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Taking BU to the next level

Douglas Sears to chair Strategic Planning Coordinating Task Force

“Every decade or so, any large, complicated organization should take stock of where it is and who it is, and set goals for itself to move to the next level,” says University President Robert Brown. “We’re now poised as a great urban private university. And the question is, how do we reach that next level?”

To answer that, Brown last fall began a University-wide strategic planning process by asking every dean for an assessment of his or her school — its mission, its strengths, its challenges, and a vision for improvement. In early March, 17 deans submitted their assessments, and in a series of spring retreats discussed them along with senior members of the administration. Now Brown is ready to move the process to phase two. On Tuesday, May 9, he announced that Douglas Sears, dean of the School of Education, will chair a new Strategic Planning Coordinating Task Force to help synthesize a single strategic plan for the University and coordinate its implementation. The remainder of the committee, about a dozen members of the faculty and administration, has yet to be finalized by Brown.

“A university is an organic entity. You can’t define a simple one or two metrics for the whole University,” says Brown of his bottom-up strategic planning process. “You have to look at how schools and colleges, programs and departments, perceive themselves, and how they set their aspirations going forward.”

“Out of that will come some things that are doable and some things that are not, some things you agree with and others you don’t,” adds Brown, who hopes to have a draft strategic plan to present to the University’s Board of Trustees by September. He notes that a few University-wide priorities have already bubbled to the surface, foremost among them continuing “to increase the quality of the faculty and the quality of our students, especially in our core programs,” and “the engagement of the University outside of its traditional boundaries, both with the city and in the world.”

Leading the new strategic planning coordinating committee will be the first major task for Sears, who will leave SED and take on the new role of associate provost and assistant to the president for outreach and special initiatives on July 1. In addition to the task force and among other duties, Sears will help coordinate activities between Boston University and local K-12 schools.

Sears explains the role of the strategic planning task force as “pulling the pieces together, so that what you want to do as an institution coordinates with your facilities planning, budgeting, fundraising, and enrollment planning, to coordinate priorities. The way you build buildings or raise money or establish budgets should align with what we describe as the vision of the University.”

Brown and Provost David Campbell will appoint a dean ad interim for SED when Sears begins his new job. A memo distributed to SED faculty and staff on Tuesday asked for input on the appointment and noted that a search committee for a new dean would be created in the fall.

Sears was appointed dean ad interim of SED in 2001 and became full dean in 2003. He was the superintendent of schools in Chelsea from 1995 to 2000, and since 2000 he has been chairman of the BU Management Team that has run that city’s school system since 1989.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about administration from the standpoint of a dean, and I know that experience will help me with my new set of responsibilities,” adds Sears. “I’ve enjoyed working and learning with my faculty colleagues at the School of Education, and I’m looking forward to using that experience to the benefit of the University. I’m just honored to be part of the team that gets to move this University forward, building on a great legacy.”