Framework for Planning Sets the Stage

March 1, 1997

Mary Ann Travis

The front end is done. The scaffolding erected. The skeleton in place. The first stage of the university's new strategic planning process has been completed with the Tulane Board of Administrators' review of the "Framework for Planning" document at its January meeting.

A year in drafting, the 30-page-plus document discusses "long-term, philosophical and educational concepts," said President Eamon Kelly. From this conceptual framework, Tulane's individual schools and colleges will build specific strategic plans. According to Kelly, the process of devising or modifying the college and school academic plans to reflect the principles outlined in the framework document will begin this fall under the supervision of the new provost, Martha Gilliland.

Gilliland will arrive on campus June 1. In January 1996, "we had completed our major fund campaign and our 1990 strategic plan," said Kelly. "It was appropriate to start thinking about a new strategic plan for the university. The board of administrators wanted to be involved in the front end of the planning process, so we developed this frame- work approach."

Last fall, the document was scrutinized by the University Senate, going through the senate committees on educational policy and budget review. "It was also distributed for comment to all of the faculties of the university," said Kelly. In total, the framework document was developed through a collegial process, "as collegial as anybody could ever want it to be," said Kelly. Harvey Bricker, anthropology professor and a faculty representative to the board of administrators, said he has a "quite favorable" opinion of the document, which he said is "the consequence of the happiest of circumstances--having the same person as president and chief academic officer of the university."

Kelly has been acting provost for the past year. Bricker said the document "shows the result of wide and effective consultations across the campus. It acknowledges our strengths, and we can build on these strengths." The central core value for Tulane emphasized in the framework document is the importance of maintaining the university's fundamental "comparative advantage."

This comparative advantage, as stated in the document, is to "provide small classes and an informal, yet rigorous, learning environment with teaching provided primarily by a research-oriented, graduate faculty." "Yes, we want our core values," said Yvette Jones, vice president for finance and operations. "We have decided what they are, what programs and disciplines are vital to us."

With the framework document in hand, Jones said, "We have a good guide for the future." A future that will include financial planning integrated with academic planning, Jones hopes. She said, "What we do and how we deliver our services must be re-evaluated in terms of costs." While stating that Tulane's basic mission remains education and research, the framework document suggests four other core concepts for consideration: lifelong learning, technology-enhanced teaching and research, service, and revenue enhancement.

Amy Koritz, assistant professor of English and a faculty representative to the board of administrators, said the reaffirmation of the university's research mission "bodes well for the framework document's usefulness in planning for the university's future." With Tulane in a time of transition, Koritz said, "The successful negotiation of these changes facing us will require that all constituencies--faculty, students, alumni, board members and staff--share the same goals. The framework document is valuable as a statement of goals for Tulane that can form the basis for effective communication among the constituencies during the planning process ahead."

The value given lifelong learning in the framework document particularly pleased Rick Marksbury, dean of University College. University College has always been concerned with retraining professionals and providing education for returning and non-traditional students. Now, Marksbury said, "It is important to develop an ethos among students and faculty that includes an understanding that when you leave the university with a degree--an undergraduate degree or even a master's or a professional degree--you have not learned everything. You will undoubtedly need more education, because the world is changing so fast."

Regarding technology-enhanced teaching and research, a challenging and costly issue for the university, Bill Bertrand, vice president for institutional planning, research and innovation, said, "The document provides a framework for beginning to understand the extraordinary implications that information technology will have for our university community." The university's most appropriate guide for applying technology to education "is to create a flexible organization," said Bertrand. Such an organization would be "capable of rapid experimentation and change to take advantage of new technology as it adds value to the academic enterprise. The crucial ability will be to have the capacity to rapidly judge if value is truly added."

One small indication of the impact of information technology on campus is that the document in all its drafts has been posted for viewing on Tulane's World Wide Web page at: The discussion of service in the framework document raises the question of how service learning and applied scholarship can be implemented on even par with research and teaching. "This is not to elevate service above the scholarship of discovery or classroom and laboratory learning, but make it equal," said Suzanne England, dean of the School of Social Work. It's unusual for a private university to even have service as part of its mission, said England.

"Yet, we are where we are. We cannot stand in isolation. Tulane has a unique position in the urban environment of New Orleans," she said. "While certain assumptions in the document may be arguable," England added, "they offer a point of discussion." Although revenue enhancement is the last core concept to be addressed in the framework document, it is perhaps the most critical. James McFarland, dean of the Freeman Business School, oversees a school that "must be a positive bottom-line unit, covering its own expenses and contributing to the university," he said.

As a closed unit, the business school undergoes strategic planning every year. McFarland said, "The new framework document needs to be received from a positive point of view." He expects that the business school strategic planning--what he describes as "a learning process involving critical thinking"--will fit well with the university's framework plan. "We want people engaged," McFarland said. "We want people inside the tent, rather than outside it."

Barbara Beckman, a medical school pharmacology professor and a faculty representative to the board of administrators, agreed that a window of opportunity exists for involving faculty and administration in "a proper dialogue." "We're on target for the needs and goals of the university," Beckman said. "With continuing communication, we can arrive at creative solutions." Teresa Soufas, acting dean of the liberal arts and sciences faculty, concurred. She said, "The LAS faculty is anxious to contribute, collaborate and develop a dialogue with the new provost about the issues that are raised in the framework document that have to do with LAS faculty, students and curriculum. "This is just the beginning."

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