What Remains to be Done

As noted, the ten commitments described in the preceding pages grew directly out of the strategic planning process conducted by the University between 2005 and 2007. While these commitments are both general and aspirational, the strategic planning process has continued through to the next logical step: translating these commitments into a number of specific, actionable, and realizable goals, which reflect key institutional choices.

The eight goals include:

1. Strengthening the quality of the faculty.

One way that we’ll meet this goal is by ensuring that our hiring, promotion, and tenure criteria and processes, as well as our annual reviews, are closely aligned with our goals.

But more needs to be done, as well. As we continually increase the profile of our faculty in research and scholarship, we will have to increase faculty compensation and benefits to remain competitive with our peer institutions. Housing costs in the Boston area have risen to uncomfortably high levels; we have to find ways to help our young teachers and scholars (especially those with families) put down roots in New England.

Implementing a long-term plan for increasing faculty compensation through enhanced operational efficiencies and fundraising is one of the most important components of our plan.

2. Strengthening the excellence of our undergraduate education.

To achieve the needed level of integration and coherence in a Boston University undergraduate education will require an unprecedented degree of collaboration and coordination across our schools and colleges. A new position—the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education—has already been created, and Professor Victor Coelho is now responsible for coordinating the general University requirements across our undergraduate schools and colleges. When combined with input from a faculty-led Council for Boston University Undergraduate Education, this should move us to a uniform articulation and implementation of the core elements of a Boston University undergraduate experience.

3. Strengthening the College of Arts and Sciences as central to the quality of our academic programs.

The largest commitment of new resources proposed as a result of the strategic planning process will support the growth of the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS): as many as 100 new faculty members within a decade. In an era when many other universities are backing away from their commitment to the humanities and social sciences, we are recommitting ourselves to this institutional priority, as well as continuing to build on our strengths in the basic sciences.

This allocation grows not only out of our commitment to a broad-based undergraduate education, but also out of an analysis of the College’s current size, compared to the contributions to undergraduate education and the weight the College has in BU’s reputation in research and scholarship.

It also arises from comparisons with undergraduate student/faculty ratios at a number of peer universities, as shown below. The College of Arts and Sciences is home to over 40 percent of the faculty at the Charles River Campus. These faculty members teach over half of all credits earned by undergraduates and are the host college for over 40 percent of all undergraduate majors. CAS is the center of Boston University and deserves this renewed emphasis.

Undergraduate student to faculty ratios for Boston University and peer institutions in FY 2006.
Data provided by U.S. News & World Report. We plan to lower this ratio by adding 100 new faculty members to the College of Arts and Sciences within a decade.

For the same reasons, we need to increase faculty support for quality graduate research and education, and expand and renovate CAS’s teaching and research facilities.

Increasing the faculty in CAS gives us the opportunity to strengthen key disciplines. At the same time, it helps pave the way for the creation of clusters of interdisciplinary excellence (see below).

4. Strengthening the student residential community and the student experience.

As noted in the related “commitment,” this translates into bricks and mortar (outstanding student housing and dining facilities, technology-rich classrooms, and both formal and informal gathering places) and also programs (mentoring and career-counseling opportunities, extracurricular and cocurricular programs, and so on).

In recent years, we have focused more attention on improving the student experience and made significant investments, such as the Fitness and Recreation Center, in the John Hancock Student Village pictured below. We need to get better still, and make still more investments, such as the second student residence that is being constructed as part of the Village; the steel skeleton of this building is shown below.

The John Hancock Student Village, showing the Agganis Arena (left), the Fitness and Recreation Center (front right), and the first student residence (back right). The new residence shown below is positioned behind the Agganis Arena.

The new student residence will be part of the John Hancock Student Village.

A superb student experience helps us attract better students, improve our rankings, and—over the long run—create more loyal and involved alumni.

