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Trustees hear revised academic plan

After 18 months of planning, writing and revision, the University’s new academic plan is preparing to enter the final stage of its life — its implementation.

Details of that implementation were hinted at during Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, where the plan’s co-chairs presented key points of the document that will shape the next decade of the University’s academic and financial development.

Unlike the last academic plan, the latest version includes a provision for an implementation committee, suggesting that more of the initiatives outlined in the length document — 85 in all — will be brought to fruition than in the last plan.

“This is a very exciting plan,” Chancellor Holden Thorp told the trustees.

While many of the trustees heard the highlights of the plan for the first time — which include provisions urging guaranteed enrollment in a first year seminar, a fast-track bachelor’s to master’s degree program and increased faculty salary parity with peer institutions, among other points — the document presented Thursday morning largely mirrored the first public draft of the plan released last November.

Minor tweaks in language and content — some of which were garnered from an exhaustive series of meetings with campus academic officials, students and staff since November — have left the core message of the plan intact.

The last plan, completed in 2003 by former Chancellor James Moeser’s administration, had far-reaching effects on campus life.

Thorp reiterated the influence of that plan Thursday.

“In that plan, almost all of our most recent programs had a start,” Thorp said.

The Center for Faculty Excellence improved promotion and tenure track conditions for faculty and a new undergraduate curriculum — including the hugely-popular first year seminar program — all have origins in the first academic plan, Thorp said.

But, because implementation was voluntary and unregulated, many parts of that plan were left unfulfilled.

Sue Estroff, co-chairwoman of the Academic Plan’s steering committee, guided the trustees through the major elements of the new plan, with help from her co-chairman, Bill Andrews.

“It’s important to wonder how to hope and what to hope for,” Estroff said. “This is our plan for that.”

Characteristically irreverent and blunt, Estroff reminded trustees of the challenges facing the University as it looks to its next decade.

“I’m sure it’s a surprise to you to know that we’ve faced four years of decreased budgets,” she said. “We’re trying to protect the connections between faculty and students.”

Trustees were impressed by the scope and scale of the plan, although budgetary concerns were not absent from their congratulatory tone.

“As we look to implement this plan, we have to look to ways to connect the academic plan to the financial plan,” trustee Barbara Hyde told the plan’s co-chairs.

Andrews was quick to correct Hyde.

“I’d like to remind the board that there are very important recommendations that do not require immediate outlay of new money,” Andrews said.

“This is phase one,” Estroff said. “Everyone’s engaged in this plan, and I invite you to be a part of it.”

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