Strategic Vision

A Strategic Vision to Advance the College and Graduate School

The mission of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Boston University is to nurture the discovery, creation, transmission, and application of knowledge and understanding across the humanities and the social, natural, and computational sciences. This mission guides both our long-term strategy and our day-to-day work in the areas of undergraduate and graduate education and academic research.

In 2010, a 10-year plan was developed to enhance all aspects of what we do. The 2010-2020 CAS Strategic Plan commits the college to a wide range of important goals, from increasing financial support for doctoral programs and providing undergraduate students with greater opportunities for research and experiential learning to increasing the size of the faculty and strengthening ties to alumni. We have made great strides toward those goals. The CAS Strategic Plan is an extension of the BU Strategic Plan, which was updated in 2015 to recognize, among other things, the importance of diversity to our institution. In 2015, each department in the college updated its strategic plan as well. We continue to look to the college and University plans for foundational guidance as we identify priorities to advance the mission of CAS. Now, in the final quarter of the 10-year strategic planning period, we are refocusing our efforts on five strategic priorities for CAS:

By recognizing cocurricular learning and embracing interdisciplinary team projects, our new University-wide general education program offers CAS an opportunity to consider in depth the role of experiential learning in our undergraduates’ educations. Examples of high-impact experiential learning include study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, and community-engaged or service learning.

We know there is interest. In the graduating class of 2016, 35 percent of CAS undergraduates completed a study abroad program at least once during their time at BU. One hundred forty students have completed the CAS On-Campus Internship Program in the four semesters since its launch. Numerous CAS faculty members have applied for and received money for class field trips, museum visits, and theater attendance through the Virginia Sapiro Academic Enhancement Fund. CAS students participate in research through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, complete senior theses through the Honors in the Major program, and receive funding for travel from the Honors Research Travel Awards. We are creating new opportunities through the BU in San Francisco internship program and by partnering with BU Spark! to encourage student innovation and entrepreneurship.

There is room to grow, however, and to consider how the various pieces of our experiential learning puzzle can best fit together to support our students’ educations. For example, how can we help our students engage with the greater Boston community and learn from that engagement? How can we ensure that all students have the opportunity to pursue undergraduate research, study abroad, and internships, regardless of their financial resources?

Implementation of the general education program is underway. Concomitantly, CAS is developing a plan for improving undergraduate advising. This is therefore an opportune time to reflect on what experiential learning means in CAS and how to encourage it in a way that enhances our curriculum.

Our reputation as a global research university depends on the quality and variety of our graduate programs, and on the positions that our graduates take in academia, industry, nonprofit organizations, and governments around the world. We have made major advances since the 2010 strategic plan by, among other things, implementing five-year funding for doctoral students and launching several successful professional master’s degree programs, including the MS in Statistical Practice. Our graduate students are making a significant investment in their futures, and we owe it to them to help them develop professional experience and skills so they are ready to enter the professional world after BU.

We will continue to add master’s programs when we determine that we can offer our students technical or interpretive skills that prepare them for a competitive job market. Our master’s degree programs are most successful if they provide clear connections to the world of work and skills that help our graduates capitalize on those connections.

Our doctoral students need the opportunity to pursue professional development as well, as set out in the 2010 strategic plan. This may include instruction and guidance in teaching through BU’s Center for Teaching and Learning to help them prepare for academic jobs. We may identify other areas in which to improve support, from writing, conference presentation, and publication to interviewing and language improvement for international students who would benefit from it. We will look for ways to improve our students’ preparation for the academic job market.

The 2010 plan recognized that not all PhD recipients will enter the professoriate and that “an increasing number of professional positions demand the advanced knowledge, research skills, and experience that a doctoral education provides.” We can do more to prepare our students for jobs outside of academia (so-called alternative-academic or “alt-ac” careers). For example, just as we have started providing on-campus internships to CAS undergraduates, there may be similar opportunities that could be offered to graduate students to help them build professional skills, experience, and connections.

