The Point of Departure

The point of departure for Boston University’s journey into the future is the set of ten “commitments” that were recently embraced through the University’s 2005–2007 strategic planning process. They grow directly out of our traditions and our values. They reflect our strengths and weaknesses. And—in general and aspirational ways—they point to tomorrow’s opportunities.

They include:

1. A commitment to hiring, promoting, and retaining faculty members who are excellent teachers, as well as leaders in research, scholarship, and professional accomplishment.

As a great, 21st-century research university, we are committed to the highest standards of teaching, research, scholarship, and professional accomplishment—a level of excellence which must be reflected in our faculty. We are committed to hiring and retaining a faculty in every school and college that is the equal of any university’s, across all the disciplines where we choose to have emphasis, and to paying competitive, market-based salaries and benefits.

Boston University has strived to find the balance between teaching, on the one hand, and research and scholarship on the other. (At a great university, these tend to be highly complementary, and often inseparable.) And to achieve these and other goals, we support an environment of excellence in graduate education and research, especially in disciplines where we can excel at an international standard. Through this commitment we fulfill the responsibility of a great university to grow the next generation of teachers and scholars. We accept this responsibility.

2. A commitment to strengthening and enhancing rigorous, well-taught undergraduate education, founded on principles of the liberal arts and professional preparation.

This commitment grows out of the first, listed above. We strive to create an environment of study and accomplishment. We seek to provide a core undergraduate experience that exemplifies the educational mission of the University. Simply put, we emphasize a rigorous immersion in the liberal arts and the sciences, combined with practical and powerful professional education. This is the educational paradigm that we helped invent, and which we always keep before us.

Again, we value an inclusiveness that is based on merit, rather than quotas driven by race, gender, religion, or economic status. This has major implications for how we allocate financial aid, to ensure that our student body can remain diverse. It also compels us to recruit aggressively, to ensure that our pool of applicants is deep enough to ensure a diversity based on merit.

3. A commitment to create unprecedented opportunities for all undergraduates by leveraging the strengths of our schools and colleges.

We are determined to provide excellent professional undergraduate programs through our schools and colleges. We will insist upon exceptional levels of collaboration across departmental boundaries. And finally, we seek to prepare our graduates for effective citizenship in the 21st century, even as they achieve personal and professional fulfillment.

4. A commitment to enhancing our professional schools and colleges, building on the pillars of law, medicine, and management.

We believe in building on strengths, as we pursue excellence. Our Schools of Law, Medicine, and Management are already considered outstanding in their respective fields; we need to enhance their positions even further—and at the same time, hold our other professional schools and colleges to demanding standards.

5. A commitment to promoting research and scholarship within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

We intend to raise the quality of graduate doctoral education by enhancing our existing discipline-based strengths, in part through recruiting and supporting the very best graduate students. We also mean to build on existing interdisciplinary momentum within the University by supporting the schools and departments that break down boundaries and looking for opportunities with the greatest potential impact.

Some have argued that interdisciplinary progress comes at the expense of the “pure” disciplines. We believe the opposite: that progress at the boundaries of two disciplines strengthens and creates new opportunities for each.

The under construction National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory on the Medical Campus of Boston University. This state of the art facility and the growing faculty commitment to infectious disease research will make the university an international leader in this critical area of human health research.

6. A commitment to strengthening and expanding the University’s connections to Boston and the world.

We intend to continue our long and proud tradition of service-based and professional learning in the city of Boston. This commits us to leading in areas of community engagement such as K–12 education, health-care outreach, and public service. By accomplishing these goals, we will give our students invaluable experiences for contextualizing their classroom education and for service-based learning.

It also commits us to bringing the rich cultural life of this University to our city, including exhibits, lectures, and performances that are open to the community. In recent years we have built or renovated outstanding performance venues, and we are determined to welcome our neighbors onto our campus and into those facilities.

