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Draft of academic plan presented to Board of Trustees

by Karen A. Grava - April 21, 2008

A revised academic plan that focuses on the themes “Our World, Our People, and Our Future” was presented to the Board of Trustees on April 15.

The plan is still under revision, as further input is gathered from various University constituencies. In addition, an “environmental scan” is being prepared that will outline such factors as economic and population trends that affect the University’s operations, Provost Peter J. Nicholls said.

“Universities are in a rapidly changing environment and economy,” he said. “We have to be sure to have an appropriate level of consultation that allows us to identify the assumptions under which we will be able to pursue our priorities, strengths, and opportunities.”

The plan will be particularly helpful for allocating resources, with funds going to those programs that represent UConn’s strengths and opportunities.

“Decisions related to the distribution of revenues, recruitment and retention of faculty, students, and staff, space assignment, capital improvements, and curricular enhancements will be driven by their effects on the goals of the Academic Plan,” Nicholls said. Decisions that stimulate greater achievement of our goals across the plan will be given priority.”

The plan identifies the overall vision for the University, with detail on how that vision will be realized coming from plans developed within each school and college, Nicholls said. “In today’s environment, the University cannot be or do everything. So we will have to invest, reallocate, and allocate carefully.”

The plan has already had input from a number of committees, faculty groups, and others, and will be completed sometime this summer, Nicholls said.

It will include specific metrics that identify current levels of accomplishment and establish targets over the five-year life of the plan. These metrics offer a mechanism for tracking the University’s performance with regard to achieving the plan’s goals.

The three themes “serve to unify the plan and link new interdisciplinary initiatives to the strong traditional disciplines from which they emerge and in which they must remain grounded,” he said.

The “Our World” theme emphasizes UConn’s strengths in environmental research and education and its preparation of students for jobs and personal success in an internationalized economy and increasingly diverse society.

The “Our People” theme draws on the University’s “landmark accomplishments in health care and human behavior to improve the quality of life for people in this state and beyond.”

And the “Our Future” theme stresses the importance of collaborating with the state and the private sector to develop new products, processes, and entrepreneurial opportunities and to foster economic growth and opportunity, he said.

“This plan emphasizes a holistic and global environment and emphasizes not only the physical and natural sciences, or business, engineering, and technology, but also health care, the social sciences, legal reform, the humanities, and the arts,” Nicholls said.

Three areas of excellence are outlined in the plan:

  • The environment, including human health, sustainable ecosystems, and sustainable energy;
  • Health and human behavior, including basic and clinical biomedical science, the relations between policy, law, behavior, science, and health, and the translation of discoveries in basic sciences to products, policies, and practices that improve health and quality of life for people everywhere;
  • Arts, culture, and society from a local to a global perspective, including human rights, intellectual property, research on multicultural and international topics, and cultural enrichment in the humanities and fine arts.

The plan also outlines the strengths of each regional campus. Avery Point, for example, is known for marine sciences and maritime studies. Greater Hartford is known for a focus on metropolitan issues, public policy, and health policy; Stamford is noted for international business and selected arts and sciences programming; Torrington is known for arts and humanities; and Waterbury for civic and community engagement, Nicholls said.

The plan also identifies six broad areas and the strategies to achieve the goals in each area, including reallocation of existing resources, asking the General Assembly for additional funding for academic positions, and raising private funds to support programs.

The areas of the plan are:

  • Undergraduate education, which focuses on continuing to advance UConn’s intellectually challenging and diverse learning environment by combining opportunities in the liberal arts and sciences with strong pre-professional education, co-curricular activities, and research collaborations with faculty members;
  • Graduate and professional education, which emphasizes maintaining already strong graduate and professional programs, while building national and international distinction in select programs;
  • Research, scholarship, and creative activity, which emphasize increasing UConn’s productivity in these areas by building on existing strengths and focused areas of excellence, developing a stronger extramural funding portfolio, and expanding the infrastructure that supports research and strengthens the University’s ability to translate new discoveries into practical applications;
  • Diversity, which highlights the importance of ensuring an enriched learning and work environment by creating a more inclusive community that recognizes and celebrates individual differences;
  • Public engagement, which underscores strategies to enhance the contributions of faculty, staff, and students to the state, nation, and world through appropriate collaboration with partners in both the public and private sectors;
  • Administrative organization, capital infrastructure, and budget processes, stressing the importance of aligning the University’s infrastructure and processes to the goals of the plan.

Finally, the plan outlines an implementation process, highlighting the role that colleges, schools, and administrative units will play in defining the specific contributions they can make to help the University achieve its goals.

“This is an ambitious plan, with a challenging aspiration and equally challenging goals,” said University President Michael J. Hogan.

“Realizing the plan’s aspirations and goals will be a collective effort, just as crafting the plan has been; and I know that by working together we can achieve these outcomes and continue on our upward trajectory.”

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