Building an Expectation of Excellence
A MESSAGE FROM THE PROVOST
The Mission of the State University, reaffirmed by the Board of Trustees in Rethinking SUNY, is to provide the people of New York with “educational services of the highest quality, with the broadest possible access, fully representative of all segments of the population in a complete range of academic, professional, and vocational post-secondary programs...”
Now, more than ever before, public higher education institutions must demonstrate their effectiveness in objective terms and do so in the context of appropriate benchmarks and peer comparisons. From national accrediting bodies and government agencies to bond raters and potential students, there are clear mandates to provide evidence of institutional quality.
SUNY has an ongoing commitment to realize the full potential of its diverse campuses and its comprehensiveness as a system. The first cycle of
Before I describe what lies ahead, let’s briefly take stock of where we are today.
During the first cycle of Mission Review, campuses identified specific institutional goals for higher admissions standards, academic program excellence, enhanced student outcomes (e.g., improved graduation and retention rates), and increased faculty research. Commitments were also made in the areas of assessment, teacher education, participation in the University’s library integration initiative (SUNYConnect), and expanded online learning offerings, especially through the SUNY Learning Network.
Following the first cycle of
Overall, survey respondents felt the goals/objectives set out for
Critically important feedback from the University community has been incorporated into
Key principles upon which Mission Review rests, derived from the
I enthusiastically reaffirm the principles underlying Mission Review and am more certain than ever that this is an academic strategic planning process that continues to provide a useful framework for assuring SUNY’s place in the front ranks of American public higher education.
On the pages that follow you will find a brief description of the Principles and Purpose of
PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES OF
Mission Review is intended to encourage campus responsibility for higher levels of distinctiveness, performance, efficiency, and System-wide collaboration. It is premised on the following principles:
Ø Building on current levels of success and achievement, all campuses will aspire to perform at even higher levels and to enhance the quality of all programs within their unique mission envelopes.
Ø Consistent with a required degree of comprehensiveness, each campus will identify, develop, and hone a distinctive mission. In their totality, SUNY campuses should complement each other and cooperate in sharing the resources of the State University System.
Ø Campuses will have in place robust budgeting and financial management policies and practices to ensure that they fulfill their missions efficiently and cost-effectively.
Ø All campuses share three key objectives: to advance student learning by offering an academically rigorous program of instruction; to support an outstanding faculty in their instruction and scholarship; and to provide public service to the citizens of New York State.
We must look to the challenges of the future and shape our University accordingly. Mission Review continues to be a vehicle for forward-looking change. It provides a way to help identify where the System needs to develop new programs and services, and invest additional resources.
THE UNIVERSITY’S STRATEGIC ACADEMIC AGENDA – A CONTEXT FOR
Mission Review is focused on meeting the academic goals of the Board of Trustees’ policy, Rethinking SUNY, thereby ensuring that the
Campus role and distinctiveness
As noted during the first cycle of Mission Review, the sheer scope and comprehensiveness of the
Each campus has a unique role within the University, encompassing both distinctive features that complement other campuses, and common features that ensure necessary breadth, quality, and access. As the nation’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education, we have an unparalleled opportunity to generate efficiencies while nurturing campus distinctiveness and excellence. In Mission Review II, we will endeavor to identify the unique programmatic strengths of each SUNY campus while exploring potential synergies—especially regionally, but also statewide—such as joint programs, shared faculty, facilities, and equipment, that can yield enriched academic environments for students and faculty alike.
Gauging institutional quality and effectiveness necessitates looking beyond SUNY, to measure our progress against broader goals and our national peers. In Mission Review II, we will work with campuses to generate robust sets of current and aspirational peers—ones that share common characteristics (e.g., mission, program mix, etc.) and are clearly useful for benchmarking purposes.
In addition to providing academic programs of the highest quality, each campus has a significant impact on the economy—locally, regionally, statewide, and beyond. In the aggregate, the economic impact of SUNY is enormous. In many areas of the state, the
Plans for strengthening the quality and diversity of the student body
In addition to enhancing the quality and diversity of the student body, it is essential that SUNY campuses manage enrollment with the same level of sophistication found at the best colleges and universities across the country. Many campuses have made significant investments in the area of enrollment management, and Mission Review II will explore plans and priorities to develop this expertise further.
Based on demographic trends, increases in the college-going rate, and growing need for baccalaureate and advanced degrees, there is likely to be greater demand for public higher education in
Plans for strengthening the quality, diversity, and reputation of faculty
During the first cycle of Mission Review, a system-wide goal was set to reach one billion dollars in sponsored activity per year. With over $770 million in annual expenditures as of June 2003, we are well on our way to reaching that goal. A new goal will be articulated in Mission Review II, consistent with campus missions and aggregate plans, to increase research and other sponsored activity beyond the one-billion-dollar mark.
