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The "Whole" Tulane

February 3, 2000

President Scott Cowen

Many of us have spent a lot of time over the past year talking about strategic planning, priorities, goals and vision. We have developed a clear picture of where we would like to see Tulane University positioned in the coming decade, and the schools and colleges are currently developing their own plans in conjunction with these overarching themes.

Over the next few months, this space will be devoted to outlining specific goals and priorities that our planning has identified for the university as a whole. But these strategic initiatives,in the areas of people, education and research, community, and resources and leadership,are incomplete if we do not first look at the "big picture," the universitywide goals for Tulane University to achieve between now and the year 2010.

While each of those four strategic areas is important in its own right, it is the synergy created by all four working together that creates the whole that exceeds the sum of the parts. That "whole" is the Tulane University of our future, the Tulane that by the end of the decade will be recognized as one of the most highly respected universities in the nation.

It is a university that will have mapped out an academic course rooted in our long history, our location in one of America's most fascinating cities, and our ability to recognize and use our strengths to our best advantage. It is a university that will serve as a leader in setting the future direction of American higher education. It will be a university in service to the public, deeply involved in the life and livelihood of its surrounding community.

It will be, in its own community, a university of shared visions and goals, where all community members work together with good will and mutual respect. And, to add my own personal goal, the "whole" Tulane of our future will be recognized as one of the best-led and managed universities anywhere. It will be no small feat to accomplish this in 10 years, and there are challenges we must meet in order to do so.

One of the greatest challenges will be to continue to improve our academic quality and reputation while greatly enhancing our financial base. At my inauguration last fall, I said,only half-jokingly,that we need to raise an "obscene" amount of money. We can have the grandest goals in the world but, realistically, we will require a significant increase in resources in order to make them a reality.

Tulane University is one of only 59 AAU universities out of 2,320 four-year colleges and universities nationwide, and that is an achievement of which we can rightly be proud. But, if we are to be honest, we must acknowledge that, at present, we are in the bottom quartile of our AAU colleagues.

If we achieve those 10-year goals outlined above, and are able,both through a major capital campaign and a wise reassessment of how current funds are spent,to attract sufficient financial resources to do so, we will easily see Tulane's academic reputation enhanced, with a resulting move above the median in any ranking of AAU universities. This is a worthy goal, and it is an achievable goal.

I mentioned above a Tulane University that was, as a whole, greater than the sum of its parts. That means that the four strategic areas I will be discussing in this column over the next four months must all be working together to keep the university moving in the direction of our goals.

We need the best faculty and staff, competitively compensated and provided with the incentives to choose Tulane and stay here. We need to strengthen the undergraduate experience to educate the whole student inside and outside the classroom. We need to look at those research areas where we already occupy a strong niche in American higher education,in urban studies, public health, Latin American studies and environmental studies, to name a few,and focus more of our resources on solidifying these areas' strengths.

In the same vein, we need to identify those graduate and professional programs in which we have a strong base and strengthen them further. We need to continue and expand on our interaction with New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf South region. As the largest private employer in New Orleans and the only research university in the Gulf South, we have a responsibility to play a role in the betterment of our community.

We need the resources that will enable us to do all these wonderful things. That list makes up an awful lot of things "we need" to do. But I cannot imagine anyone not agreeing that these are worthy goals, and well worth the hard work it will take to achieve them. Subsequent columns in Inside Tulane will review each of the strategic areas in greater detail.

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