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Cowen Shapes Early Agenda

August 1, 1998

Nick Marinello

The wait is over. Anyone still wondering whether Tulane's new president, Scott Cowen, is going to slowly "feel his way" into office ought to have such notions dispelled soon enough.

"There are four or five major things I am doing in the first 30 days," said Cowen during an interview held last month, on his second day in office. While he was not yet ready to talk in specifics about his agenda, Cowen indicated that the university would "formally kick off strategic planning in August."

Faculty and staff will be initially notified about the planning process in a memo that will be sent in mid-August.

"The purpose of that memo will be to identify and answer many of the questions people will have about strategic planning," said Cowen.

That memo will be followed shortly by a draft of an "environmental scan" report that will analyze current trends in higher education and, according to Cowen, "set the context of our planning." Cowen said he was calling for a retreat of top-level administrators on July 30-31 to review the timetable and process of strategic planning as well as to review 1998-99 objectives for the senior management team.

Scheduled to be at the retreat were members of the president's cabinet, including John LaRosa, chancellor of the medical school; Martha Gilliland, provost; Tony Lorino, senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer; and Yvette Jones, senior vice president for planning and administration. Cowen said that he will "communicate the outcome of that retreat" to the University Senate and at other public venues. Regarding other matters on the horizon, Cowen said he would meet individually with all members of the Tulane Board of Administrators.

"I have about a half-dozen topics I want to speak about with them," said Cowen, "ranging from strategic planning, to board governance, to some of my objectives for '98-99."

Arrangements also are being made for Cowen to visit with Louisiana lawmakers, both in Washington, D.C., and Baton Rouge, as well as a number of local community and civic leaders. While on the road, Cowen said he expects to visit also with key donors and friends of the university. During the same period, Cowen also plans to meet with each of the senior academic and administrative leaders on campus.

"I want to get up to speed on any issues or topics that are on the radar screen of senior academic administrators," he said. "I also want to set the agenda for next year in terms of what we want to get accomplished."

Examples of issues that Cowen expects to be soon crossing the "radar screen" are the implementation of a new framework for information technology, year 2000 compliance for Tulane's various databases, and implementation of a decentralized management center approach. (Inside Tulane will examine these issues during upcoming months.)

Cowen, who has maintained high visibility on campus through a nonstop string of individual and group meetings, as well as impromptu socializing while walking the grounds, is determined to convey his message that "things will be different" at Tulane. He expects that a universitywide convocation planned for Sept. 24 (see next issue for details) will be instrumental in delivering that message.

"The convocation will set the tone and direction for my administration," he said. "People will begin to see where I would like to lead the institution and how we need to work together to realize Tulane's future."

To that end, Cowen wants the Tulane community to know that he is approachable, and he is delighted that people now recognize him and feel free to stop and talk to him. He also is a strong advocate of electronic communication. "I e-mail 24 hours a day," he said. "My e-mail address is Scowen (Scowen@mailhost. tcs.tulane.edu). If there is something you feel I need to know, e-mail me. I do respond to all of them."

The kinds of e-mail that are most helpful, said Cowen, are those that inform him of developing issues. "I appreciate anything that helps me get the pulse of the campus," he said.

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