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January 21,2003

Task Force Outlines Academic Plan
By Karen A. Grava

The Academic Plan Task Force has identified six potential areas of emphasis and established a timeline for completion of its work.

The committee told the trustees in a presentation last week that it hopes to complete a benchmarking study and a facilities recommendation, and identify areas of emphasis and a process for allocating resources by Feb. 28.

Although the plan is not expected to be finalized until November, a draft report will be shared with the University community by May 1. Suggestions and revisions will be made to the plan over the summer with a draft shared with trustees in July and with the University community again in the fall.

Co-chaired by Karla Fox, associate vice chancellor for university affairs and Richard Brown, director of the Humanities Institute and a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in history, the committee plans to seek formal input from a number of University groups, including the University Senate, Undergraduate Student Government, and Graduate Student Senate. The committee will also solicit informal input through e-mail messages to members of the University community. Its materials will be posted to a website ( that will be updated weekly.

The task force has formed working groups to focus on six issues: areas of emphasis; physical plant-building projects; processes; benchmarking; faculty excellence; and student excellence.

The benchmarking working group is expected to present information from other, similar institutions; U.S. News & World Report; the National Research Council; which evaluates academic programs every 10 years; and the University of Florida, which has developed nine measures to define research and has ranked universities on their success.

The areas of emphasis group has identified six areas to date:

  • arts, culture, and society from a local to a global perspective;
  • environmental sustainability;
  • health and human service systems;
  • life sciences;
  • technology innovations and applications; and
  • undergraduate enrichment.

"The areas of emphasis are intentionally inclusive," said Chancellor John D. Petersen. "We are planning for an institution where the human and physical assets are largely fixed for the next decade or so. Any plan should exploit the resources we

currently possess."

Petersen added that the plan will establish specific goals and identify areas where UConn enjoys competitive advantages: "Where programs are less central to the University's mission, or do not represent a significant future source for academic inquiry or funding, their strength must be greater in order to compete for resources."

UConn's scholarship and teaching contribute to longer, better lives for people, the chancellor said, and to a more creative and high-achieving society.

"We want to build capacity to make us nationally prominent," Petersen said. "The areas of emphasis will serve as target areas for everything we do."

He noted that the committee will look not only at academic programs and resources but also at support areas such as technology and library holdings, to ensure that excellence can be achieved.

In addition, the plan will build in methods for the evaluation of programs and for change over time.

"The document will never be final because the external environment is always changing," Petersen said. "But the work of this task force is very, very important for the future."