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President Brown to Present Progress on Strategic Plan

New Web site describes actions, investments, and metrics

The Forging Our Future plan makes specific recommendations for faculty hires and campus planning on both the Charles River and MED Campuses.

A year and a half after directing University leaders to start working on a strategic plan intended to set priorities and provide the basis for decision-making and resource allocation, President Robert A. Brown has put online a presentation that lays out the plan’s specific goals, actions, and metrics. He will discuss the plan with the faculty at a special meeting tomorrow.

“We have listened to all perspectives,” says Brown. “The plan contains a set of commitments and goals that the majority of our faculty, staff, and students will, I believe, embrace.” In a letter sent to the faculty, Brown described the plan, called Forging Our Future by Choosing to Be Great, as “the culmination of a year of intensive, community-wide discussion.” He says the plan has been endorsed recently by the Board of Trustees.

The president’s letter and his online presentation outline several bold initiatives, including adding 100 tenure-track faculty positions in the College of Arts and Sciences, adding 20 new faculty to the School of Management, and hiring at least 20 new faculty in areas that bridge research and scholarship from different disciplines. The plan also recommends paying faculty competitive market-based salaries, developing a more coordinated undergraduate curriculum and enhancing the student experience, and increasing collaboration across school and college boundaries, particularly in ways that will nurture interdisciplinary efforts with large impact. Toward that end, says Brown, he will create a new position, associate provost for undergraduate education, with responsibility for coordinating University requirements across undergraduate schools and colleges.

“As we implement the plan,” Brown says, “the expectations for quality and impact of all programs are clear. There are areas where we will increase resources with the expectation that we will be able to measure the growth in the quality of these programs. Other resource allocations will be made on the basis of merit and will, we hope, positively affect the overall quality and stature of the University.” 

The strategic plan also calls for improvements to the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus, including the expansion and renovation of the School of Law and the College of Fine Arts, both with matching 50-50 grants from the University, and for facilities improvements at the School of Medicine. It also demands greater efforts in the areas of energy conservation and restriction on greenhouse gas emissions. To accomplish all these things, says Brown, the University must increase alumni involvement and fundraising.

The success of the strategic plan, which is the first in the University’s recent history, will be judged ultimately, he says, by its influence on yield, the percentage of people offered enrollment or a position who decide to join the Boston University community.

“If we make the progress that is envisioned in the plan,” says Brown, “in a decade students will be entering a university that is much harder to get into because its programs and faculty will have achieved an even higher level of national recognition. Our undergraduate curricula will still be known for their high standards, but there will be a greater level of coherence across all disciplines. Undergraduate students will come here because of the quality of these experiences and also because of the quality of the residential life experience and the connectivity of this experience to Boston and to opportunities for international studies.”

Brown says the plan relies on the University’s continued ability to generate revenue from undergraduate and graduate education and to reinvest this income in the core mission of the University by supporting the goals in the plan. It will also rely on raising funds from alumni and friends to support these critical initiatives.

“Where some choices will be difficult is when it is clear that we either feel that a program does not have the potential for the levels of excellence and impact to which we aspire, or the new resources needed to achieve this level are prohibitively high,” says Brown. “In these cases we will do our best to shift resources to other programs that have greater potential for the University. We will make these decisions in as open and transparent a process as possible, but we know that some decisions may be unpopular with some members of the community.”

Brown says the demands of the strategic plan will also impact the management of the University. “Deciding to be great demands a focused commitment from management that gives much less flexibility in decisions than if we think of ourselves as excelling at some things and being only average at others,” he says. “Every effort we launch and every decision we make have to be aligned with this standard or we will not achieve our goal.”  

In his letter to faculty, Brown wrote that the plan is intended to create a virtuous cycle in which targeted reinvestment of funds improves the quality of the University, “which in turn leads to growing recognition of faculty and programs, increased attractiveness to prospective undergraduate and graduate students as well as prospective faculty, and to increased external support.”

Brown says the online presentation is a precursor to a more detailed written version that will be prepared over the summer. Read the online presentation of the strategic plan here.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.