Our intellectual community depends upon the critical but collegial collaboration of diverse individuals from multiple communities of origin, religious traditions, ethnic and racial backgrounds, gender and sexual identities, schools of thought, and ethical and political commitments, some living with disabilities. Furthermore, our mission as a tax-exempt private educational institution is to serve the public good by educating and nurturing research and discovery. These goals can only be achieved through a diverse, inclusive, and accessible environment, in which all people are, and feel themselves to be, respected as moral equals engaged in a common pursuit of expanding the boundaries of our knowledge and creativity. The dean has constituted a committee to create a Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan for CAS that offers a truly comprehensive vision and addresses faculty and staff diversity, the climate for diversity, the need for governance, and the diversity of students and of curricula. The committee is seeking a broad consensus through college-wide discussions that include faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the college.

CAS is taking its place as a leader in championing the value of a liberal education.

The promise of liberal education is that it provides foundational knowledge, habits of mind, and tools of inquiry that help us understand our complex world and enable us to engage with and respond to current and future challenges. The human world in the 21st century is more complex, and changing more rapidly, than ever before. The digital revolution, mass migration, societal inequality, and scientific advances are transforming our world. As liberal arts educators, administrators, scholars, and researchers, it is our task to build the capacities of individuals and societies to understand and navigate these changes. Our research and ideas can and do have profound impacts on society.

Liberal arts institutions draw on a long tradition of bringing together a range of ways of interpreting the world, from the scientific to the philosophical. In CAS, we have identified five priorities that, taken together, offer opportunities for our faculty and departments to build on collective strengths in ways that best fit their disciplinary assets, but encourage interdisciplinary discovery. They recognize existing faculty research strengths and respond to global challenges and opportunities, as well as student interest. The following five priorities inform our strategy for growth and development of faculty, degree programs, research collaborations, and fundraising:

  • Embracing the evolving powers of data analytics and infusing the disciplines of the college—from the humanities to the natural sciences—with the opportunities presented by data science.
  • Enabling BU to play an important part in humankind’s efforts to understand, mitigate, and adjust to climate change and create sustainable ways of life.
  • Understanding the roots of inequality and the requirements of justice, and embracing our special role as educators in creating social mobility by increasing the accessibility of a BU education for talented students regardless of family income.
  • Accelerating our strong neuroscience programs so that we can map the brain to better understand the neural bases of behavior and disease.
  • Renewing our support for the humanities as a crucial component of a liberal education and critical perspective on our technological age.

Researchers in CAS are producing outstanding and influential scholarship and studies; faculty members’ deep knowledge of and engagement in their fields provides our students with extraordinary opportunities to learn. Indeed, CAS plays a key role in Boston University’s rise in national and international rankings. Each year, entering CAS students arrive with higher test scores and more accomplishments; our graduate programs are becoming more competitive; and several of our departments are top-ranked. As we seek to continue this rise in stature, we need to make sure that our stellar students and extraordinary faculty and staff members have opportunities to develop at BU and that they receive the recognition they deserve. These efforts will support our commitment to nurturing a vibrant intellectual community.

Our students are curious, energetic, and ready to take on the world. We will develop mechanisms for ensuring that students are encouraged to pursue a range of opportunities (such as funded travel for undergraduate honors research). We will develop pathways to prestigious national and international scholarships for CAS students, working with the Provost’s office to ensure that CAS students receive information and guidance about those opportunities.

Our commitment to nurture the careers of faculty members should include ensuring that they have the opportunity to advance professionally and receive recognition for their work. Examining the various mechanisms currently in place will help us determine what improvements we need to make. We will continue to nominate new faculty members for development professorships and will consider whether we offer sufficient opportunities for midcareer recognition and leadership training. We will look for opportunities to ensure that faculty seeking outside grants receive appropriate support. We will make sure faculty members receive timely annual feedback on their work. We will continue to pursue funding to create new endowed professorships. All of these efforts will be intended to increase awareness—among ourselves and among others—of our colleagues’ work and to encourage a vibrant, collegial intellectual environment.

Our professional staff employees ensure that faculty and students have what they need to carry out research, teach, and learn in an optimal educational environment. It is crucial that our staff feel included in our core missions and that their efforts are recognized. We will make available multiple opportunities for staff development, and consider whether there are additional ways we can enhance their training and career trajectories. We will consider how professional staff can use their knowledge and experience to enhance the teaching of students. As with our faculty, we will promote an atmosphere of development, recognition, and appreciation in order to enhance our collegial environment.