Campus goals for faculty productivity, including research and scholarship, will be set in the context of national peer performance; plans to support those goals—with adequate infrastructure, resources, and facilities—will also be discussed. Implications for
Plans for strengthening the quality and reputation of academic programs
The University is committed to offering academic programs of the highest quality. Campuses will be encouraged to focus on their strengths, and sharpen and build on institutional differentiation in setting academic program direction, including development of new programs, revision of existing programs, and elimination of outdated/moribund programs. At the same time, Mission Review and the University’s program review policies and procedures—which focus on
The University will increase the proportion of programs that are nationally recognized and, wherever applicable, ensure programs are nationally accredited. This serves to strengthen the reputation of individual campuses and the University as a whole. In addition to developing excellent and accredited programs, we have an obligation to develop programs in areas important to
The State University of New York has emerged as a national leader in technology-mediated learning, with dramatic growth in student and faculty participation, and numbers of courses and programs offered online. We will continue to work with campuses to strengthen technology-based learning environments, including online course delivery, and ensure that SUNY faculty can access the full range of instructional tools to deliver excellent instruction. Online learning also holds enormous potential for facilitating synergistic, inter-campus academic collaboration in teaching and research, which the University is only just beginning to explore. Importantly, we want to support campus efforts without unnecessarily duplicating infrastructure, and we look forward to dialogue with campuses to identify where System’s role is most value-added.
Assessment is another important factor in ensuring academic quality. During the first round of Mission Review, all campuses made commitments to ongoing, systematic assessment. As a University, we have come a long way these past few years with the progress that has been made in campus-based assessment of both General Education and the Major. A System-wide project now underway involving all 15 campuses with teacher education programs, supported by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), illustrates the efficacy of inter-institutional collaboration on assessment within an academic discipline. In Mission Review II, campuses will describe how assessment results are being used to improve program quality, teaching effectiveness, and student learning, and share plans going forward.
Similarly, during the first cycle of Mission Review, campuses made commitments to participate in the SUNY-wide library initiative, SUNYConnect. By 2005, all campuses will be operating a common library management system, providing every student and every faculty member on every campus full access to SUNY’s entire holdings (over 18 million volumes). In Mission Review II, we will continue to explore opportunities to increase access to library resources and generate long-term cost savings through mechanisms such as unified subscriptions to electronic databases and regional storage facilities. This is one of many areas where we can leverage SUNY’s size, and achieve substantial savings through joint purchasing, group purchasing, and shared licensing.
Plans for enhancing student outcomes/success
SUNY is committed to a culture of accountability and continuous improvement, with particular concern for student outcomes. Success can be measured in terms of strong retention rates and timely graduation, pass rates on licensing and certification examinations, and postgraduate success in attaining a job, transferring, and/or pursuing an advanced degree. During the first cycle of Mission Review, campuses set three- and five-year goals for retention and graduation. In Mission Review II, campuses will be asked to update those goals and continue their commitments to enhance student success, and we will benchmark student outcome data against appropriate peer institutions.
Successful student outcomes depend on a number of factors, including the quality of instruction, students, and faculty, and the quality and availability of student support services and co-curricular experiences. During Mission Review II, we will try to better understand the link between support services and student success at each campus and facilitate sharing of best practices where appropriate. National and system-wide surveys may be particularly useful in understanding this relationship.
Successful transfer is another important student outcome, one that received a lot of attention during the first round of Mission Review. As a result of those discussions, the SUNY transfer initiative was launched and a SUNY Transfer Action Plan developed. The largest transfer initiative—the Teacher Education Transfer Template project—which aims for full participation of all associate degree-granting colleges and all senior institutions with undergraduate teacher education programs is nearing full implementation in spring 2004. We continue to seek ways to encourage the best possible communication between associate and baccalaureate institutions, with strong articulation and seamless transfer the desired product. Many campuses have worked particularly hard over the last two or three years to strengthen articulation agreements and, more generally, communication with sister SUNY campuses. The work that has been done to date is truly commendable. Still, the University needs to continue to enhance campus-to-campus relationships and ensure that students wishing to transfer receive the best possible advisement and are well prepared for academic work at the next (i.e., receiving) institution.
We also want to work with campuses to determine post-graduate success; to measure it, keep track of it, and benchmark it. In Mission Review II we will try to identify best practices for gauging this as well.
