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  April 28, 2003

Chancellor Outlines Academic Plan To Trustees

The academic plan, still in draft form but expected to be finalized by September, will be the basis for raising the level of academic excellence and for budget reallocations, the sequencing of 21st Century UConn projects, and decisions on refilling vacancies resulting from faculty and staff retirements.

In an update presented to the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees April 15, Chancellor John D. Petersen said the plan is designed to make the University more competitive with a list of colleges UConn aspires to be like. These include the universities of California at Berkeley, Illinois, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

UConn's size as one of the smallest research land grant universities will be an issue, however, Petersen said. "We may not be able to be as excellent in as many areas as our list of aspirational peers, but we can be competitive in those areas that we choose to focus on."

The plan, which will be refined before another presentation to the trustees in May and a final vote in September, is based on a number of criteria, including the best use of existing assets, faculty and academic programs, tracking performance against that of other schools, emphasizing areas where UConn has a competitive advantage, and the University's obligations as a Land and Sea Grant institution.

Karla Fox, co-chair of the Task Force developing the plan and associate vice chancellor for University affairs, said UConn is unusual because it will soon have both a strategic plan and an academic plan. Few schools have academic plans, although many have strategic plans.

One of the goals of the plan is to identify significant new areas of future funding and to encourage synergies across academic units to foster multidisciplinary approaches.

The report cites as the University's peers Colorado State, Iowa State, Louisiana State, Rutgers, and the universities of Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, and West Virginia. These were identified according to test scores and class rank of undergraduate and graduate students, student/faculty ratios, research expenditures, and diversity of undergraduates.

"These are the institutions we compete with," Petersen said. "But we are unique in that we are both the Land Grant and the flagship state university. Most states have one Land Grant institution and one flagship institution."

The plan identifies six areas of emphasis:

  • Arts, culture, and society from a local to global perspective;
  • Environmental sustainability;
  • Health and human service systems;
  • Life sciences;
  • Innovations in science and technology; and
  • Undergraduate enrichment.

But the trustees said the categories are broad and suggested that the plan include both a list of specific programs to be emphasized and an explicit commitment to helping the economy and well-being of Connecticut.

"The plan must identify specific areas of excellence," said Denis Nayden, a trustee. "It must be a road map, and there have to be recognizable signposts along the way as signals to the administration, faculty, and students."

Richard Brown, co-chair of the task force developing the plan and a professor of history, said, "The economic well-being of the state is very much part of our enterprise and it is folded into everything we do. Our hope is that the plan will identify areas of emphasis and help us take advantage of the benefits of synergy. But the University is like a great ocean liner that must turn by degrees."

Specific goals in the plan include:

For undergraduates: moving the mean high school rank in class up 5 percent and the combined SAT score of entering students up 25 points over the next five years; improving retention rates; and helping students win prestigious national prizes such as Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Woodrow Wilson Scholarships and Fulbright awards, and tracking those awards;

For graduate students: improving scores on the Graduate Record Exam for entering students by five points over the next five years; doubling the number of training grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation to 30 by 2008; increasing the number of graduate students supported by NIH, NSF and other organizations to 50 within two years and 80 within five years; and winning and tracking prestigious awards;

For faculty: increasing diversity, productivity, and invention disclosures; and compiling data on prestigious national and international grants, fellowships, artistic commission, and prizes.

For the institution: increasing research expenditures by 10 percent annually for the next five years; increasing grants in size and improving the average number of awards through having the average faculty member submit at least one proposal annually to federal agencies and one to other funding sources; increasing externally funded postdoctoral fellowships; and elevating doctoral program rankings.

A number of specific recommendations are outlined to help the University achieve its goals, including improving student advising, and the possibility of providing a Senior Year Experience to assist in the transition to post-graduate studies or careers.

The plan also outlines priorities for 21st Century UConn and lists as the highest priority replacement of Torrey, Arjona, and Monteith Buildings.

The plan is available at

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