Middle States Report

Institutional Change, Renewal & Addressing the 21st Century

Institutional Momentum

One of the prevalent themes during the Team's interviews has been the University's momentum involving change. There is a sense of excitement and a feeling that "we're moving now." There is evidence that assessment data are used to alter programs to improve student outcomes and to make institutional improvements.

The former Vice President for Finance and Business worked to instill a customer service approach, and this was reinforced by then-Vice President for Academic Affairs Karen Hitchcock The "informed environment" that has been created at the University at Albany has given decision makers a sense of where change is needed. This has resulted in the creation of Project Renaissance, the Presidential Scholars Program, the emphasis on extended learning, the College Scholars Program, the Doctoral Program Review, and the focus on outcomes assessment. Moreover, the intellectual climate has been enhanced by strategically hiring new faculty in key areas central to the University's mission.

Momentum for change and renewal has been achieved, and results are evident in such areas of cost savings, stakeholder satisfaction, and innovation. Momentum could be extended by gathering process performance data and undertaking subsequent process improvement where appropriate. Such process improvement, in turn, would inform and support the systems implementation currently underway.

Fundraising & University Advancement

It was not until the early 1980s that the State of New York permitted its public universities to engage in private fundraising. The University's first Vice President for Advancement was hired at the end of the 1980s, and it was at this time that the institution's major fundraising activities began. In fact, almost all of the major fundraising initiatives have occurred in the 1990s, including the first million-dollar gifts and the first capital campaign, which successfully reached its $55-million goal (the largest among the State's public universities). Clearly, the growing emphasis on science and technology and the development of recent industrial partnerships have been instrumental in building a stronger institutional image and positive momentum. Further, the hiring of new Deans (with the expectation that they would also be involved in fundraising) and the recent fundraising successes have led to a more entrepreneurial climate on campus.

As mentioned earlier, the campus is fortunate to have created CESTM—its first public/private initiative focused on scientific research and technology development, which is symbolic of the University's progress in attracting external resources based on its research expertise and growing entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit also recently contributed to a Kresge grant which the campus leveraged into a total of $3.8 million in new resources for the library.

During the 1990s, the campus enjoyed growing success in its external fundraising. Notwithstanding these successes, including a solid program geared toward alumni, faculty, staff, and alumni, the University still faces the challenge of changing the public perception about philanthropy for public universities. The campus, therefore, is to be commended for recent investments in this area and for using outside consultants (Marts & Lundy) to prepare for the next campaign, including developing a major-gifts program. The University should be using these consultants to determine the level of additional funding to ensure the appropriate size of both its development staff and operating budget. The University should continue supporting key faculty and administrators by providing fundraising-related staff development opportunities designed to increase the fundraising capacity of the campus.

The University also should focus some attention on identifying ways of encouraging greater participation and higher levels of giving by various constituencies, e.g., faculty, staff, the Foundation Board of Directors. The President and others are in a much better position to attract outside gifts when they can talk about a demonstrated record of giving on the campus. The campus's enhanced image as a national research university should prove to be particularly valuable in this next campaign.

In the Team's judgment, the progress made in advancing the University's reputation regionally and nationally reflects a number of substantive developments and achievements on the campus. The University at Albany has made extraordinary progress in becoming a nationally recognized research university and is well positioned to achieve its ambitious goals.

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