Strategic Planning Under Way

November 18, 1999

Nick Marinello

After months of preparatory work that has offered a long, sometimes provocative look at Tulane University and higher education in general, the administration is ready to begin the first phase of strategic planning this month.

This will be the most important element in getting our academic blueprint into place, said Yvette Jones, senior vice president for planning and administration. Subsequent planning will support the recommendations that come out of this phase. According to Jones, those recommendations will be made by six committees.

Each committee is charged with a specific area of academic planning: undergraduate education, graduate education, research, new educational possibilities, community building and new ideas for increasing revenue.

Chairing these committees, respectively, are Molly Travis, associate professor of English; Art Brief, Lawrence Martin Chair of Business; John Clements, chair of the microbiology department; Walter Burnett, professor of business and public health; Ron Mason, director of the National Center for the Urban Community; and Judith LaRosa, chair of the community health sciences department.

Each committee will have approximately 15 members and will include faculty, staff, students and, in some cases, members of the board of administrators or alumni, said Tulane President Scott Cowen. Cowen said that each committee will be asked to develop a plan within its specific area, make recommendations on how to implement the plan, and outline goals to be achieved and a process to monitor plan implementation.

Every committee will have its recommendations prepared by mid May, said Cowen. The six reports will then be turned over to the Strategic Planning Framework Committee which, in consultation with the presidents cabinet, will work over the summer to compile the reports into a single document.

In the fall, said Cowen, we will present a draft of the academic plan to the university community for review, comment and revision as needed. In addition, Cowen said each school and college will prepare a plan that incorporates appropriate pieces of the universitywide plan in addition to strategic directions indigenous to each school or college.

According to Cowen, that academic blueprint will allow the university to execute the second phase of strategic planning, which will focus on designing an academic structure consistent with the plan, updating the campus master plan, developing programs in support of faculty and staff, developing service-oriented administrative units, using technology throughout the organization, and planning for a major capital campaign. [See strategic planning Web site for more details:

Cowen, who in December presented the University Senate with a report that measured Tulanes performance in a competitive analysis with nine other research universities, said that it is important to appreciate the progress Tulane has made in recent decades, yet also to understand what is necessary to reach the next level of recognition and stature and secure Tulanes future, both academically and financially.

Cowen said the value of the competitive analysis is to show that while Tulane has made remarkable progress in the past, it is facing some significant challenges to remain at the forefront of higher education. The report, which was compiled by the Strategic Planning Framework Committee, compares Tulane to both peer and aspirant institutions, including Duke, Emory, Georgetown, Northwestern, Stanford, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Washington University.

The report acknowledges Tulanes achievement in both undergraduate and graduate education between 1993-98, including an increase in freshman class size and average SAT scores, an increase in freshman class revenues, the attainment of Carnegie I research status, an increase in the number of doctorates awarded and an increase in research and development spending.

At the same time, some of the more disconcerting data from the report indicates that, among the comparison group, Tulane is ranked at or near the bottom in SAT scores; in total research and development funding; in the number of top-ranked graduate programs (according to the most recent National Research Council survey); in percent of revenues from private gifts, grants and contracts; in endowment over the last three fiscal years; and in voluntary support from alumni.

The comparative analysis confirms what a lot of faculty, administrators and board members have thought about where our institution stood, said Jones. But weve never had the hard data. It is not intended to be negative. You need to know where you stand among the group you want to be like. Cowen said there was a fine line between galvanizing support in the community for strategic planning and creating despair within that community.

You want them to see the reality of the situation but you dont want to make it seem that it is so impossible that they just throw up their arms, he said. We are here to advance the institution, he said. We can do it. We already are one of the finest and most respected institutions in the country, and we all want the university to develop even further. I can see light at the end of the tunnel, if we all work together with creativity and freshness of thought and are willing to break with past traditions and practices, if necessary.

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