About a dozen audience members attended President Christina Paxson’s first Brown University Community Council meeting as president yesterday in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. Along with Paxson, nearly half of the members of the BUCC were new. Discussion of a new strategic planning process and updates on the recent online education initiative dominated most of the meeting.
Building on the work of Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 and following an August retreat for senior administrators and faculty members, the University hopes to develop a new strategic planning process that would be true to University traditions and still operate “on a time scale that is efficient,” Paxson said.
“It’s a really great time for us to take what we’re doing to really tell the world about it and tell the Brown community about it and lead that into a capital campaign,” Paxson said, citing the University’s upcoming 250th anniversary in 2014 as the motivation for the new plan.
Goals of the new strategic planning process include increasing the University’s global and local impact, increasing excellence in teaching and research and providing the necessary financial aid to appeal to a diverse and talented student body, Schlissel said.
One of the new plan’s committees will focus on faculty recruitment, retention development and diversity, ensuring that Brown provides existing professors with the resources they need while attracting new leading professors.
“We can’t serve as a farm team for other institutions,” he said.
Another committee will focus on developing new spaces to facilitate teaching both in the Knowledge District and on College Hill.
A committee addressing an expansion of financial aid will also be formed. Much of the initial research on financial aid at the University is done, and it is just a matter of balancing financial aid with other priorities, Paxson said.
In addition to the School of Engineering, Brown Institute for Brain Science and the proposed school of public health, the University is looking to develop two or three more new major efforts, Schlissel said.
Committees for the new strategic planning process should be launched by October and complete plans by the end of spring semester. Most committees will include undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty representatives.
Another general focus of the new strategic planning committee will be re-evaluating and enhancing the 43-year-old New Curriculum and how it applies to the 21st century student, who increasingly seeks to split time between the traditional four-year degree and the real world, said Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron.
“It’s constrained by fundraising priorities and how we can actually make something work. It’s not going to be a clear cut, let’s-take-a-vote process,” Paxson said of the new initiatives.
Bergeron also updated the audience on the new initiative for online courses and addressed BUCC member concerns.
Anne Fausto-Sterling PhD’70, professor of biology, wondered if pressure on faculty to include innovative uses of technology in their courses would hurt junior professors because of the time the task would require. Several other committee members also expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the new online courses.
But Paxson said the University currently plans to proceed with the program on a limited basis and that ultimately the program will hopefully reduce teaching burdens and benefit students.
Schlissel said the University is still learning about the potential of online courses, adding that most peer institutions are in a similar position.