This week our Provost, Tom Sullivan, sent a mass email message that bragged about the University's progress in reaching the goals of its strategic positioning initiative. (Madradprof wonders if this is his campaign speech for prez!?!) Based on reading this, one would never know that we are enduring hard times at the University of Minnesota and that may who work and study here are feeling rather glum. Cheer up, folks, we're doing GREAT! We have some new and improved buildings and are hitting our numbers on the strategic positioning initiative, so all must be well.
Click on the link for the table. Scrutinize it carefully. Note that the figures are from 2008 and 2009, not 2010. The table shows that total faculty positions are increasing, which we all know just ain't so, at least not in the parts of the University that teach most of our undergraduates. Note that there's no mention about things like student debt. Only two-thirds of our students graduate in 6 years (probably because they are working too many hours to avoid going deeper into debt). But perhaps most importantly, the obsession with numbers misses the most important thing--the quality of the education that our students receive. Why don't we think about that for a change instead of obsessing about our ranking?
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
Welcome to a new academic year, one filled with great possibilities and potential!
Despite financial challenges, our progress continues. Consider the new Class of 2014. Never has our freshman class been so academically strong, with so much promise, and with so many new opportunities to explore and discover. For the first time, the mean ACT exceeds 27, and for the first time our entering class will have the opportunity to learn in one of the nation's cutting-edge science and engineering classroom buildings, touted by a recent peer review team as "…preparing for what is emerging as the undergraduate pedagogy of the future,…designed for in-class active learning [that] is unique among large research universities." Next year will see the completion of the exciting and innovative renovation of our exceptional Weisman Art Museum. Together, these buildings frame the Mississippi River as a new gateway to the East Bank of campus. Each inspires us to advance our expectations and aspirations for ourselves and our University.
Other campus changes are less visible but equally compelling. We are engaging in a thorough review of the scope and scale of the University, reevaluating the budget model, exploring new ways of integrating e-learning into our courses and academic programs, implementing recent faculty/student recommendations to reshape and improve graduate education, developing new learning assessment programs, and aligning the health sciences along a new national model.
Perhaps the simplest way of capturing a snapshot of our recent successes is this table highlighting progress from the beginning of our strategic positioning effort through today.
As students, faculty, and staff, we are engaged together in making a difference, each in our own way, toward helping to understand and solve some of the world's most urgent and intractable problems. The stronger we are as a community, the stronger we will be as problem solvers and leaders. Yes, we will have to be even more financially prudent, even more agile, and even more creative in order to invest wisely, but given our mission and goal we simply must continue our intensity of purpose and resolve.
I'm reminded of the words of one of our University's pivotal leaders, John S. Pillsbury, as we continue to advance quality in difficult economic times. Pillsbury, who was instrumental in helping to guide our University through financial hardship in the 1860s, reminded us of the need to "Act; act now; act effectively; act for the greatest good." Wise words to consider as we seek to maintain our strategic positioning momentum.
To our new faculty, students, and staff, I welcome you to your new home. And welcome back to those who already have joined us on our exciting journey together.
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Julius E. Davis Chair in Law