The University Strategic Planning Initiative has embarked on extensive conversations among groups—24 in all—of administrators, faculty, staff and students, reviewing the University’s progress on a variety of fronts during the past decade, and identifying key issues and trends in higher education and elsewhere that will help inform the future of Boston College. 

The substance of these past few weeks of discussions will be shared with the USPI Steering Committee, as the University’s newest comprehensive planning effort continues to take shape.

Steering Committee members describe this part of the initiative’s self-study phase as a period of “high engagement.” The working groups represent each of BC’s eight schools and other academic areas as well as most ​vice-presidential administrative divisions, including Student Affairs, Facilities Management, and Information Technology. 

Other self-study teams have assessed initiatives or areas of interest – such as undergraduate liberal arts or international programs—that involve multiple schools, departments, or divisions.

To accomplish their tasks, these groups have sought additional insights by inviting comments and perspectives from elsewhere within the University community, among faculty, staff and students.

The 24 self-studies are slated to be completed by the end of the spring semester, and will then be reviewed by the USPI Steering Committee and the Executive Committee to examine ​potential areas of focus within the context of the University’s mission, ongoing institutional goals and available resources.  

Vice Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, USPI co-chair, said, “I’ve been impressed by my conversations with the leaders and participants in the various assessment efforts across the schools and libraries.  The academic community seems to be taking seriously the charge to take stock of the current state of higher education, and Boston College’s particular place therein.  It’s exciting to hear some compelling themes resonating across different committees.”

“David Quigley and I have spent a lot of time working with the chairs of the various assessment committees, particularly those that are looking at cross-University initiatives and programs,” said Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, the other USPI co-chair. “The level of commitment, energy, and collegiality evidenced through the works of these groups has truly been impressive and bodes well for the remainder of our strategic planning process.  I look forward to continuing this important work in the months ahead.”

BC formally launched the USPI in February, led by an Executive Committee of Quigley, Lochhead, University President William P. Leahy, S.​J​., Financial Vice President and Treasurer John Burke, Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Jack Butler, S.J., and Senior Vice President for Advancement James Husson. Quigley, Lochhead, and Fr. Butler also serve on the 18-member Steering Committee, composed of deans, faculty, senior administrators and students. 

A major component of the USPI is to evaluate the outcomes of BC’s previous strategic planning effort that produced the 2006 document Seven Strategic Directions, which set a clear institutional path for Boston College in anticipation of its sesquicentennial in 2013. The same planning initiative also led to an accompanying 10-year Institutional Master Plan to provide the infrastructure to support the Strategic Plan, and inspired the “Light the World” campaign to fund selected programs and projects.

Even as BC endeavored to implement the Strategic Plan, USPI members note, economic, social and political forces well beyond Chestnut Hill were changing the terrain for higher education. To ensure that the progress of the past decade would be meaningful and long lasting, and to position BC for more, they say, it was imperative for BC to embark on another broad-based planning initiative. 

What’s more, the members add, the planning process itself had to reflect the impact of such wide-spread changes, hence the creation of the self-study teams, in particular those that draw on expertise from cross-sections of the University.

Among those members of the University community working in such groups is Carroll School of Management Associate Professor Billy Soo, who is co-chairing with Institute for the Liberal Arts Director Mary Crane a committee evaluating the role, contributions and costs of graduate education at BC.

“Graduate programs face a very different landscape since the last strategic plan,” said Soo. “The financial crisis has had a significant impact on labor markets and how students and employers view the economics of graduate education. Advances in technology have also created new channels of instruction—such as online and hybrid programs – and alternative providers that pose both challenges and opportunities for graduate programs.”

Others in the group are Jennifer Bader (School of Theology and Ministry), Solomon Friedberg (Mathematics), Kevin Kenny (History), Penny Hauser-Cram (Lynch School of Education), Kathryn Mackintosh (Office of Institutional Research), Aimee Milliken (Connell School of Nursing), Darrell Peterson (Office of Graduate Student Life), John Stachniewicz (Law School), Thomas Walsh (School of Social Work) and John Zona (Office of the Treasurer). 

Soo said his group has collected considerable data to address basic questions about graduate education’s role at BC and how to evaluate its costs and contributions, and to evaluate threats and opportunities facing graduate education not only at the University but in the field itself.

“It’s been a very informative process because while most of us know a lot about our own segment of the University, the committee’s work has opened our eyes to better ways to understand and evaluate different graduate programs. These discussions have also revealed how programs are responding to their respective challenges and have raised new possibilities for future collaboration.”

School of Social ​Work ​Dean Alberto Godenzi and Vice Provost Patricia DeLeeuw, meanwhile, are heading up a self-study of BC’s global engagement. The group’s other members are Hans de Wit (Lynch School of Education), ​Frank Garcia (Law School)​, Nick Gozik (Office of International Programs), Jonathan Laurence (Political Science), Margaret Lombe (School of Social Work), Robert Mauro (Global Leadership Institute), Adrienne Nussbaum (Office of International Students and Scholars) and Ellen Sullivan (University Advancement).

“The growing internationalization of higher education is happening before our eyes,” said Godenzi. “The force behind our efforts is the belief that BC has something unique to offer in the international arena. Our Jesuit, Catholic mission and heritage positions us very well among other institutions of higher learning. Boston College’s focus on the liberal arts, on integrated sciences and society, and on the dialogue between faith and culture opens up many opportunities for global engagement and mutually beneficial exchanges.” 

For more information, visit: ​the University Strategic Planning Initiative website.​

By Sean Smith | News & Public Affairs