Update on Initiatives as Fall 2009 Term Begins

Summer is drawing to a close, and campus is bristling with activity. I have said to more than one group in the past few weeks that the energy is palpable and infectious. This promises to be an eventful year.

If you haven't been on campus for awhile, take a stroll over to the new faculty/staff dining room, the first floor of De La Salle, or the Math Lab in Galileo and you'll see some impressive changes to campus. Our growth and renewal goes beyond physical improvements. We completed our first summer session for undergraduates. We enrolled the most academically talented and diverse entering class, and we achieved the class size we anticipated.

We also submitted our WASC self-study in preparation for the October visit. If you haven't yet looked at our report or become familiar with our ongoing efforts, I encourage you to do so. We have titled it "Renewing Our Commitment to Inclusion," because the work we've done – and will continue to do – is an extension of previous initiatives, framed by a developmental model of change and guided by our mission. We're just getting started, and the WASC team visit at the end of October is a checkpoint along the way. As we did last year, the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence will continue to fund initiatives that foster diversity and inclusion, and this fall we will start our "Campus of Difference" workshops for the campus community. If our efforts at inclusion are to be more than symbolic, we will need ideas, energy and participation across campus.

We will also be renewing our attention to BOS 2.5, which charges me with submitting "a five-year academic plan-graduate and undergraduate-including program expansion, projected enrollments, needed staffing and space, and potential costs and revenue." I have taken the past year to review the many documents that inform the plan, which I am calling an "academic blueprint": comments generated in 2006 during planning days for the BOS plan, discussions of the core curriculum, work on our mission, advising and student support, identity and marketing strategies, comprehensive campaign planning, School planning efforts, and community discussions and lunches. I assume, as we begin this work, that economic recovery will be slow, we will not see a substantial increase in undergraduate student enrollment, our priorities will necessarily be funded through the redistribution of existing resources, and targeted growth may occur in our graduate and professional programs. We will continue the critical project of implementing the core curriculum and reviewing Collegiate Seminar and Jan Term. Our Academic Blueprint must help us define our distinctiveness, sustain our commitment to excellence, and enhance our competitiveness as a college.

The phrase "academic blueprint" is meant to both distinguish it from our institutional strategic plan and define the scope of our work, which is to advance an academic vision, foundation, scope, and priorities for the next twenty years. Yes, that was twenty years in the previous sentence. That doesn't mean it will take twenty years to accomplish all of our goals, but rather that we need to look beyond ourselves and reach well into the future. I presented a working vision statement at our Faculty Day to focus moving forward; this, and the objectives that we discussed, will be refined as we move forward this semester. The work will be done largely in an Academic Blueprint Task Force, which will include faculty from each School and at-large representatives. We will provide many opportunities for comment, both in traditional community meetings and in online forums. By December, we will present a draft Academic Blueprint that includes primary objectives, such as attracting and retaining diverse, highly qualified faculty and students, tactics for achieving those objectives, performance indicators that specify progress based on effectiveness, and time lines for completion.

Finally, this will be a year of intense collaboration and consultation as we move forward with implementing the new curriculum, drafting and proposing a speaker policy to the Board of Trustees, conducting national searches, and reviewing our faculty salary policy. There will also be less obvious but no less important changes as we move through the year. For instance, I received an anonymous tip that has led to a change in the way we present faculty service awards. Since this ceremony presents one of the few opportunities we have to share the accomplishments of our colleagues, this year we will be publishing a program with the full text of citations that have been submitted. During the coming year, I hope to find comparable ways to acknowledge the contributions of our staff.

Whether by anonymous suggestion, support and encouragement, or gentle disagreement, I have cherished your willingness to engage with, confide in, and trust me. This will be a tremendous year of challenge and accomplishment, and with this foundation I'm confident that we will have many collaborative achievements to celebrate in the months to come. Best wishes for a wonderful year.