State of the University Spring 2012

May 18, 2012

Dear Colleagues:

The 2011-2012 academic year is in the final stretch as we prepare for another outstanding class to march onto Nickerson Field for graduation on Sunday, May 20th.

All the highlights and progress we have made throughout the year, and the joys associated with commencement, lose some of their luster in the wake of the tragic events of the last month, the murder of SMG graduate student, Seshadri Rao, and the horrific deaths of three Boston University undergraduate students, Austin Brashears, Roch Jauberty, and Daniela Lekhno, in New Zealand over last weekend. Our hearts and prayers go out to their families, and our campus has truly come together in mourning their loss.

It is against this sad backdrop that I want to update you on some important issues, and give you a sense of how these relate to the overall progress of the University. Over the last five years our strategy has been simple and focused: to increase the quality of our faculty and our student body, and the programs, services and facilities that support them (see Choosing to be Great). Although many distinct investments of effort and money are involved, all have been focused on these goals, and signs of our success are beginning to materialize.

We have just completed the admission of what appears to be the best freshman class in the history of the university. We had nearly 44,000 applicants – the most ever – and the most selective rate of admission offers in our history. We have an amazing array of talent in the Class of 2016, which includes, among those admitted, representatives from all 50 states and 103 countries. Our class includes numerous National Merit Scholars, class presidents, yearbook editors, budding entrepreneurs, and National Honor Society officers. Academically, the Class of 2016 enters with a median A- average (3.57 GPA), a median standing in the top 12 percent of their high school classes, and an SAT average 13 points higher than the class that entered last fall. Next fall’s class also will be, by plan, the smallest in many years with the number of deposits on track to enroll an incoming class of 3,900, down from 4,000 a year ago and a high of 4,400 in the last decade.

We also are completing another very successful year of faculty recruiting, as we continue to make progress on increasing the size of our faculty in the schools and colleges that are the focus of our strategic plan. We have made excellent progress since the launch of our plan in 2007 to add 100 additional faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences. The hiring underway this year in CAS will expand the size of the faculty there by up to 54 new tenure track slots since the plan was first released; 47 of these have already been filled. The School of Management also is growing, as planned, with an increase of 15 new faculty positions since 2007; 13 of these have been filled. Other schools and colleges are hiring as well. The quality of our new faculty members and the marvelous group who have been promoted this year bode well for the future of the University.

Our collective ability to make this progress during difficult economic times has been the result of management and fiscal discipline across the university, as well as our ability to innovate in education, research, and academic and administrative services. Our administrative resolve was tested this year, as we made the transition to the new BUworks business enterprise system. After a difficult start, we have made significant progress toward implementing the new administrative system thanks to the extraordinary level of collaboration between the BUworks team and our entire administrative staff. Efforts will continue toward enhancing the capabilities of BUworks and our other information systems, in response both to our phased strategy and to user input. I want to personally thank all of our staff and faculty who have worked so effectively through the implementation of BUworks.

Traditionally, Boston University has needed to rely on very disciplined fiscal operations because historically we have had a disproportionately low level of philanthropic support from our alumni and friends. During the last five years we have worked to augment this operating model with enhanced fundraising; these efforts are beginning to come to fruition. Today our alumni are coming out to Boston University events in record numbers; last year more than 40,000 alumni and friends attended more than 800 BU-sponsored events worldwide. We are well on our way to breaking these records for alumni engagement this year. Notably, over 5,000 alumni came to our Alumni Leadership Weekend last October, up more than seven-fold from the number who attended alumni weekend in spring 2006.

Most importantly, we are about to conclude the quiet phase of our first-ever, comprehensive campaign for Boston University. We announced in April, at a leadership dinner held in New York City and attended by 300 supporters of the University, that we have already raised more than $300 million in this process, including 11 gifts of $5 million or more, each helping to transform a critical element of the University.

One of these gifts was just publically announced (see BU Today), the pledge of $10 million to the School of Management by Allen (SMG ’64) and Kelli Questrom, that will create new professorships and seed the fundraising for the construction of an important new facility for management education. This gift is a result of the vision that the Questroms share with us for building the highest quality management education. The vision is already bearing fruit as the SMG undergraduate program moved up dramatically this year in the Bloomberg Businessweek rankings, to 18th in the country from 31st in 2011.

The campaign to increase philanthropic support for Boston University is essential to our future, as these dollars will go directly to increasing the quality of our faculty, academic and research programs, student financial aid, and the student experience. We are off to a very strong start.

