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COUNCIL State of the University

Strategic Planning Process Update

President Judith Rodin's introduction to Strategic Planning Update

It would be very hard to begin an overview of where we are and strategically where we're going without at least noting, once again, that we all are so affected still by the events of September 11. The comment that I'd like to make is that it has clearly influenced our community in many very painful ways. But as all events of such epic proportion do, it has also influenced us in some positive ways. I'm seeing a much more related sense of community, which has been part of our ambitions; and I'm seeing it in a variety of different ways. I do hope that out of this horror we really will be able to continue learning, to continue reaching out to each other across our differences, and find ways to demonstrate--on campus--that there is a sense of community that we share and about which we're proud, and that we really learn from one another.

At the end of the semester last year there was a supplement in Almanac that reported on The Agenda for Excellence, and I'm obviously not going to review this very lengthy tome, except to remind you once again that it is available still on the Almanac web site and it will be a good way for members of Council to be knowledgeable about what we have been working on for the past five or six years, if you haven't been here or, if you haven't been in official roles that made you pay attention to it. But I do want to mention just a couple of things because they are, in a way, a prelude to some of the things that the Provost will be discussing.

As we've tried to increase the ways that Penn is viewed throughout the University as a thought leader in teaching and research and innovative curricula, and in the use of technology, we've done a number of things over these five or six years (which, again certainly less transparent to the undergraduates who weren't here seven years ago, but certainly worth noting). There are now regular curriculum reviews by the school faculty in all of the schools and you're seeing now the pilot curriculum in the College, a result of an effort to think creatively about the new arts and sciences curriculum. Wharton, over the past several years, has continued to change and refresh its curriculum. There's been almost a total overhaul during this period of the Engineering and Applied Sciences undergraduate curriculum and we are continuing to try to refresh the Nursing curriculum as well.

Over the course of the past several years we've expanded cross-school and cross-disciplinary programs. And when I reported to you annually, I think it was harder to really see the impact of the change in Penn as it developed this strategic niche as one of its sets of undergraduate offerings. But since 1995, new joint- and dual-degree programs include the program in nursing and health care management; computer and cognitive science, specializing in artificial intelligence; environment and technology; nursing and computer science program; several sub-matriculation programs; a B.A. and M.S. in education program; a juris doctor program, starting from the undergraduate level; an intensive major in architecture; molecular life sciences; and digital media design -- all new and accomplishments of the strategic plan.

Another innovation of the plan has been the development of what we call normative reviews of all of the schools and centers. This week we completed the review of admissions; we've done reviews of athletics and a review of seven of the twelve schools. When I say normative, we will put these on a six- to seven-year cycle. They are not done because we think the entity is in trouble or that we have any concerns, but merely because we think first, the opportunity for self-study and second, the opportunity to bring external experts who spend two intensive days examining that program, is a very good way of bench-marking what we're doing and really continuing to develop as a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art institution. We'll be doing it in information technology. In the library, which we did already, we've learned a great deal and we've implemented a number of changes as a result of what we've learned. We believe in this kind of self-evaluation and self-improvement as we go through this self-evaluation cycle.

Certainly you know that the College House System, the Undergraduate Research Hub, the Fox Leadership program, Kelly Writers House, and Civic House are all initiatives that were developed under the last strategic plan and have really transformed the way the campus feels in terms of the academic programs.

Many, many other initiatives have been undertaken and I think the challenge for us now is to really build on those strengths and work to enhance where we're going and how we're thinking about that.

Provost Robert Barchi on Strategic Planning Process

What I'd like to do is to take you through the process that we have initiated that moves the the Agenda for Excellence forward to the next round of planning for the University. Let me preface this by simply saying that the Agenda itself is a living document. We don't consider this new strategic planning effort to be a revolutionary change but rather an evolutionary one; we're working with a mission statement that essentially remains unchanged. Our mission as a University remains the same, but we need to update and recast our goals in the context of today's environment and where we think the University is going to be in the next five years. We need to make sure that our academic priorities are in the context of the University's over arching goals and that the organizational priorities for the institution support the academic mission.

So let me tell you a little bit about where we've gone so far. First of all, the process started in the fall of 1999 with a Trustee Retreat. At that time the Trustees went off campus for several days and met with the senior administration and the deans to think about what the University should be and where it should go. Some very interesting ideas emerged from those discussions that helped to guide the subsequent process.

