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March 4, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 12

Planning Effort Enters Next Phase

Task forces, study groups will seek ideas for long-term growth

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Boston College's Assessment and Planning Initiative is beginning a new phase this spring with the appointment of several task forces and study groups, which will begin sketching the outline for the University's long-term academic and student-formation missions.

Five task forces will scrutinize major, university-wide issues, themes and concerns: Undergraduate Education; Research, Scholarship, and Graduate Professional Programs; the Jesuit and Catholic Identity; Administration, Infrastructure, and Resources; and Measures, Markers, and Metrics.

The nine study groups will focus on the four undergraduate schools, the Graduate School of Social Work, the Law School and the College of Advancing Studies, as well as resources and programs related to athletics and student life.

In addition, the Assessment and Planning Initiative leadership - University President William P. Leahy, SJ, steering committee co-chairs Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser and Executive Vice President Patrick Keating, and initiative director Prof. James O'Toole (History) - will hold an open forum on March 30 for administrators and faculty later this spring, as part of efforts to involve the University community in the process [see separate story].

This next phase comes after more than a year of preparation and discussion involving members of the initiative steering committee, some 100 representatives from the Boston College community and a pair of consultants: Stanford University professor emeritus of education and business administration William Massy, president of The Jackson Hole Higher Education Group Inc.; and Robert Zemsky, CEO of The Learning Alliance and founding director of The Higher Education Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

Massy and Zemsky recently submitted their report outlining major goals of the initiative, a document which will serve as a major point of reference for the next phase, said O'Toole. [The report, along with other information about the Assessment and Planning Initiative, will be available at www.bc.edu/offices/avp/planning/.]

"The big question for BC is, do we consolidate the gains we've made during the last 15-20 years," he said, "or do we take the next steps that will enable us to become the major, national, Catholic-Jesuit university we aspire to be? There is clearly a strong desire within the BC community that we go that latter route, as we found during the past year.

"Based on those discussions, the consultants have produced a report which talks about a strategy of 'galvanizing initiatives' BC should commit to, and pursue, over the next 10 years or so. These galvanizing initiatives should be feasible in light of BC's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, but also undertaken with confidence in BC's leadership and ability to cope with the unforeseen."

According to O'Toole, the major goals outlined in the report are: reaffirming undergraduate education and student formation as central to BC's mission; achieve recognition as a highly focused research and graduate-professional institution; reinforce the Jesuit and Catholic dimension of the University's character and mission; reaffirm BC's commitment to service; continue the University's commitment to promoting a welcoming, inclusive community; and support faculty, staff and students through effective space management, technology, fundraising, financial and human resource policies and other refinements to the University's infrastructure.

"So, essentially, we've been given an assignment: How do we advance those goals, and what are the galvanizing initiatives that will achieve them? The task forces will generate ideas at a University-wide level, while the study groups will examine the question in terms of their individual school or unit."

Said Neuhauser, "The next phase will directly involve some 120 to 150 individuals, which is a pretty broad slice of the BC community. These groups will respond to relatively small, focused set of questions to help advance discussions on how their particular school, department or administrative area can contribute to BC's future. We are not expecting tomes, just some specific, effective and sensible ideas for making this a better university."

O'Toole said the participation of the University community in these and other discussions will be critical. "The faculty, staff and students are the ones who, in the end, will be most directly affected by these initiatives - and who will ultimately determine how successful they are. We know there are many people on this campus who are very thoughtful about BC's present and future, and whose perspectives can be enormously helpful to this project. They should know that there will be chances for them to be heard, in public and in private."

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