USPI town halls

Gasson Hall
Campus & Community / Announcements | October 13, 2016

Members of the BC community are invited to share, confidentially, their questions and perspectives on the ongoing University Strategic Planning Initiative at the dedicated USPI website 'BC Voices,' members of the initiative's steering committee have announced.

Faculty and staff received an in-person update – and had the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments – at two town hall-type meetings, also organized by the USPI Steering Committee.

At the meetings, which were held in Gasson 100, Steering Committee co-chairs Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley and Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, along with other committee members, reported on the progress of Boston College’s comprehensive effort to craft a vision and set institutional priorities for the future.

USPI representatives also met with students at a dinner event later that evening, hosted by Student Affairs and the Undergraduate Government of Boston College.

While some preliminary themes have emerged from the planning process, the committee members emphasized that many discussions must take place within the University community before a plan is drafted. The Oct. 5 meetings will be among a series of conversations and interactions with the University community and alumni leadership groups this fall, according to the committee.

“We have to consider what our biggest challenges will be, and how we can address them. What are our strongest programs and resources, and how do they contribute to our mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university?”—EVP Michael Lochhead

True to the conversational design of the events, those Steering Committee members present shared impressions and observations from the assessment phase this past spring, when 24 teams comprising more than 200 members of the University community – faculty, staff and students – studied the University across a broad range of academic, administrative, formational, spiritual and operational aspects. These reflections provided a basis for Q&A sessions that took up the remainder of each meeting.

“BC has a lot to celebrate – this University has been on one of the great trajectories in higher education,” said Quigley. “When you look at the three previous strategic plans, you can see there is a good deal of continuity, and that’s been important to our success. So, what we’re doing is thinking about the key threads, the non-negotiable, mission-based values embodied in those plans. Our job is to discern how to carry these forward while providing a framework for making decisions at Boston College for the next 10 years.

“We’re not here to re-write the mission statement or, at this stage, to get down to specifics like how many faculty to hire or how financial aid should be directed,” he added. “We want to lay out a vision, to take the University’s mission of 20 years ago and make it powerfully resonant for 2016 and beyond.”

Lochhead also spoke on the importance of vision, “both micro and macro,” in putting together a strategic plan. “We have to consider what our biggest challenges will be, and how we can address them. What are our strongest programs and resources, and how do they contribute to our mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university?”

Other USPI representatives were Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Jones, Vice President for Human Resources David Trainor, BC Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau, Vice President for Planning and Assessment Kelli Armstrong, Vice Provost for Faculties Billy Soo, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences Dean Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., and Associate Professor of Sociology Brian Gareau.

“Our belief is that what’s going on in the classrooms here in Gasson and elsewhere on campus today can make a difference, not just for the student but the wider world. It’s also apparent that the University community views BC as being in a ‘privileged place,’ at the intersection of society and faith. So one question is, how can BC deliver more fully on the promise of its mission?”—Provost David Quigley

Quigley touched on some of the themes emerging from the assessment phase. One of the most prominent, he said, was BC’s commitment “to the transformative power of the liberal arts” with an emphasis on interdisciplinary and analytical learning, and a corresponding dedication to help students connect intellectual development with personal and spiritual formation.

“The sense of our community is that a Boston College education is not just about providing content, or the means toward licensure in a profession,” he said. “Our belief is that what’s going on in the classrooms here in Gasson and elsewhere on campus today can make a difference, not just for the student but the wider world. It’s also apparent that the University community views BC as being in a ‘privileged place,’ at the intersection of society and faith. So one question is, how can BC deliver more fully on the promise of its mission?”

Other major talking points to come out of the assessment phase included the importance of providing formation opportunities for faculty and staff as well as students; greater emphasis on linking BC’s graduate and professional programs to the overall institutional mission; and the need to bring a coordinated, intentional focus to the University’s international programs and initiatives.

Another area of concern, Quigley and others noted, was that the University nurture and sustain its sense of community at a time of profound societal tensions around race, gender identity, socio-economic pressures, the polarized political environment and other issues.

“It’s clear we are constantly being challenged to understand what’s happening to our community...'Diversity’ means something quite different now than in the 1980s and 1990s – we have to talk about global diversity, and the implications this holds for faculty, staff, and students."—Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau

Committee members also cited a need to help students bring a keen, discerning, analytical eye to what they read and hear in the age of “big data,” when information flows copiously from so many sources.  

Fr. Kalscheur said the conversations from the spring revealed an impetus to more explicitly tie research to “the common good – the conditions that should exist for everyone to flourish.” One example of this approach, he said, is the proposed Institute for Integrated Sciences and Society, in which faculty from all disciplines – including the natural and social sciences, humanities and professional schools – collaborate on projects with an eye to addressing compelling social problems. 

Discussing diversity and outreach during the Q&A session, Rougeau said the University as a whole will need to adopt a fuller, more comprehensive worldview. “It’s clear we are constantly being challenged to understand what’s happening to our community,” he said. “‘Diversity’ means something quite different now than in the 1980s and 1990s – we have to talk about global diversity, and the implications this holds for faculty, staff and students.” 

However important its academic component in meeting such challenges, committee members said BC’s culture of community would be no less so. Trainor said he was struck by the scale to which cura personalis (“care of the individual”) has been embraced throughout the University. 

“When it comes to human dignity,” he said, “there is no hierarchy at Boston College.”

Once this period of discussion and interaction with the University community and leadership groups is complete, the Steering Committee will develop a proposal to be submitted next semester to the Board of Trustees.

—Sean Smith | News & Public Affairs