What is the University’s current academic state, and why do you think it is critical that we have a plan in place for the future?


The academic state of the University is very good. Budgetwise, we’re on solid ground, although that wasn’t the case a decade ago. Academically, we continue to be blessed with many programs that are among the strongest in the nation. But we have others that could ascend to that rank, and more that lag behind. Because the University went through restructuring almost a decade ago, it’s a much more robust institution now, more student-centered. For the first time in a decade, we have a little bit of money to spend, and the question is, how are we going to spend it for the maximum benefit of the entire University community? And what can we do to advance SU’s reputation by investing in academic programs?

In developing the plan, you sought input in various ways, including town meetings, online surveys, and direct e-mail. Why was it so important to reach every constituency of the University community?

No one person or small committee can have all the best ideas and perspectives. People in our University community are rich with great ideas and with experiences that, when brought together, can create a very positive potion and move us forward.

How did you determine the priorities identified in the plan?


Going into this, I wondered how I might make sense of all these great possibilities. In listening to the feedback, we found a chorus of similar responses. The themes that ended up in the plan were ones we heard over and over again. The community spoke, and we listened.

Let’s focus on the specific initiatives you’ve identified. The initiative to ensure greater faculty success, for example, calls for the University to strengthen its sponsored research profile, aggressively recruit and retain the best research and teaching faculty, create a new rank to facilitate continued teaching excellence, and reward the teaching excellence of part-time faculty. How do you see these strategies being implemented?

The ways you raise your sponsored research profile have everything to do with the kinds of expectations you place on faculty, the resources you provide them to do research, the ways you engage graduate and undergraduate students in research, and your ability to help faculty write grant proposals to private foundations, the federal government, and other funding sources. The faculty have encouraged me to provide more incentives in the form of indirect cost recovery—returning the fraction of the budget for indirect costs to the department, dean, investigator, or some combination thereof. Universities that have tried this generally find that their sponsored research increases.
      Recruiting and retaining the best faculty is a matter of having enough money to do it and the ability to say: “We love you and we value you, and you figure in our plans.” Faculty want to know that they have an important role in the community and that their teaching, scholarship, and colleagueship are valued and noticed. Resources are important. We are a great research university, but in comparison to our peers, we’re poor. We don’t pay faculty top dollar. Until the Board of Trustees helped me establish the Trustee Professorship program, we had absolutely no ability to match or come close to the offers of Ivy League institutions that wanted our faculty. We simply must have more endowed chairs here.
      I have also called for the establishment of the rank of Professor of Practice. This must be for very well-known individuals from industry, secondary or primary education, and communications—people at the top of their professions—who for a period of time want to try teaching before they go on to another career position. They will bring practical experience, and will help our students work on the theories they’ve already learned and put them into context. This is a way to bring in people who are internationally known for what they have done, as is the case with some of our current faculty.
      Part-time faculty are part of the fabric of any great research university. We have a large cadre of such individuals who teach in almost every SU school or college. They are very loyal, they love SU, and they are talented beyond belief. Unfortunately, they have not been paid well in the past. We need to send them a signal that they matter.

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