A Letter to Alumni from President Robert Brown

November 23, 2007

To the Alumni of Boston University:

Since becoming President of Boston University in 2005, I have been consistently impressed and invigorated by meeting with alumni around the country and abroad. An overwhelmingly positive response to a recent alumni survey further emphasizes a continuing sense of alumni connection with BU and your appreciation of the far-reaching value of your BU education. As part of the University’s renewed dedication to alumni relationships, I have promised to keep you informed of campus news. Now, I write to tell you about our ambitious vision for your alma mater and about our first steps toward its realization—news that recently made the front page of the Boston Globe.

As I have reported to many of you in person at local Boston University Town Meetings and through strategic planning documents posted online, we have developed a set of commitments and goals to strengthen and enhance our faculty, student recruitment, academic programs, interdisciplinary research, and facilities, as well as our national and international role. A complete draft of our strategic plan, “Choosing to be Great,” can be found here on the Web site.

Recent campus developments and steps taken to implement our strategic plan include:

  • Faculty Development: The foundation of any university is its faculty. We have made a commitment to add 150 new positions over the next ten years, and we will recruit the best possible scholars to fill these positions. To retain outstanding teacher/scholars and attract others, we must offer compensation at a level competitive with our peer institutions. Important support for our efforts to improve faculty compensation has come from donors; in the last two years, several new professorships have been established, including the Peter Paul Career Development Professorships, awarded to ten early-career faculty members over five years.

  •  Student Recruitment: This year’s freshman class of 4,174 students was drawn from nearly 34,000 applicants, our largest pool ever. With an average high school GPA of 3.5 and SAT scores of 1902 (out of a possible 2400), they are a promising and talented group. There is much good news on the graduate level as well. For instance, at the School of Medicine, there are 114 new students in the four-year MD program, selected from more than 11,000 applicants; 53 percent of this group are women and 23 percent come from underrepresented minority groups. At the School of Law, some 6,000 applied for 278 places. The Goldman School of Dental Medicine admitted 115 first-year DMD students from a pool of 4,343 applicants, one of the largest pools of any dental school in the country.

  • Academic Programs: Three important leadership appointments underline our commitment to further enhancing the quality of a BU education. Victor Coelho, Chair of the CFA Musicology Department and the CAS Music Department, has been named to the new post of Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. As stated in our strategic plan, we are committed to increasing the quality of a BU undergraduate education, especially the advantages that come from our core commitment to a liberal arts education and our stellar array of professional schools and colleges. Professor Coelho will lead these efforts. Andrei Ruckenstein was recruited to BU from Rutgers University to fill another new position, that of Associate Provost and Vice President for Research. He will work to broaden the scope of interdisciplinary research across a wide range of fields. Virginia Sapiro, a political scientist and women’s studies scholar, was recruited from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to serve as the new Dean of Arts and Sciences.

  • Research: A number of new interdisciplinary research undertakings are involving departments on both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus. The School of Medicine is developing the team that will lead the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL), with researchers from MED, Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Interdisciplinary research will be fostered by the new Center for Neuroscience, bringing together faculty and graduate students from those same four BU schools. We look forward to more initiatives that will combine the efforts of social scientists, humanists, scientists, and engineers in analyzing and solving societal problems concerning health, education, and the environment. Additionally, a University-wide honors program that will provide rigorous education and interdisciplinary opportunities for the strongest students in all of our schools and colleges is now being developed.

  • Facilities: The new two-tower, 950-bed residence hall (phase two of Student Village construction) is rising on the Charles River Campus, and plans are under way for a major renovation of the College of Fine Arts building, as well as the expansion and renewal of facilities for the School of Law. On the Medical Campus, construction of NEIDL is on schedule, and new housing for medical students is being planned.

  • International: Our extensive study-abroad program has added sites in Tokyo and, as of next spring, will include Shanghai and Singapore. Opportunities are also expanding for international students and scholars to come to Boston University. Perhaps the most far-reaching of our many undertakings abroad will be the Dental School’s recent agreement to establish an institute for graduate education and a dental care facility in the new Dubai Healthcare City, in the United Arab Emirates; this program will open in the summer of 2008.

The ambitious plans mentioned here and outlined in our strategic plan are not a hollow dream. Our financial blueprint calls for $1.8 billion in additional investment over the next decade, which we believe to be an attainable goal. We foresee funding approximately 58 percent of that amount from operations, using the budgetary discipline that has enabled Boston University to raise itself into the top league of major research universities.

To achieve true greatness, we will also need your help. Alumni support and vision are the hallmarks of every remarkable institution of higher learning. Boston University is no exception; the enthusiasm and participation of our more than 260,000 alumni are integral to shaping and realizing our goals. When you receive a request to support the University, especially through annual giving, I ask that you include your alma mater among your philanthropic priorities. Thank you in advance for your support and encouragement.

Please let me know your thoughts and questions by writing to me at the address above or by e-mail  (president@bu.edu). I hope to see you on campus at Winterfest (January 25–27), as well as at any of our many alumni events around the world.

Best wishes for the holiday season,

Robert A. Brown