"We have set an ambitious goal of making Minnesota's only research university a world leader," says President Bob Bruininks. He will present his ideas of how to make that happen to the regents in May.
President Bruininks is given recommendations on how to reshape the University
Published on March 30, 2005
Over the past year, it has become increasingly clear that higher education--and in particular, the University of Minnesota--is facing an era of unprecedented challenges. Demographic, economic, political, and cultural changes require the U to act boldly and swiftly to assure its competitive advantage in the global higher education market. In response, President Bob Bruininks called for an examination of how the University needs to position itself in the world as it goes into the 21st century.
"During my 37 years at the U, I have seen this institution develop into the cornerstone of Minnesota's economy and quality of life," says Bruininks. "I have never been more optimistic about the U's future, but I also believe we are at a crossroads. Economic, social, and global challenges will ultimately overwhelm us if we are not creative in getting ahead of them."
The Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC), the executive committee of the U's Faculty Senate, has released a statement endorsing the need for ongoing change at the University. "[The strategic positioning process] is a positive step towards improving the quality of education and outcomes for students and enhancing the University's research and outreach missions to better serve the people of Minnesota and the world."
The FCC will host several forums for University faculty to discuss the strategic positioning report recommendations:
> April 4, 2-4 p.m., Room 125 Willey Hall (West Bank)
> April 5, 10 a.m.-noon, Bell Museum Auditorium (East Bank)
> April 6, 1-3 p.m., Room 33 McNeal Hall (St. Paul)
> April 11, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., HFA Recital Hall (Morris)
The University Senate will also host discussions at its April 7 and April 28 meetings. (Faculty can also share their views with FCC members by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A strategic positioning report was released March 11 that thoroughly explored these challenges and explained why the U has to set a new direction for itself, with the goal of becoming one of the world's top three public research universities within the next decade. The big question is, how does it get there?
Some potential answers emerged today with the release of recommendations for consideration from two task forces--one focusing on academics, the other on administrative matters--on how to reshape and, in a sense, reinvigorate the University. These recommendations are now with Bruininks, and it is up to him to make his recommendations to the Board of Regents--the University's official policy-setting body--in May. Before then, he will engage students, faculty, staff, and the public in an open dialogue. The regents will vote on his recommendations in June after they conduct their own public hearings.
Throughout both the initial planning process and the task force examinations, those involved made sure that the University would stay true to its land-grant mission to serve the people of Minnesota; would give students, faculty, and staff the best possible and most innovative learning and working environment; and would move forward into an internationally competitive arena to ensure its future growth and health.
The task force charged with academic improvements made 31 suggestions, including:
- Consolidation of education and human development programs into the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and changes to make CEHD a University-wide resource for academic readiness and developmental education research, which will include elements from General College and the College of Human Ecology;
- Creation of a College of Design, which would include program elements from the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the College of Human Ecology;
- Increased academic support and advising services across the University;
- A significant new writing initiative;
- Creation of a Regents Honors College;
- Special task forces to develop plans to reconfigure the study of the sciences, engineering, agriculture, natural resources, and the environment; examine the College of Liberal Arts and the Academic Health Center; and identify opportunities for shared administrative functions between smaller academic units such as the Law School and Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs.
General College and the College of Human Ecology will be absorbed into other colleges and programs.
The administrative task force presented Bruininks with seven recommendations for reforms, including:
- Refocusing administrative services to improve support for faculty and students, including areas that enhance student advancement and diversity;
- Using the University's buying power more effectively to reduce costs;
- Standardizing key administrative products and processes to achieve more efficiency;
- Expanding the use of shared services for common administrative functions such as human resources, communications, facilities management, financial services, and occupational health and safety;
- Minimizing internal overregulation;
- Becoming a sought after employer with performance-based compensation and enhanced recruitment from diverse populations; and
- Better managing the University's physical, financial, and technological assets.
To ask Bruininks questions about or to comment on the strategic plan and the recommendations, go to the "Comments and Suggestions" link on the Strategic Positioning Process Web site.