The University Strategic Planning Initiative (USPI) – Boston College’s comprehensive effort to craft a vision and set institutional priorities for the future – will advance its work this semester through a series of meetings, including a pair of town hall-style conversations on Oct. 5.
The USPI, which began last December with the Steering Committee’s appointment, completed an intensive period of assessment during the spring semester. Between February and May, 24 teams around the University undertook the self-assessments, evaluating BC’s strengths and weaknesses, and discerning the challenges and opportunities it faces.
These assessment teams included more than 200 members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – and represented each of BC’s eight schools and other academic areas as well as most vice-presidential administrative divisions, including Student Affairs, Facilities Management, Finance, Human Resources, and Information Technology. Other self-assessment teams looked at initiatives or areas of focus – such as undergraduate liberal arts or international programs — involving multiple schools, departments, or divisions.
The teams in turn sought additional insights by inviting comments and perspectives from elsewhere within the University community, among faculty, staff and students.
“Since most teams had between eight and 15 members, and they consulted with many others in their particular area, this self-assessment phase involved literally hundreds of people from across BC,” said Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, who is co-chairing the USPI with Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley. “It was very impressive to see the thoughtful conversations that took place, and the obvious care and interest within the University community for BC’s future direction.”
Over the summer, the Steering Committee sifted through the teams’ findings and identified key themes around which the University will gear its attention and resources in the decade ahead. These priorities will form the basis of a draft strategic plan for the Board of Trustees to review beginning in March.
This semester, said USPI leaders, the Steering Committee will seek comments and questions about the initiative from across the University community, through a number of events as well as via electronic communication and conversations with alumni leadership groups. Lochhead and Quigley will be present at the two town hall meetings, along with members of the USPI Steering Committee, to discuss the progress of the initiative to date and engage in a Q&A with the audience.
“As part of the USPI process, it is important that faculty, staff and students have an opportunity to offer their perspectives on Boston College at this important moment in time as we plan for our next decade,” said Quigley. “We know there is great support throughout the campus community for BC’s mission as a world-class university shaped by its Jesuit, Catholic commitments. It is our sincere hope that this strategic planning effort, informed by input and ideas from important stakeholders from across the community, will bear fruit in the form of a plan that enables BC to advance its distinctive mission for the coming decade.”
Quigley and Lochhead said the themes that have emerged thus far in various USPI discussions and meetings attest to the enduring core values expressed in major University documents and initiatives, notably the 2006 Strategic Plan. These include a commitment to undergraduate education and the liberal arts, student formation, integrated research and scholarship, among others, as well as a vision of BC as an intellectual crossroads for faith and culture.
One major outcome of the USPI, according to Quigley and Lochhead, has been to reaffirm these institutional tenets while considering the impact of emerging trends, issues and directions in academia and greater society.
“Mission – imaginatively conceived, and powerfully articulated – must be a critical dimension as we evaluate and invest in new initiatives,” said Quigley. “For example, BC has long valued research and scholarship. But it’s clear that integration and collaboration are growing ever more important across fields and across schools; we see this at BC in the proposed Institute for Integrated Science and Society and the pilot courses for the renewed undergraduate core curriculum. It’s exciting to see new ideas emerging that further strengthen work that brings faculty and students together.”
Lochhead pointed to international initiatives as another emerging theme. “In the past few decades, BC has become far more globally focused, whether through study-abroad, faculty exchanges or other programs. In the USPI discussions, we’ve explored how the University can approach its international initiatives with better coordination and intentionality.”
Lochhead and Quigley said they expect these and other themes to become better articulated and defined during the fall, as the Steering Committee continues toward completing its draft strategic plan.
“We look forward to hearing from the University community, whether at the town hall meetings or through other avenues,” said Quigley, “and to working together to make these themes into concrete initiatives that will enable us to serve our students and society ever more powerfully in the future.”
The Oct. 5 town hall events, which are open to all faculty and staff, will take place from 9-10:30 a.m. and 4-5:30 p.m. in Gasson 100.
—Sean Smith | News & Public Affairs
—Photos by Gary Wayne Gilbert