Over the last five years we have been responsive to the pressure that the cost of a Boston University education puts on our students and their parents. The last three years have seen the three lowest percentage increases in our tuition and fees during the last forty years. Moreover, financial aid for undergraduate students for fall 2012 will exceed $195 million, which is up from $145 million in 2005. We must continue to work to increase financial aid for our undergraduates so that Boston University can be accessible to all qualified students, irrespective of their socio-economic background. Fundraising for undergraduate financial aid will be a major focus of our campaign, as we go public in the fall.

There are many other signs of the impact of enhanced fundraising on the University. In the last five years we have established 13 new professorships for senior colleagues, and currently 12 of our outstanding junior faculty members are filling career development professorships that have been created in recent years. In addition, we have created the William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professorships, which thus far have been awarded to eight leading members of the faculty; a call for nominations in a cycle beginning next fall for new Warren Professors was sent to all faculty recently. Today, we are working to have a faculty that is comparable in quality to any in the very best research universities, and these professorships are key resources for achieving this goal.

Philanthropic support also is enhancing our academic programs. Interdisciplinary research has new support, such as the endowment established by Ashraf and Shamim (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87) Dahod for the Dahod Breast Cancer Research Center in the Medical School, and the gift by alumnus Bahaa Hariri to establish the Rafik Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science and Engineering. The Kilachand Honors College, established by a $25 million gift by alumnus Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74), is attracting the very best undergraduates to its interdisciplinary program.

We also are making good progress on enhancing our facilities. In addition to finishing the Center for Student Services on Bay State Road and the new Medical Student Residence on Albany Street, we will complete over $70 million of renovation and construction projects across the university this summer. This work includes the total renovation of Rich Hall on West Campus and the beginning of the renovation of the historically significant building at 233 Bay State Road as a much-needed expansion of our Admissions and Visitor Reception Center. The first signs of construction on the Law School expansion and renovation will also occur soon.

Also, two important renovation projects will soon be visible along Commonwealth Avenue as the previously commercial building at 750 Commonwealth Avenue is renovated to be the new College of Engineering Design and Manufacturing Education Center and the window replacement in the School of Theology progresses eastward down the street. Finally, construction will begin on the New Balance playing field on west campus; see the BU Today article for more information.

Taken together, we have made considerable progress, even working against considerable economic headwinds. Our model of a major private research university that is focused on quality undergraduate and graduate education has served us very well.

Five years into the implementation of our strategic plan is a good time to reflect on our accomplishments and on the challenges that lay ahead, on the commitments that are the foundation of the plan, and to consider changes in our directions and priorities based on our growing strengths and on the ever-changing world around us. I have asked the University Provost and the Provost of the Medical campus to join together to lead these discussions with all the deans of our schools and colleges and to report back to me in the fall with any proposed changes in direction or emphasis.

Two initiatives already stand out that are both part of our 2007 strategic plan, but are only now being launched in significant ways. The first is our goal to selectively strengthen the quality and stature of our Ph.D. programs so that we can compete with the very best programs in the country. The first step in this effort is to implement a new funding model that streamlines our funding processes. With the appointment of Dr. Timothy Barbari, who joins us from Georgetown University, as Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs, this effort will begin early in the fall.

The second initiative, which is still taking shape, is our strategy for being a leader as a global university. We have made substantive changes that are moving us in the right direction. For example, understanding of the scope of global programs as well as their coordination has increased considerably under the leadership of Willis Wang, Vice President and Associate Provost for Global Programs. However, we have yet to fully define the University’s strategic role in global higher education, beyond the concepts of traditional study abroad, faculty and student exchanges, and several small programmatic efforts. As I put forward last spring in my commentary, Boston University & Global Higher Education, I believe that a much more strategic and directed approach is necessary. We are at an advanced stage of discussions with our academic leadership and an educational partner toward launching a significant initiative in graduate education in India. We hope to make an announcement by the fall.

As well as testing our strategic plan for possible course corrections, I also have asked our leadership for proposals that will accelerate our progress, increasing the quality and stature of the University on a faster timescale than we might achieve otherwise.

With this goal in mind, University Provost Jean Morrison has announced an initiative to hire up to 15 very distinguished senior faculty, with the goal of significantly increasing the quality and international reputation of the scholarship and research of our faculty in key disciplines and in strategically important interdisciplinary fields.

With summer only a few weeks away, we are already beginning to look toward the 2012-2013 Academic Year with the expectation of welcoming our students to an increasingly attractive campus and a stronger University. I hope you have a great summer and I look forward to seeing you at commencement.

Be safe.


Robert A. Brown