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February 2013: CAS Strategic Planning Update

E. Bruce Pitman PhotoThe 2012 survey of college freshman by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) reports that new college students are more focused than ever on getting a job. The freshmen believe they will complete their degree in four years, and will land a good paying job at graduation.

These aspirations should make all of us in the professorate and in administration ask whether we are doing enough to help our newest students.  In particular students expect to be able to finish their studies in four years. Odds are about even that incoming freshmen will, in fact, graduate from UB in eight semesters.  Nationally the likelihood is lower. Thus UB’s Finish in Four initiative is timely.  A related factor that comes out in various surveys of college students is the amount of debt students take on during their studies. UB is a top 20 school for students graduating with lowest debt, telling us all that we are fulfilling our mission to educate all.

There is a deeper issue in the CIRP survey that is important for us in the College of Arts and Sciences to understand. As reported in the previous surveys, a majority of students say they go to college to get an education and gain an appreciation of ideas. This year, however, a record 88% said the ability to get a good job was a very important reason for attending college. Students entering professionally-oriented programs, such as nursing or engineering, have a good idea of the career they wish to follow and the skills necessary to get that first job. For students in CAS, that runway to the job offer is not so straight. 

Of course our goal is help students become thinkers and actors, young men and women who can understand the human predicament, who can analyze problems and discover solutions, who can express their ideas, and who have the desire to make their world a better place.  A research university is a place where the newest ideas are put forward, to be challenged and tested. This atmosphere is a distinguishing feature we can offer to our students. If we the faculty commit ourselves anew to educate these students, getting a job will follow naturally. More importantly, our graduates will be the thinkers and doers of tomorrow.

The CAS@20 strategic planning process is entering its next phase. Departments have turned in their goals for hiring over the next years. All the subcommittees are turning in their reports. The steering committee will be bringing together all these ideas as we begin drafting the College’s plan. At the same time, the provost has been leading the Realizing UB2020 planning.  Conversations on campus range from MOOCs to flipped classrooms to experiential learning, faculty and staff hiring, distinctiveness, and the future of bricks and mortar residential colleges.

As we begin drafting the CAS@20 plan we must ask ourselves if we are being bold enough, creative enough, in addressing the challenges we face at the University, and the challenges our students will face in their lives. CAS and the University will be able to recover our financial footing over the next few years through the NYSUNY2020 legislation. If we have the courage to embrace the changes we must make, then the hopes expressed in the CIRP survey will be answered, our students will be graduating in a timely fashion and will be working in fulfilling careers.