May 12, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 17

Planning Initiative Heralds Major Changes at University

Proposals would add new faculty, school, centers and programs

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Between now and its 150th anniversary in 2013, Boston College could add as many as 100-150 more faculty members, including several new endowed professorships, establish a school of theology and ministry and develop programs of student formation based on the ideals of Jesuit higher education.

In addition, BC would build a "humanities hub" around the study of literature, history, theology, philosophy and the arts, and create centers and institutes that offer interdisciplinary research and expertise in aging, biotechnology, integrated science, international social science, human rights, community and global health, and race, ethnicity and culture, among other areas.

These and other enhancements to BC's personnel and programs are to take place in an equally improved physical space, highlighted by the proposed addition of a new University Center, a new recreation complex, undergraduate and graduate student housing and at least two new academic buildings, as well as major renovations of existing buildings and increased utilization of BC's newly acquired Brighton Campus.

This blueprint for the BC of the near future is the result of the Assessment and Planning Initiative (API), which is nearing completion after almost two years of discussion by some 200 administrators, faculty, staff and students, who devised a series of university-wide initiatives and school or program-specific priorities.

Next month, the University's Board of Trustees will formally consider a preliminary report outlining the various aspects of the plan, and the expected costs of the proposals. After the trustees give their response to the draft, the API leadership will develop a final report during the summer, which University President William P. Leahy, SJ, will present at Convocation this September.

The most recent API draft report is available on-line at A BC username and password is necessary to access the document.

While University administrators emphasize that not all the aforementioned proposals will become reality - or at least not immediately or in their present form - they assert that BC will be a significantly changed institution by 2013, which also will be the 100th anniversary of the University's move to Chestnut Hill.

In addition, administrators say the degree and character of participation by the University community in the planning process offers a positive sign for its successful implementation.

"From the beginning, this planning initiative has gone as well as we could have possibly hoped," said Prof. James O'Toole (History), who is the initiative's director. "Rather than look to simply defend their own turf, people have set their sights much higher than their own program, department or school.

"There's also a tremendous amount of ambition evident in the proposals we've seen. It's clear the University community really does want to build on the progress we've made, which is not just good, it's necessary, because in higher education standing still means falling behind."

Proposals in the API report have been divided into two categories, O'Toole explained: "Galvanizing initiatives" - such as the proposed school for theology and ministry, the institute on aging and the humanities hub - focus primarily upon liberal education, international human rights and justice, the needs of the elderly, interdisciplinary programs in science, and scholarship and ministry in the Catholic tradition. While these initiatives build on current strengths, they are demanding in scope and ambition and will require considerable investments of resources.

"Priority initiatives" - including proposals for a center for human rights and social justice, an institute on community and global health, and doctoral programs in computer science and mathematics - would enhance a particular academic program or discipline and might be funded through the annual investment strategy that the University has successfully used in recent years to strengthen its academic offerings.

BC's graduate and professional schools also provided assessments and proposals for their own programs and resources.

Other sections of the API report describe the capital projects - whether new construction or renovation or expansion of existing facilities - needed to implement some proposals, as well as an analysis of the administrative, infrastructure and resources needed to support the initiatives.

During the past few weeks, O'Toole and others in the API leadership have led four public forums on campus to discuss the project, the proposals and the outlook for the API. "We really wanted the BC community to be part of this process, and we've sought to make that possible through the task forces and committees that worked on proposals and by inviting comments and questions at each stage," said O'Toole.

"We will continue to do so, even as we enter the implementation phase."

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