. Create a vibrant academic experience by updating instruction and embracing innovation.
  2. Enhance creation of research that matters by focusing on communication areas that will help society engage with challenges.
  3. Engage communities globally by developing COM thought-leadership activities.
  4. Cultivate a COM culture that embraces and benefits from diversity, equity and inclusion.
  5. Develop COM communities for faculty, staff, students and alumni that benefit from being big in terms of opportunities, yet also feel approachable and small.

Vision and Mission Statement

As part of developing the COM 2030 strategic plan, faculty and staff updated the college’s vision and mission statements.

  • We build understanding through communication education, practice and discovery.
  • We prepare students to adapt to change and share their voices in a transformational media world.
  • We generate knowledge through research and theory building.
  • We integrate professional and academic experiences across communication disciplines.
  • We nurture a culture rich in diversity, critical thinking and creative expression.
  • We champion communication grounded in authenticity, effectiveness and purpose.

The detailing of those goals and the projects that would accomplish them took place during and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and BU’s switch, in March, to remote learning. That backdrop, DiChristina says, highlighted the importance of COM’s work. She watched as misinformation spread on social media, advertising and public relations industries tried to adapt to a new emphasis on social purpose, and video streaming services assumed a renewed relevance. “All of the areas that we serve as communication researchers and professionals are very precious to our democracy and to a functioning society,” DiChristina says. “That’s only emphasized for me that the work that we’re doing is important to get right.”

Communication fields have always evolved quickly, and that change seems to be accelerating in a COVID world. For that reason, the strategic plan looks at a three-year planning horizon. And while a number of new initiatives have yet to be launched, some are already underway. In the spring, COMtalks, an ongoing series of virtual events with prominent alums, launched. Then, over the summer, more than 100 students took part in the first session of the multidisciplinary COMLab. And DiChristina is excited to begin sharing more new ideas. “The key to a better future is great communication,” she says. “And COM is uniquely and ideally positioned to help with that.”

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