Initiatives for the First 100 Days of the Strategic Plan
February 15, 2014
Dear Rutgers Faculty and Staff:
The University Strategic Plan approved this month by the Board of Governors lays out an ambitious series of initiatives for the next five years to ensure we achieve our institutional goals. Many of these initiatives will require some time to implement; others are dependent on identifying appropriate funding sources; still others will need to be guided by the strategic planning processes currently under way in our four large academic areas. It is important, however, for the University community to appreciate that I am committed to converting this plan into action as quickly as is feasible. For this reason, I am announcing today a series of initiatives drawn from the strategic plan that will be funded directly from my office and implemented immediately. These initiatives will kick off the first 100 days of the University Strategic Plan.
The first 100-day initiatives will include the following:
As outlined in the plan’s first Strategic Priority entitled Envision Tomorrow’s University, I am establishing a blue-ribbon faculty committee to examine optimal academic organization of the University as we respond to the evolving demands of a premier research-intensive and education-focused residential university. The membership of this committee will be announced in the coming days. Resources for all related committee activity will be provided from the President’s Office.
This committee will review the organization of our academic units and make recommendations to the University community and the administration for potential realignments that would allow our faculty to more effectively collaborate in their teaching and research efforts. The committee will also consider the best structures for units that span multiple campuses, and offer recommendations for potential new schools or academic units (such as a school of veterinary medicine or a school of architecture and design) that will move our institution forward and align us, where appropriate to our mission, more closely with other great public universities.
Consistent with the second initiative from Envision Tomorrow’s University, a committee of faculty and instructional technology experts is being formed to investigate the near- and long-term impact of technology on our residential educational model. Charged with developing a tactical institutional plan for exploring, testing, and implementing technology in our teaching and learning environments, this committee will examine the effectiveness and feasibility of pedagogical tools and digital environments that range from “flipped” and synchronous classrooms to MOOCs, interactive online courses, simulation technology, and other innovative educational technology. It will review the effectiveness of learning management systems (LMSs) such as Blackboard, Sakai, and eCollege, and recommend a path for unifying and evergreening these technologies. The committee membership will be announced in the coming days, and the activity of the committee will be fully supported from the President’s Office.
Our strategic plan calls for the recruitment of an additional 150 faculty over the next five years, many of whom will be thought leaders in the fields and areas that we seek to strengthen. While much of this recruitment will necessarily be coupled with fundraising, I will begin this process immediately. To this end, I am today establishing two initial groups of endowed chairs to assist in the process of faculty recruitment and retention.
a. The first group consists of five endowed professorships created from central resources. Each of these professorships will bear the title of Henry Rutgers University Professors, and will be used to recruit, or in some cases retain, preeminent senior scholars to our faculty. Priority for appointments will be given to areas and disciplines that align with the goals of the strategic plan, and that fall within the areas covered by the Integrating Themes. Ideally, the interests of the proposed recruitment would span several disciplines and/or schools. As resources become available, I will expand this pool to 30 endowed, Henry Rutgers Professorships during the next 5 years.
b. A second group of five new term chairs for mid-level faculty has also been created. These Henry Rutgers Term Chairs will be used to recruit and retain outstanding faculty who are entering the mid-phase of their careers, and will be targeted primarily at newly tenured or comparably positioned individuals of equivalent stature with high potential for future development. Again, as resources are identified, I will expand this pool to 25 Henry Rutgers Term Chairs.
Proposals for recruitment areas for the first round of both the Endowed and Term chairs will be solicited from the community on all campuses during the coming weeks, and will be evaluated and prioritized by a committee of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Chancellors.
4. Presidential Graduate Fellowships
Our plan calls for strengthening Rutgers’ graduate programs in key strategic areas across the University. As a first step, I am establishing today 20 Presidential Graduate Fellowships, available immediately for use in recruitment of the most outstanding graduate student candidates. These five-year fellowships will supplement basic graduate fellowship packages and offer an additional $15,000 stipend per student, renewable annually for a maximum of five years. The offices of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development, in conjunction with the Chancellors, will identify a faculty committee to coordinate the application process and the review of requests for these prestigious fellowships. The selection committee will give precedence to graduate student programs with strong performance records in areas highlighted in the Strategic Plan or where critical resources are needed to establish new directions envisioned by the plan.
