In its first meeting under President Christina Paxson, the Corporation reviewed the University's strategic planning process and heard updates about ongoing initiatives, including the formation of a school of public health. Paxson also arranged the formation of new committees to address campus master planning and digital technology.
Master planning and digital technology groups
Paxson identified master planning and digital technology as two subjects that "cut across" established committees on the Corporation, she told The Herald, noting that campus planning falls under the jurisdiction of not only the Facilities and Design Committee on the Corporation but also the domains of academic priorities, student life and University budgeting.
The newly formed master planning group will be the alum and Corporation counterpart to the existing faculty, administrator and student committee on planning, Paxson said. The exact structure, size and members of the groups will be decided in the next few weeks, she said.
The University has hired Sasaki Associates, a Boston planning and design firm, to assess how to integrate academic needs into physical planning projects, Paxson said. Sasaki's emphasis on data analysis appealed to the University, Paxson said, adding that the firm is developing an app to gather further data on people's movements and connections across campus. The app will likely launch by the end of the semester, she said.
The digital technology group will conduct site visits to other universities that make particularly good use of digital technology to learn about their approaches, she said, noting that digital technology constitutes everything from the programs needed for online education to the social media tools necessary to keep alums connected to campus.
"There's a lot of learning that's going to have to happen" for members of both committees, Paxson said. Campus planning involves everything from the physical layout of the campus to budgetary matters, so members of the committee will have a lot to catch up on, she said. Most people have one specific area of expertise in digital technology, and members will have to diversify their knowledge, she said.
Strategic planning and initiatives
Aside from the formation of the committees, the Corporation primarily heard updates on the University's stage of planning.
"I think partly because the Corporation weekend coincided with the inauguration, the Corporation meeting itself was ... subordinate to the inaugural events that were planned," said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P'12.
In an email to the community Oct. 27, Paxson encouraged community members to take part in the University's upcoming planning process.
Earlier this month, the University announced the formation of six committees to explore topics of faculty retention, infrastructure, financial aid, curricular innovation, online education and doctoral education. The strategic planning website will be updated regularly, and each committee's page has a space for community feedback, said Provost Mark Schlissel P'15.
"In the longer term, each committee will be doing outreach to student focus groups, and we'll have some student forums," he said, adding that he is working directly with the Undergraduate Council of Students to solicit input.
The Corporation also discussed "resource needs" of the expanding faculty, according to the email, but no specific recommendations were made, McLaughlin said.
The size of the faculty grew by around 20 percent under the Plan for Academic Enrichment, Schlissel said, "but the resources available ... did not grow in proportion." The planning committees will need to determine the resources the faculty needs, prioritize goals and cultivate those resources in the upcoming years, he said.
"We have to create the right kinds of physical spaces to be adaptable to new kinds of teaching," he said. If class sizes trend towards smaller seminars, classrooms will need to allow for more intimate discussion, he said.
Diversity and internationalization are "essential to every aspect of strategic planning," Paxson wrote in Saturday's email.
These two issues can be readily integrated into conversations about research, education and facilities, she said.
"Sometimes by singling it out as its own thing, it becomes kind of isolated and segmented from the planning process," she added, noting that the Plan for Academic Enrichment included diversity and internationalization as individual goals. Paxson identified diversifying the faculty as something the University could have done better in the past.
The Corporation heard an update on ongoing renovations to campus facilities, according to Paxson's email.
Anonymous parents donated $5 million to Residential Life for dormitories, according to the email. The funds will go towards the $56 million goal for funds towards ResLife improvements set last year, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services.
Klawunn added that the Corporation is supportive of the proposal to offer gender-neutral housing options for first-year students and that she believes it will be implemented next fall.
The Corporation also discussed the School of Engineering and its physical expansion efforts, Schlissel said.
"Clearly, engineering is one of the priority initiatives that has a significant space component and a facilities component attached to it, but there's no approved project underway because we just haven't gotten there yet," said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president.
The Corporation heard specifics about a plan for the proposed school of public health to report to the provost.
Terrie Wetle, associate dean of public health and public policy, told the Corporation last May that the proposed school would report to the provost. The proposal for the school is scheduled to be voted on by faculty members at the Nov. 6 faculty meeting. If approved, it will go to the provost and president for approval and then to the Corporation for the final vote in February.
The Corporation approved $24.5 million in gifts this weekend, as well as a statue to be installed between Waterman and Angell streets next month, according to the email.
"It's a pretty impressive expression of support for the president and for the agenda that she's set out, even though it's in some ways an interim agenda waiting for the larger comp
rehensive plan," Spies said. The University received over $30 million in gifts last fall.
A lot of the gifts received this weekend speak directly to the eight fundraising priorities continuing from former President Ruth Simmons' administration, Paxson said.
The University aims to raise around $500 million towards these eight priorities, which include financial aid, athletics and renovations on Hunter Laboratory and residency halls.
"We have at this moment just under $100 million dollars in gifts and pledges toward those eight goals," Spies said. "More than half of that has actually come since the last Corporation meeting" in May, he said.
The Athletics Initiative received a $2 million donation from the initiative's co-chair and Corporation Trustee Kevin Mundt '76 P'11 and Jayne Mundt P'11. These donations come after the University reviewed its athletic program in 2011 in light of school-wide budget constraints. The Corporation ultimately approved several measures affecting the athletics department last October, including cuts in the number of admission spots per team, a fundraising effort to improve facilities and an increase in coaches' salaries to make them more competitive with those at peer schools.
"People recognized in that review that athletics is an important part of the campus community and that there were areas of athletics that needed to be financially supported," said Athletic Director Jack Hayes.
An anonymous gift of $5 million was donated to the Department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies and the Brown/Trinity Master of Fine Arts programs in Acting and Directing.
The University also received sculptor Tom Friedman's "Circle Dance" from an anonymous donor. The sculpture will likely be placed somewhere on the Walk between Waterman and Angell streets. Having the sculpture on campus will be "a way of reminding us all of the place of art and our collective humanity," Spies said.
- With additional reporting by Shefali Luthra
Clarification Appended: An article in Monday's Herald ("Corp. approves planning groups," Oct. 29) stated that a proposed school of public health would report to the Corporation instead of to the dean of biological and medical sciences. In fact, the school would ultimately report to the Corporation under any governing structure. Instead of directly reporting to the dean of biological and medical sciences, the proposed school would directly report to the provost and then to the Corporation.