5. Strengthening targeted programs in graduate research and education.

Even as we focus significant new resources on the undergraduate experience, we also have to improve key aspects of our graduate programs. Here we start from a position of strength, with strong graduate programs and faculty-led research and scholarship in many disciplines and interdisciplinary areas.

The fact remains, however, that we lack the resources to compete for the very best students across all disciplines. This argues that we should evaluate the impact and quality of all of our existing doctoral programs, determine which are or might become the very best of their kind in the country—and even the world—and then invest heavily in those specific programs.

Once we have identified those leading-edge programs, we will need to invest not only in their direct activities, but in the infrastructure that supports them, such as library resources and laboratory facilities.

6. Strengthening four key professional Schools: Law, Medicine, Management, and Fine Arts.

Here we have already made significant progress. But both the School of Law and the School of Medicine have major facilities needs that must be met. Meanwhile, the faculty in the School of Management must grow, if that School is to move still further along its established trajectory of excellence.

All three of these objectives have been identified as the core components of major fundraising efforts, and the University has made a commitment to support the School of Law’s renovation and expansion with a matching financial commitment.

A performance at Jordan Hall by the orchestra and chorus of Boston Baroque, a residential professional ensemble at the School of Music.

BU is fortunate to be home to a world-class conservatory for the performing and visual arts. We are one of the few major research universities in the United States able to make this claim, and we make it proudly, since we believe that the College of Fine Arts (CFA) lends us distinction and recognition. CFA can be much more for Boston University. CFA can connect students across the University with the arts through curricular opportunities for all students and through opportunities for participation outside the classroom. CFA can be a platform for building community within the University, making stronger connections between BU and the Boston area, and for creating strong ties between the University and its alumni.

Exterior views of the existing (left) and proposed revovation (right) of the College of Fine Arts at 855 Commonwealth Avenue.

The major investment needed to advance CFA’s reach and impact is the renovation and expansion of its facilities at 855 Commonwealth Avenue, for which the College has started a fundraising campaign backed by a matching commitment from the University. Although many of the planned improvements will be in the interior of the facility, the exterior transformation depicted in the figure below will change the face of CFA along Commonwealth Avenue.

We also have made plans to increase University support for performances and exhibitions—both within and beyond the immediate BU community—and to make fundraising for programs to connect CFA to the University and Boston a priority.

7. Strengthening our commitment to interdisciplinary programs in research, education, and outreach.

Again, one of the commitments speaks directly to this goal. We already operate at world-class standards—indeed, we set the standards—in many interdisciplinary realms. These range from, for example, research efforts in infectious diseases, neuroscience, bioinformatics, and biomedical engineering (at both our Charles River and Medical Campuses) to path-breaking work in language, literature, history, religion, culture, and the politics of critical regions of the world.

As in our graduate and doctoral programs, our goal here must be to achieve critical mass in the most promising areas of endeavor. We need to assess our current interdisciplinary or cross-departmental initiatives and entities, and reorganize them as necessary to include larger numbers of faculty and students.

Because we also intend to move into new areas—such as environmental studies and energy technology—these efforts at agenda-setting and reorganization will need to be complemented by new hiring. We will need to recruit between 20 and 30 faculty who will bridge important areas of research and scholarship, thereby forming (or reinforcing) clusters of strength. We anticipate intensive fundraising activities aimed at supporting these clusters.

8. Strengthening our leadership as an urban and global research university.

This goal seeks to bring together many strands at once, including our strong traditions of research, our enviable position in the heart of Boston, the large contingent of international students on our campus, and our long-standing commitment to international learning opportunities.

As part of this effort, we need to leverage our existing internationally oriented programs in Boston, including foreign languages, international relations, history, literature, culture, area studies, and cocurricular studies. We also need to create more offerings in Boston for students from up-and-coming parts of the world, including Asia.

We also need to enhance programmatic opportunities for our students who choose to pursue their academic interests

abroad and international internships for students who are on a professional track.

Finally, we need to support our faculty in ways that will enhance the BU “footprint” in international higher education.

Continue reading: Choosing to be Great