Firm Foundations

June 5, 2000

Scott Cowen

Editor's Note: Following is the last in a series of columns by President Scott Cowen describing the major initiatives of the university's strategic plan. This column deals with the areas of resources and leadership.

This space has been devoted over the past few months to discussions about where we should focus our energies as a university-identifying areas that will enhance our academic quality and reputation, that will help us provide an even more outstanding education for our students, that will make Tulane a better place to live and learn and work.

Achieving those goals will take resources. Henry David Thoreau once wrote that it's appropriate to build one's castles in the air, but that one must then put the foundations underneath them. The foundations for our strategic initiatives will be resources of technology and knowledge, resources of leadership and governance, and, of course, financial resources.

In terms of technology and knowledge resources, we need to focus first on our libraries. The library is the heart of any university, and we should work to define the priorities, goals and strategies for developing our libraries, improving our library system's national ranking among research universities.

We also must continue to explore ways in which technology can be used in the Tulane educational experience. We should be creative, innovative and distinctive. Within the next decade, for example, I would like to see at least 50 percent of our classrooms "wired," and the learning that takes place in those classrooms to benefit from the technology available to us.

A second "foundation" necessary for achieving our goals and initiatives is that of leadership, management and governance. Since coming to Tulane as president, I have advocated expansion of our Board of Administrators. That expansion has already begun, and should continue. We also should improve our administrative processes and review our University Senate governance policies to ensure that they are organized in the most efficient and effective way possible.

And last, but certainly not least, in order to achieve our goals, we must have financial resources. We need seed money to begin the new initiatives we have identified, to compensate our faculty and staff in a way that compares positively to our peer institutions and to keep up with the rapidly changing technology that will prove so important to our growth as an institution.

Toward that end, we are already in the very early stages of a major capital campaign that will provide those funds; our campaign goal should be at least $600 million. We also should have as a goal increasing our endowment/operating expense ratio from 1.0 to 2.0.

And, finally, we should work to increase unrestricted alumni giving from its current 17 percent to 30 percent.

If we achieve these goals, we will be in a financial position to make the rest of our strategic goals a reality. Once those strategic goals - pertaining to people, education and research, community, and resources and leadership - are attained, what then for Tulane University as a whole?

By 2010 - in a single decade - achieving those goals will position Tulane University firmly as an AAU and Carnegie 1 institution. It will place Tulane among the top 25 universities in the country on every relevant educational and research ranking. And the year 2010 will find Tulane's financial position to be among the top universities in the country on any measure of financial health.

If we adhere to our goals, if we work hard, if we stay focused, I have no doubts that this 2010 "vision" is a Tulane University to which we all will be proud to belong.

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