Plans for ensuring technology infrastructure supports academic quality
It is essential for the
Technology planning and investment is another area where cross-campus collaboration can be particularly effective in maximizing resources. During Mission Review II, we will explore opportunities to expand such collaborative activity.
Plans for ensuring facilities support academic quality
Many campuses, while properly planned and developed for the era in which they were built, are now in need of major rehabilitation and renovation in order to reflect current advances in technology and to support new and evolving directions in academic programs, research, and student life. Successful attention to and transformation of campus facilities is essential. To ensure that every campus is positioned to achieve such transformation and that all campuses effectively maintain and improve the University’s vast infrastructure—the extent of which rivals the core facilities found in a small city—each campus must develop and implement new facilities plans, fully integrated with the campus’ overall mission objectives. These should include a carefully constructed campus design concept plan and a long-range plan for facility rehabilitation, improvement, and development.
Each set of plans will be as unique and varied as the legacy of SUNY’s individual campuses, which range from historic and landmark structures like the Maritime College’s Fort Schuyler campus and Westchester’s Hartford Hall to building complexes designed by contemporary world-class architects, such as those found at Fredonia, Purchase, and the University at Albany. Many campuses have already seen extraordinary transformations—the beautifully landscaped and aesthetically pleasing Academic Mall at Stony Brook is a classic example. Other examples include the renovation of historic Weiskotten Hall at Upstate Medical Center (the original medical school building at the campus); the major rehabilitation of Cornell’s Mann Library, including significant technological upgrades, and its new Veterinary Science building—part of the largest veterinary college complex in the country; and Jamestown’s creation of an entire branch campus complex in downtown Olean, successfully renewing the business district of that small city and providing a positive economic impact on the community as a whole.
In Mission Review II, we will look for consistency between academic plans and priorities and facilities planning. In addition to academic, clinical, and residential facilities plans, we will explore plans for developing and equipping research facilities, essential to attracting federal funding. As we explore these areas, the implications for University policy and procedures that put SUNY in the strongest position possible for attracting competitive funding are likely to emerge.
Plans for administrative structure and resource support to ensure academic quality
The University must distribute its resources efficiently and effectively; and its resource allocation must be closely linked to and supportive of campus mission, with appropriate performance measures defined and applied. The University’s budget allocation process is currently under review to determine how to best support the academic priorities of the University. A continued commitment to develop a resource allocation model that encourages excellence and rewards quality is essential to SUNY’s and, therefore,
As mentioned previously, in Mission Review II we will show that dollars invested in SUNY bring significant returns to the state—in terms of jobs, a better educated population, reduced crime, cultural enrichment, inventions, external research support, population growth (especially with rising out-of-state enrollment)—and beyond. But while SUNY demonstrates its value to stakeholders, the economic reality in which it operates must be faced, and the University must do all that it can to maximize available resources. Taking advantage of the size and strength of the system wherever possible—through joint purchasing agreements, shared facilities, and other forms of collaboration—is essential and must be explored fully.
Effective use of data is another way in which the University can maximize its resources. A goal of Mission Review II will be to ensure that timely and accurate institutional data is available to support decision-making, at both the campus and system level.
Clear delineation of responsibility—between System Administration and campuses and among campuses themselves—is an essential step to maximizing effectiveness and leveraging the size and strength of the University. While Rethinking SUNY and the tradition of the
As an outgrowth of the University’s commitment to service, all campuses endeavor to build strong and productive partnerships with their communities, to the benefit of students, faculty, and programs. SUNY campuses make significant contributions to the communities they serve—as cultural centers where art, theater, athletic and other such activities occur regularly; as educational centers where credit and noncredit instruction, and continuing education is offered; and in public service, where faculty, staff, and students share knowledge and expertise. In turn, local support is vital to institutional success and academic quality. In Mission Review II, we will expand the description of these activities. To the extent that service and other contributions can be quantified, for example, by describing the economic impact of the campus and/or University, we must capture that data and clearly demonstrate the value of such contributions.
Rankings in higher education are ubiquitous and there can be no question that stakeholders—students, parents, legislators, donors, funding agencies, and others—refer to them when making important decisions. Working collaboratively with campuses, we will establish an analytical framework to benchmark SUNY institutions relative to national current and aspirational peers. These analyses will enable campuses to determine the likely impact of qualitative improvements on national standing and will also help inform campus-based discussions on academic priorities, faculty recruitment, and areas for strategic investment. The result will be enhanced institutional reputation, appropriate recognition of quality, and heightened prominence for the
As in the first cycle of