From The President: The Culture Of Change

March 31, 2002

Scott Cowen

I enjoy change and the process of change, especially when it makes us a stronger institution academically and financially. To me, change can be a means of stretching, growing, learning and revitalizing. But I also realize that change can be unsettling, whether it is change that affects us personally or change that affects us as an institution.

Change is neither good nor bad in itself, but takes on the qualities we give it in our thoughts and responses to it. For the last four years, we have focused on filling key academic and administrative positions, completing our strategic plan, and enhancing the university's educational and research programs.

Emphasis on these priorities will certainly continue in the future as we now begin a period of change at Tulane University in the way we look at our budgeting and financial accountability processes. I'm excited about these changes, and think they will make us a financially stronger university.

You'll find an article elsewhere in this issue of Inside Tulane that explains the details of our new Decentralized Management Center model, but in its purest form it is simply this: instead of a top-down form of financial management, the university's schools, colleges and centers will have greater authority, responsibility and accountability in controlling their budgets.

They will have more autonomy in terms of how their budgets are developed, in how their revenue is generated and in how they choose to operate within the budgets they have available. Why is this a good thing? Admittedly, it is not the "same old way" of doing things at a university. And I realize that it will be a more comfortable transition for some units than for others.

But I strongly believe in this management concept. It organizes our finances around our academic structure. It will allow our deans, directors and department heads more freedom to shape the direction and future of their programs. It will reward the innovation and hard work that results in greater revenue generation. And it will give us a clear picture as an institution of how we should prioritize and focus our future planning efforts.

I also recognize, however, that the Decentralized Management Center model represents a real cultural change for Tulane. It will impact how each of us looks at our organizations, operations and expenditures. But over the next three years--the period we have set aside to make the transition into the new system--I am convinced that everyone will come to appreciate the way it impacts us as an institution.

We will be stronger not only financially, but that strength will translate into our educational and research programs throughout the university. We will closely monitor the implementation of this new system and be prepared to make refinements to it as we experience the way it works.

Our overarching university goal continues to be the enhancement of our academic quality and reputation as we also financially strengthen the university. Implementation of the Decentralized Management Center model is another critical step in this journey.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000