Assessing the Agenda for Excellence

We then undertook an assessment of the Agenda for Excellence over a period of months--a retrospective, if you will--recapping what had been accomplished under the current Agenda; this led to a detailed report that was summarized and published in Almanac last spring, The Agenda for Excellence review. We then moved into what I will call the leadership phase. The senior administration, the Council of Deans, and the Academic Planning and Budget Committee in conjuntion with the provost and the vice provost undertook a self assessment. What are our strengths and weaknesses? How do we see ourselves as an institution? How do we see our students and what kind of students do we want to have here? How do we see our faculty? How would we describe ourselves? Most importantly, what do we see as the unique differentiators of Penn in the marketplace? These questions led us then into a discussion of a draft strategic plan outline, the key elements that we thought should be the backbone of the next round of strategic planning and the key academic and organizational priorities that we would like to put forward for further discussion.

The key word here is really evolutionary. Let me give you an example. In the current strategic plan, one of our major goals was to move our undergraduate program upward in the rankings from a position that at the beginning of that plan was hovering near the beginning of the top ten or slightly below. We are now unquestionably one of the premier undergraduate research intensive universities in the nation. From this point forward we should be looking at how we solidify and strengthen that position. What differentiates us from other comparable institutions in this very elite group and how do we build on those differentiating strengths? That's the kind of a process that we're going through.

Let me just outline for you what the strategic plan will look like. It will have three elements: the first set of elements will be institutional goals that cut across the entire set of schools and programs of our institution--where we're going as a University, what we set as the highest and most important agenda items for the institution as a whole. Then intersecting with these institutional goals will be a set of academic priorities that identify key areas of opportunity; key areas of strength or differentiating features that should be expanded; key areas perhaps of weakness that we should build on and fill in; and opportunities that were not there five ago that we now see looming on the horizon and where we want to be pushing the envelope and building rapidly into, ahead of the power curve of other universities. Each one of those academic priorities should cut across and pick up a number of the institutional goals as it moves forward. Finally, we should make sure that the organizational priorities, the operational elements of the University that need to be tuned up or amplified or extended, are serving in the mission of both the institutional goals and the academic priorities.

Institutional Goals

Let me take you briefly through the outline of where we're going beginning with institutional goals first. We've identified a set of five institutional goals: the first is to solidify Penn's position as one of the premier research and teaching institutions in the nation and in the world. The second, to improve the quality, impact and translatability of our scholarly activity. Here the words are very important focusing on quality, focusing on the impact of the research as opposed to just the volume of the research and the translation of ideas from the laboratory, from the research office to the real world. Third, we're looking to provide a continuum of education that engages learners throughout their lives; we're looking at what we do as an institution from the time a student walks in our door as a pre-college high school student, to their college years, through their graduate years and throughout their lives to recreational learning, if you will, in their retirement years. We want to create a continuum rather than an episodic contact with our learners throughout their lives and try to understand what that means. One of the most important elements in our future plans is that the first three goals require the building of an outstanding and diverse faculty; faculty recruitment and retention and faculty diversity will be a key element of the next strategic plan. Finally creating a physical environment that's supportive of the academic and research mission is also important; how can we most effectively integrate these academic goals within the framework of the campus development plan we have just completed?

Let me just amplify one of those elements to show you where we're going and the kinds of ideas we're starting to tease out. We've mentioned the need to focus on differentiating areas--what makes Penn unique, what creates the value added here for a student at Penn and strengthening those areas. This may require a continuing focus on excellence in undergraduate education, thinking about the liberal core that should cut across all our educational programs, better integration across the four undergraduate schools, expansion of our interdisciplinary programs and the need to improve financial aid. It could mean a strengthening of the quality of graduate education and thinking about vertical integration of our educational programs, taking advantage of the presence of outstanding professional schools and graduate schools on campus as we develop our undergraduate programs and vice versa.

Academic Priorities

Let me skip now to the academic priorities. Here we've picked six areas that we think are particularly prime targets. Some of those are carry-overs from the past plan, such as arts, humanities in society, which continues to be an area that we think Penn should be focusing on and developing. The life sciences are another. We are a world leader in the life sciences here at Penn. Any cutting-edge university in the future that's a research-intensive university will be a powerhouse in the life sciences, and we aim to be too.

