BU’s President Brown Charts Ambitious 10-Year Course; $1.8-Billion Investment in Interdisciplinary Programs, Faculty & Facilities Planned
(Boston) – Boston University President Robert A. Brown today unveiled a bold, 10-year, $1.8 billion strategic plan devoting new resources to unlocking cross-college opportunities for undergraduates, improving the campus’s academic and residential facilities, and recruiting new faculty for the University’s largest college, initiatives designed to elevate the nation’s fourth largest private university to pre-eminent status among institutions of higher learning.
“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,” said Brown, selected in May 2005 after 25 years at MIT, the final seven as provost. “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.”
The plan, entitled “Choosing to be Great,” sets goals to be achieved over the next decade, with an initial focus on augmenting the programs that are seen as BU’s current strengths, and a longer-term concentration on recruitment and expansion throughout all schools and colleges. While the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (CAS), the College of Fine Arts (CFA), the School of Law (BUSL), the School of Management (SMG), and the School of Medicine (MED) are each identified as key institutions in the early stages, broader objectives include more research funding for students across the university, and continued renovations of both residential and community facilities for use by students, faculty, staff and alumni.
The cornerstone of the plan, which calls for more campus-wide collaboration, is a focus on undergraduate education, starting with an effort to open cross-registration among schools and colleges that encourages students to take full advantage of both the liberal arts and professional programs available. Brown said that he hopes that by “unlocking undergraduate education,” students will have access to a more complete academic and cultural experience while at BU, enabling, for example, business leaders in the School of Management to study mass communications at the College of Communications (COM), or allowing a chemistry major with a passion for the clarinet to study with a distinguished CFA faculty member.
At the start of this semester, Victor A. Coelho, a professor of musicology in CFA and CAS, was appointed the first associate provost for undergraduate education by Provost David Campbell. In this new role, Coelho is responsible for coordinating the core undergraduate experience, creating inter-college academic opportunities, and working with deans to bring the plan to light.
CAS is slated for expansion as well, including 100 new tenure-track faculty positions over the next decade. Dean Virginia Sapiro, appointed to her post last summer, says the move will aid efforts to build BU’s reputation, locally and nationally.
“Our reputation is built on our excellence, and the growth will be focused on advancing the quality of teaching and research, and on our current efforts to increase the strength of our ties with alumni and the broader community,” said Sapiro. “Our major strength is that the Arts and Sciences are at the heart of the undergraduate experience at BU, with first-class faculty who work at the frontiers of knowledge and delight in sharing it with undergraduates.”
Several of BU’s pre-professional schools have also been targeted as current strengths and candidates for growth. The School of Management — named 15th among U.S. business schools for overall quality in 2006 by BusinessWeek, and first for career progress by the Financial Times — will hire 20 new faculty. The School of Law will begin its capital campaign for an expanded and fully renovated facility, with a dollar-for-dollar matching commitment from the university. The College of Fine Arts, long recognized for integrating its undergraduate and graduate programs with respected arts institutions throughout Greater Boston, also has facility renovation and expansion plans which will benefit from the same financial commitment from the university. Brown hopes to draw even more prominent faculty and make CFA’s resources more available throughout the university.
“This reinforces our goals and our commitment to supporting students in their pursuit of an arts education within the greater BU community,” says CFA Dean Walt Meissner. “The arts can truly be a unique, defining element for this university, because of our geographic location, but even more so because of the track record of our successful programs and alumni. Enriching the arts experience for all Boston University students has the power to instill a sense of creativity, entrepreneurialism, and humanity that elevates us all, no matter what our field of study.”
The School of Medicine also is poised for growth. Already nationally recognized for medical education, clinical practice and research, the school is expanding its research efforts, particularly in select areas of emphasis.
Interdisciplinary research spanning traditional academic barriers was identified as a key strength of the university and will be highlighted going forward. Andrei E. Ruckenstein, a professor of physics and recently appointed associate provost and vice president of research, will lead the effort to identify BU’s current strengths in cross-disciplinary research, and supervise the recruitment and hiring of up to 30 new faculty members to enhance these departments and specialties.
In the later stages of the plan, Brown plans to devote part of the $1.8 billion to:
• Recruitment of world-class scholars, both students and faculty
• Undergraduate student financial aid aimed at keeping BU accessible to qualified students, irrespective of economic status
• Improved cost-of-living-based wages for faculty
• Increased stipends for students in the university’s leading graduate research programs
• Growth opportunities identified by other schools and colleges
Enterprises focusing on life outside the classroom are considered key to the plan’s success, and efforts to engage both current students and alumni are underway, part of a long-range expansion campaign that includes:
• The ongoing construction of the Student Village 2 residence halls
• Renovations to recreational facilities, dining halls and ultimately, the development of a more centralized community area on campus
• Mentoring programs to connect students to the professional world
• A revamped career counseling system that will provide broader resources for BU graduates
A major focus of the University’s strategy is to continue to broaden and deepen its engagement in Boston and the world as a focus for education, research and public service. Several local initiatives are currently underway, including Boston University’s involvement in the “Step Up” program in the Boston Public Schools.
The university’s international programs, already rated among the top study-abroad programs in higher education by U.S. News and World Report, will grow as well with three Asian programs launching soon. Next summer, a new dental-training institute will open in Dubai.
Brown’s announcement of the plan caps an 18-month planning process that included a faculty-run task force that was convened in the summer of 2006. The strategic plan was created with significant input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and was released on a university web site for initial public review in December 2006. Since then, nearly 100 members of the BU community have offered comments and critiques of the president’s plan, which were reviewed before the final proposal was presented to the Board of Trustees last spring and reaffirmed at their recent annual meeting.
The financial implications of the plan are significant, calling for increasing annual expenditures up to $225 million. Half of the funds for the $1.8 billion program will be derived from BU’s operations budget which has benefited from sound fiscal management and controls, coupled with the outcomes of some difficult choices. The university also had an impressive, net investment return on BU’s endowment in recent years, with a 20 percent return for fiscal year 2007, far above the average for peer institutions but at $1.1 billion, still a small endowment in comparison.
“Strengthening the endowment is critical to the plan and the growth of the university,” said Brown. “The unprecedented support of our alumni and friends will be crucial to fulfilling our goals.”
In presenting the strategic plan last spring, Brown said that both a targeted reinvestment of funds and support from friends and alumni will be paramount to creating “a virtuous cycle” of growth and improvement for the university.
“After an intense process of discussion, debate and hard work by the faculty, the university leadership, and our Board of Trustees, we believe we have a plan that will propel Boston University forward into the league of the very best large urban research universities in the world,” said Brown. “This is our goal and we owe it to our students, faculty and alumni to succeed.”
To read the narrative version of the Strategic Plan, please visit http://www.bu.edu/president/strategic-plan/