Sites around the world for Boston University Educational and Research programs. These range from major facilities in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, London, and Sydney, Australia, to research sites in Ecuador and Menorca, Spain.

Today, the landscape for our students and programs is more than Boston; it is the world. We also are determined to engage productively and strategically with the broader world, searching out and establishing partnerships and programs that are rich with potential. The map below shows the location of ongoing Boston University programs around the world. Through these and new study-abroad programs we will continue to create innovative opportunities for future cohorts of students to experience a BU global education.

We will continue to reinforce our international engagements with a strong Boston-based curriculum that includes an expanding focus on foreign language instruction, as well as a solid grounding in world culture, history, literature, and religion. There is the opportunity to focus on-campus and international efforts on critical societal issues, such as global health and human development; we will take advantage of the opportunity.

Our international students play a key role in this exchange—greatly enriching both our University and the larger Boston community—and we therefore seek to educate an ever more diverse group of students from other countries.

Just as we strive to give our students the context and experiences to function in our truly global society as responsible citizens, the University will continue to work to be institutionally responsible as a steward of our environment by putting in place programs of infrastructure renovation and usage that will conserve energy and minimize our emission of greenhouse gases. Much of this effort will be transparent as we renew our buildings.

7. A commitment to expanding and enriching the residential campus and programmatic experiences for our students.

We intend to provide the infrastructure that is needed to deliver on the commitments outlined above. This translates into bricks and mortar: things like outstanding residential facilities, technology-rich classrooms, and both formal and informal community spaces.

But it also has clear programmatic implications. We are determined to provide meaningful mentoring and career-counseling opportunities to our students. Equally, we are committed to providing a wide variety of extracurricular and cocurricular opportunities, including the opportunity for students to participate in a wide variety of interscholastic and intramural sports.

Clearly, this is a competitive necessity because students enroll where they believe that they will have the most satisfying experience. But it also presents powerful educational opportunities, which we are determined to pursue.

8. A commitment to aligning our policies, processes, services, operations, and the development of our campus with our values.

Boston University is an incredibly complex institution. But complexity can’t be allowed to push our values to the background. We are, first and foremost, a service organization, and we have to act accordingly. We must deliver transparent and student-oriented processes across all of our campuses, schools, and colleges. We must control costs to protect the range and quality of our services, and at the same time ensure access to BU.

Even as our campus grows upward and outward, we will decrease our environmental “footprint.” We intend to focus on conserving energy and decreasing greenhouse-gas emissions in all of our operations.

Many universities just “happen.” The experience of this University is that things can be made to happen, in the right directions, when values point the way.

9. A commitment to aligning operating budgets, capital plans, and fundraising with the academic mission and the strategic plan.

We can and will be systematic and proactive when it comes to budgeting, planning, and seeking outside support. Our annual budgeting must reflect our overriding institutional priorities, while leaving room for new initiatives. Our capital planning also must reflect those priorities, and allow not only for the sustainable renewal of our existing campus, but also for the gradual implementation of our long-term campus master plan.

Our vision and values come with a price tag. For a university of this scale and scope, we have only a modest endowment. Until recently, our fundraising efforts have been relatively unsystematic. The time has come to approach our alumni and other friends with a clear financial plan—including our own contributions to that plan—and ask for an increased level of support.

10. A commitment to communicating with and engaging all constituencies of Boston University.

This commitment grows in part—but only in part—out of the commitment just above. In recent years, our external communications have improved significantly. We must continue to become more outward-looking, and more clear about what we’re doing, and why.

In particular, we are committed to communicating more often, and more effectively, with our 258,000 alumni. Recent surveys suggest that they are more than willing to participate in a new kind of conversation with their alma mater. The time has come to deepen that conversation.

We also intend to reinforce and build upon the ties we’ve built with individuals and institutions over the decades— starting in Boston and New England, but extending around the globe. We are fortunate to have many friends, not necessarily graduates, who believe as strongly as we do in the mission of Boston University.

Continue reading: What Remains to be Done