Plan calls for UI to be world leader

Plan calls for UI to be world leader

URBANA — A strategic plan laying out a three-year course for the University of Illinois' flagship campus aims to position it as a world leader for decades to come through investments in the humanities, undergraduate education, international experiences and collaborative research with other institutions, among other initiatives.

The Strategic Plan for 2013-16 was released to the campus Wednesday, accompanied by a letter from Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Provost Ilesanmi Adesida.

The UI in its first 150 years "redefined the very idea of what a great public research university should be and do," their letter said. "We have the opportunity to set the course right now to be the pre-eminent university among great ones for the next 150 years and beyond. This plan represents the vision and the set of ambitious measurable actions that our faculty, staff, students and friends have proposed for the university over the next three years. These are the critical steps that will chart our course for decades to come."

Many of the initiatives were laid out in the "Visioning Future Excellence" report unveiled last month after a nearly two-year planning process. They include:

— Hiring 500 new faculty over the next five to seven years.

— Increasing scholarships to improve diversity.

— Revising general education to encourage more courses that cross departmental lines.

— Creating a faculty expertise database to help connect researchers with potential collaborators.

— Consolidating efforts to support teaching into a single campus office.

But the plan includes additional proposals and more details of how some of those efforts will be applied — as well as ways to measure the campus' progress on everything from fundraising to graduation rates.

In three years' time, for example, the campus hopes to increase the number of tenure-system faculty from 1,856 to 1,950; the percentage of those faculty from underrepresented groups from 10.9 to 12 percent; total research spending from about $584 million to $700 million; the amount of undergraduate scholarships and grants from $63 million to $70 million; and private donations from $143 million to $202 million.

"It doesn't help to set goals if there are no ways of measuring whether or not you've met them," Wise said, a point driven home by UI trustees in recent months as well.

The plan is organized around four goals: fostering "scholarship, discovery and innovation"; providing "transformative" learning experiences; making a significant impact on society; and managing current resources and generating additional money for strategic investments.

One plan is to increase funding for scholar support programs in the arts and humanities by 50 percent, soliciting more endowed faculty positions and scholarships.

"What Adi and I are discovering is that the humanities are an area that we have — I wouldn't say ignored, but certainly underemphasized over the last few years, in terms of investment and listening to their voices," Wise said. "We really want to make sure as a comprehensive university that we show some investment in these areas," while building on the UI's strengths in science and technology, she said.

Other initiatives include:

— Investing $70 million to renovate classrooms and equip them with "the latest modes of teaching."

— Building more international experiences into the undergraduate curriculum.

— Creating structures to integrate the large number of international students and faculty with domestic students.

— Exploring a new social-science research institute.

— Developing strong educational and research partnerships with leading universities and institutes, and establishing joint institutes.

— Ensuring that every undergraduate program includes an "integrative" learning experience, such as a capstone course, an internship, service learning, research or a study-abroad opportunity.

— Creating ongoing review processes for both academic and non-academic units.

— Developing an "enhanced" policy on indirect cost recovery — money from research grants used to cover overhead costs — that is "fair and transparent and encourages faculty to conduct interdisciplinary research."

— Creating a campuswide proposal development office to help land large, multidisciplinary grants.

— Doubling the campus' fundraising capacity as it prepares for its fourth comprehensive campaign.

— Increasing outreach to international alumni to boost financial support.

Wise said the "Visioning Future Excellence" process made it much easier to write the strategic plan, which was developed over just a few months. The six themes that grew out of the visioning process — economic development; education; energy and environment; health and wellness; information and technology; and social equality and cultural understanding — are the "pillars of what we are trying to do," she said.

Wise said planners haven't assigned a dollar amount to the plan but will work on that in coming months.

"Clearly, we need to be able to afford what we're outlining," she said.

Money saved through the "Stewarding Excellence" process — designed to focus campus resources on core areas — as well as recent early-retirement programs will help pay for the plan, said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

"The money was set aside with this in mind," she said.

Most strategic plans cover five to 10 years, Wise said, so the shorter three-year timeframe "really means we better think about this quickly and start doing it."

 “Our Shared Vision,” from the UI’s Strategic Plan 2013-16:

— We will be the best at what we do; this is a matter of excellence in achievement.

— We will have impact locally, nationally and globally through transformational learning experiences and groundbreaking scholarship.