5. Henry Rutgers Undergraduate Scholarships
The strategic plan outlines a number of new initiatives to improve student satisfaction and to recruit the best undergraduates from the nearly 30,000 students who leave New Jersey each year to pursue higher education in other states. Principal among these initiatives are the University Honors Colleges in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden. Construction of the new Honors College facility in New Brunswick is already in progress, with planned occupancy in Fall 2015. Additionally, effective immediately, my office will fund 100 net new undergraduate merit scholarships targeted for New Jersey residents, for a total of 400 merit scholars in the next 4 years. These Henry Rutgers Scholarships will enable us to attract high-achieving students and to raise the academic profile of our entire undergraduate student body, without affecting funding streams for current merit and need-based scholarships. As the strategic plan highlights, identifying support for additional undergraduate scholarships will be a high priority for the coming years.
Next, I am establishing two immediate initiatives related to the Integrating Themes put forth in the strategic plan. These initiatives are designed to coordinate interdisciplinary scholarship, bridge our campuses and schools, and integrate currently isolated pockets of excellence. Both of these initiatives are now open to proposals from the University community and implementation will be funded from central resources.
These Integrating Theme initiatives are:
a. The development and convening of five major international academic symposia, each centering on elements and aspects of one of the five themes. Proposals for these symposia should represent multiple schools and disciplines, and priority will be given to concepts that integrate across our community, enhance our visibility, and stimulate new collaborative efforts. Funding will be provided for both the conceptual development and the implementation of each symposium. I hope that the first of these symposia can be organized and held during the next twelve months and hosted across our campuses. Priority will be given to those proposals that involve multiple schools, areas, disciplines, and campuses. While these will be primarily faculty-driven symposia, we will also seek opportunities for student, staff, and alumni involvement.
b. The creation of unique University-wide general-education courses in the areas included within each of our integrating themes. Each of these themes represents a critical area for society and our students, as well as an area in which Rutgers has unique expertise or intellectual resources. I am calling immediately for proposals from the faculty to create one or more courses in each theme area that will have broad impact and applicability for our first- and second-year students. Where possible, the courses should incorporate technology to enable faculty to reach across our campuses and collaborate with colleagues and students. I will provide the successful proposals with support for faculty release time for course development, underwriting educational expenses, as well as providing resources to develop technologies that will allow each course to be made available across the University.
Proposals for both of these initiatives should be submitted to the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and will be reviewed by a faculty committee constituted by him.
7. Core Facilities Fund
The strategic plan underscores the critical need to strengthen the core facilities available to our faculty to support their research and academic endeavors. With this in mind, I am establishing today a short-term fund of $1 million to begin the process of evaluating and strengthening our core support facilities. I have directed the Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development to appoint a committee to assess the state of our core research and teaching facilities, identify institutional needs, and recommend areas for future development. Priority for these short-term funds will be given to support facilities used by faculty in multiple departments and schools.
Beyond this immediate charge, the committee will be charged with continuing this work in subsequent years. Identifying additional funding for further initiatives in this critical area will be a high priority for the administration.
8. Student Advising and Support
Transforming the student experience is a major priority of our strategic plan, and many of our long-term initiatives are focused on this goal. Immediate action is needed, however, in a number of areas related to student support. With this in mind, I have established a $750,000 fund to target high-priority areas of student advising, career counseling, and academic support. An oversight group will consider the appropriate application of these funds and will report with a prioritized list of initiatives within three months to a committee of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Chancellors.
9. IT Assessment
I have requested an immediate assessment of University computing and IT infrastructure. Long overdue and now critical after the integration with UMDNJ and their legacy systems and databases, this assessment will evaluate our basic business systems (ERP) software, as well as the storage and security of large data sets and critical business information, our conversion to a secure virtual server environment, consolidation and outsourcing possibilities for community IT services such as email and scheduling, and special academic computing needs. A task force led by the Senior Vice Presidents for Finance and for Administration has already begun this work under the aegis of the strategic plan, and the first report to the Board of Governors and the University community will follow in April.
These 100-day initiatives represent only the beginning of the many projects that will emerge from the strategic plan, including developing a corporate partnership office, improving transportation logistics, and designing high impact capital projects. In addition, as the campus strategic plans take shape over the coming year, I will consult widely on how to prioritize funding and implementation of new initiatives that emerge from these plans.