The urban community is important, too, particularly given Penn's place in an urban environment and the expertise we have here on this campus in such areas as urban architecture, urban planning and the movement of populations in and out of cities and in urban health.

Technological innovation is a fourth, and one that cuts across the Engineering School and other schools of our University--in such areas as bioengineering, nanotechnology, and computer sciences.

The last two priorities are the global perspective and organizations, institutions, and leadership.

Again let me expand on just one of these--the global perspective--to give you an idea of the direction in which we are going. This is an area that we think will be critically important for universities in the new world in the next 10 years and one in which we think we have selective strengths but not the level of external visibility that we should have. We're looking to expand and extend on the political science of governments and nations; to build programs that study the international business, commerce, and affairs of countries and their relation to the global economy; legal aspects of international relations and politics; ethnicity, race and gender; and international health. So you can see the breadth of programs that might fit under each one of these academic priorities.

Organizational Priorities

And finally, there are the organizational priorities that will support the institutional goals and the academic priorities. Here we are talking about enhancing the financial and operational capacity of the University, making sure we are the most economical and leanest operational unit that we possibly can be, that we're the most efficient at doing what we need to do to support our academic programs.

We are also talking about encouraging and supporting entrepreneurial activity. This could involve looking at ways to translate our knowledge in new and different ways to the broader community, both to the marketplace and to the broader world environment, allowing our faculty and our students to be entrepreneurial and providing them the support that they need to do those kinds of things. We also need to consider the operational aspects of enhancing the campus environment, the business functions that allow us to do that, and to make those growths possible.

And finally we need to develop a financial strategy that allows us to align the resources that we have as a University with the needs that are generated by the strategic plan, to make sure that we're always thinking about keeping those two things in concert, and that we don't let one outstrip the other. We need to have the appropriate checks and balances in place to be sure that we, on the one hand, are living within our means but, on the other hand, are generating the new means to make the strategic plan possible.

Community Input

That's the broad outline of the proposed plan. The next step is to bring this into the broader public domain and for community input. What we've done is to create 14 committees that are looking at various elements of this outline. These committees incorporate more than 200 faculty and staff and students, and they include key opinion-makers from throughout the campus [click here for members of strategic planning committees]. As you know they're already out there working. Their job is to make a fairly short turnaround of this analysis.

We will invite comment from across the University community for discussion of elements of this plan as we develop them. We will publish a draft of the document to the University community for comment. The committee process is not one that rubber stamps an agenda that is already completed. What I showed you is an outline. It is what was given to the committees for their work. There is not a detailed analysis behind this, that's the job of the committees. They will validate these concepts, they'll help us to order the relative priorities, they'll provide definition to the ideas that we've put forward and more importantly, they'll add additional ideas and take out things they think are not consistent. They'll look for potential conflicts between areas covered by the different committees. The chairs of each one of these committees are meeting regularly with me as a group specifically for that purpose. We'll look at ways to implement the strategies as they're brought forward, each one of these committees will generate a very brief report, which will be part of the overall agenda.

We're looking for draft reports from the committees by the end of November and final reports by December. We'll bring an assembled, collated document back to the Council of Deans and to the Academic Planning and Budget Committee by the end of December or early January. We're looking to publish a draft strategic plan in one of the January editions of Almanac that you will then all see and be able to comment on. We'll look at your comments and try to incorporate them in a final version, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees on the 15th and the 16th of February.

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 12, November 13, 2001


November 13, 2001
Volume 48 Number 12

A 25-year-old CIS doctoral student in SEAS disappeared on November 2.
Three professors named to Goldstone Endowed Term Chairs for Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Lindback Award nominations are due November 30.
Community Involvement Recognition Award nominations are due on December 7.
The University community is invited to speak at the University Council's Open Forum; topics must be submitted to the Office of the Secretary by November 27.

The State of the University: an update on the strategic planning process.

The State of the University: a proposal to create Penn Medicine.

Fluent in Spanish? A resident director for an academic program in Seville is sought for next year
OF RECORD: Policy on Deployment, Operation and Registration Requirements for Wireless Access Points on PennNet.

OF RECORD: Policy on Requirements for Authenticated Access at Public Jacks, Public Kiosks, Wireless Networks and Lab Computers on PennNet.

Thanksgiving Break: Special checks/safety and security tips
125 Years of Women at Penn Celebration: portraits and pavers preserve accomplishments of generations of women.