— We will be recognized by our peers as leaders. We will be visible to the nation and to the world — this is the leadership expected from a world-class university with a land-grant mission.


— Foster scholarship, discovery and innovation

— Provide transformative learning experiences

— Make a significant and visible societal impact

— Steward current resources and generate additional resources for strategic investment

To read the full report, go to:


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Local Yocal wrote on August 15, 2013 at 8:08 am
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Ahh, my beloved alma mater. So rich, so powerful, so pretty. How I weep for thee year after year. As a few 20th century poets wrote:

"It might sound good, it might look like something, but f--- the game if it don't mean nothing."

The polite, good-intentioned Ms. Wise is no Nancy Cantor, (and damn if we have to go through all that "political correctness" again)...and this well-packaged list of promises and goals won't happen in this decade, if ever, if the culture of the U of I doesn't quit its wicked elitist, segregationist, destructive hypocrisy.

As long as, for example (to choose from so many examples), the law school professors believe the problem with allowing under-qualified applicants to any undergraduate program because the applicant's family of origin financially contribute to the university or political campaign of a favorable politician was simply a problem of The Chicago Tribune publicly exposing the practice,....then, how is such an [unConstitutional] attitude going to foster what's proposed here?

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find some money to donate for the much-needed $160 million dollar air-conditioning and sky boxes at The Insurance Company's basketball court where the half-naked black boys put the bally in the basket. Afterall, look what $160 million dollars of skyboxes did for the black boys getting the bally over the goal line!

Sancho Panza wrote on August 15, 2013 at 10:08 am

The previous comment has some good insight on the U of I’s main priority: bringing in money from donors.  He is right that this short term money grab related to bringing in students who are politically connected or those whose strengths are athletic instead of academic is probably not going to make the university better.  The details of the proposal related to bringing in students and faculty to meet shallow diversity quotas, based on diversity in appearance instead of diversity in ideas or backgrounds, are much in line with this status quo in that it may open access to specific grant money.  Instead, I believe the priority should be to recruit the most talented and industrious individuals to be professors and students. 

Lostinspace wrote on August 15, 2013 at 10:08 am

To become a world leader and increase awareness of cultural diversity, start by downgrading foreign language study.  Oh, wait, we already did that.

asparagus wrote on August 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

They should use the money to develop definitive tests for malignant narcissists and sociopaths.  Then apply this test to all managers, administrators and faculty at the U of I.  Fire those that show positive with records of abuse and send the rest to therapy and/or specialized ethics training with follow on supervision.

That should significantly increase the excellence of the U of I.

Oh, and enough already with the PC babble crap about diversity.  You're making my ears bleed.



Danno wrote on August 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm

500 faculty over the next 5-7 yrs does not seem to match the 3 yr Strategic Plan. Aside from a few examples stated above, there are no metrics to measure the other subjective 'Goals.' Can't be terminated 'cause...can't prove failure. Looks more like a Middle Schoolers' goals.

vcponsardin wrote on August 16, 2013 at 12:08 am

Just the usual administrator blather we've come to expect.  Lots of empty, unoriginal rhetoric about aiming to be a "world leader."  Nonsense.  The only way to become a genuine world leader is to put your money where your empty rhetoric is.  You can't improve the quality of the faculty with adminstrator rhetoric.  Top facutly require top pay.  Do it.

Local Yocal wrote on August 16, 2013 at 4:08 am
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Memory is limited among us. The U of I just endured over 500 early retirements and then-President White was hailed for "cutting costs" by unloading so much tenured faculty. Now the U of I needs 500 more faculty. Hmmm. Where's the savings going to come from? Aside from the fact that just about every position will have over 200 applicants competing from across the country and world, the U of I illuminati will be able to force the new hires to A) toe the 4th Reich party line, and B) accept what a "tight" budget in a "bad economy" has to offer.

Rumor has it that part of what the new hires will be required to accept is very little department staff to assist. The U of I, never the one to love labor and their damn unions, has been weeding out support staff and double-upping the duties of those left in terror of losing their jobs. Empty rhetoric indeed.

Worst-case scenario: Only the stars doing research that satisfy the future imaginations of the military and surveillance industries will be adequately compensated for their talent.

The "real" problem, of course, is keeping all of this quiet. Looky over there! See what a great touchdown pass that was?