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November 2012: CAS Strategic Planning Update

CAS@20 has begun. Our strategic planning work kicked off in mid-October with a general meeting of all those on the subcommittees. Since then the subcommittees have each met at least once. These groups are working through their objectives, raising issues that should be addressed, and deciding how to engage the College community in a dialogue on these issues. The subcommittees will be informing us all of their schedules. The subcommittee page of the planning website will contain agendas and minutes from the subcommittee meetings, and a link for sending feedback.

I am grateful to all our colleagues who have responded to the invitation to serve on these subcommittees. They represent a broad spectrum of individuals from many of the CAS departments and programs – some younger faculty and others with more grey hair (or, like me, little at all!). Each subcommittee includes at least one member who is on the CAS Policy Committee, providing a channel for communication with CAS governance.

In the President’s State of the University he discussed the challenges facing UB. Among these are some of the issues we talked about earlier – questions about the relevance of a college education, the cost of college and student debt, the growing interest in assessment, and the expectation that universities act as an engine of economic growth for the region. These challenges are not unique to UB. But, they define the context in which we do our planning, and we must be mindful of them in our recommendations. The President also spoke of the opportunities we have in front of us. These too resonate with our efforts – he discussed building faculty excellence across the disciplines, what makes UB distinct, and creating an environment in which our students can achieve their potential.  He spoke about “Realizing UB2020” – a mindset that builds on the success of UB2020 and the strategic strengths, offers students the breadth of opportunities of a major research university while providing the welcome of a smaller liberal arts college, and envisions a campus with an eye towards its responsibility to the communities around us. He asked us to think creatively about how to respond to these opportunities. This is the same challenge we face in our CAS@20 work, and I think our efforts will align nicely with the ideas the President and Provost are developing for the next stage of the UB2020 process.

As we progress in this planning process, it is worth recalling that, of our 460 or so faculty, about 2/3 have come to UB in the last decade. This represents a huge demographic shift in the College, and its impacts are felt in virtually every department. The vitality of our young colleagues enlivens us all. And, because UB was hiring when much of the rest of the nation was not, we have recruited an extraordinary group of new assistant, associate and full professors.  Our planning is designed to help us build on this exceptional talent, to improve the College.

Alfred North Whitehead said that progress consists of preserving order amidst change, and preserving change amidst order.  Preserving what is good while improving what needs improvement. For the College, we cannot advance by only doing ‘more of the same’. Certainly there are principles about the academy that should not be altered. About 8 years ago, Frank Rhodes wrote an essay “Reinventing the University” in which he identified these as: the university’s freedom in selection, admission, instruction and certification of its students, the ability to select what to teach and how to teach it, the freedom to investigate any topic, the ability to forge public and private partnerships, and the autonomy of the university and its governance.  We stand on these principles as encapsulating the essence of the university, while recognizing that we also have great freedom to achieve these ends by a variety of means. Our discussions will help us to see our way to refocus this institution, to improve, to reach our potential, and make UB and CAS the destination of choice.

F. Rhodes, “Reinventing the University” in Reinventing the Research University (L. Weber and J.J. Duderstadt eds.) Economica 2004