I’m pleased to provide some introductory thoughts to this document, which arrives at an important turning point in the history of Boston University.

In the winter of 2005, about three months into my term as BU’s president, I set in motion a strategic planning process, aimed at establishing our institutional priorities and enabling us to make wise resource-allocation choices in the months and years to come. That process started with the deans of our 17 schools and colleges asking their respective departments and centers to come up with 15-page descriptions of their places in the world today, and their aspirations for tomorrow. (To avoid boring my readers, I’ll simplify the overall process here.) The deans, in turn, used these collections of mini-strategic plans to create 15-page school-wide strategic plans—a major feat of distillation, for which I commend them and remain grateful.

These plans were presented at a University leadership retreat held in April 2006. Several weeks later, after Commencement, I asked a group of faculty members and administrators to serve as a formal strategic planning task force. They were charged, specifically, with thinking about the needs of the University as a whole. They sat down with the deans’ reports—as well as volumes of additional material, and also the fruits of numerous briefing sessions—and set to work. Their report, entitled “One BU,” was submitted to me on December 1, 2006, and was posted on the BU website for feedback.

Stated simply, the report articulated a set of “commitments,” which in turn translated into a number of general goals. Using this document as a foundation, members of the committee and I met with faculty members in almost all of our schools and colleges. After this process, and in consultation with the University leadership, I developed a much more specific strategic plan, which was also posted on our website ( That plan, entitled “Forging Our Future by Choosing to be Great,” was presented in outline form.

Throughout this process, we have received lots of feedback. Much of that feedback has been very positive, some less so. Some people have wondered, for example, if we are proceeding too fast. I have responded that we need to move quickly to seize the opportunities that lie just ahead of us. Some have asked for more explicit statements about our institutional strengths; I have responded that those strengths should be celebrated—and, indeed, the attached document does precisely that—but that those celebrations need to occur in the context of a broader strategy that acknowledges the choices we have in front of us.

So what is this document? It is no more or less than a vision of what Boston University is, and what it can be. It draws on the work of our task force and the subsequent strategic plan, on interviews recently conducted with faculty leaders, deans, and members of our leadership team, and on our collective memory. It moves the strategic plan into its next logical incarnation: a clear and, I hope, compelling statement of what we’re all about and where we intend to go next.

As friends of this great University take it to heart, I’m sure they will suggest ways to make our case even more compelling. The strategy outlined here has been well vetted and is strongly supported by all our constituencies, including, most importantly, the faculty and our Trustees. I’m convinced that it’s time for us to agree on a clear statement of the genius and vision of Boston University, as well as a road map for moving forward.

A personal observation: I was stunned to discover that for at least seven decades, since the long-ago presidency of Daniel L. Marsh, almost nothing has been written by us, about us, on the fundamental level of values, vision, and a plan to achieve our goals.

With this document, and with the community-defined commitments that lie behind it, we’re fixing that. I look forward to your responses.

Robert A. Brown
President, Boston University

Continue reading: Our Plan