Middle States Report

Campus Mission & Planning Processes

Institutional Integrity

The climate at the University at Albany is very healthy, emphasizing honesty and openness as the University seeks to fulfill its mission. Clearly, the University conducts itself with institutional integrity. It provides clear information to its constituents about the goals, objectives, academic programs, plans, resources, strategic initiatives, and governance of the institution. It is clear that the University's goals and objectives are appropriate in the light of its mission and aspirations. The University takes pride in its traditions of strong institutional planning and broad based campus consultation involving faculty, staff, and administration.

It is significant that the last self-study and Middle States visit (1990) helped the University to begin to appreciate its strengths and the progress it had made during the 1980s. In fact, that self-study is viewed as a "moment of awakening," from which emerged the view that the University at Albany was deserving of major investment. Throughout the l990s, the University has enjoyed strong and stable leadership that has served the campus well. During this decade, positive working relationships between the faculty and administration, coupled with the administration's success in representing and advocating for the campus, have led to increased confidence by the campus in itself and subsequently to increased investment in the University. Substantial commitments made by the State for the renovation and expansion of the physical plant have strengthened the campus's view of itself as an institution with a bright future. The new Science Library, for example, symbolizes the University's phenomenal growth and progress reflecting particularly the high quality of the academic program. Moreover, the development of academic programs, a successful fundraising campaign, new scholarship programs that have attracted academically talented students, and such recent initiatives as Project Renaissance have all led to considerable excitement on the campus and a recognition that the University is a major force in New York and beyond. In addition the campus takes great pride in the findings of the national study on faculty productivity (Graham and Diamond) ranking it among the top 20 public institutions in the nation in terms of overall per-capita research productivity.

In recent years, the institution has engaged in extensive processes involving development of its mission statement, strategic planning, and facilities master planning. The University focused considerable attention on defining its character as a research university and on emphasizing areas of distinctiveness.

Mission Statement

Fundamentally, the University's mission is to serve as a comprehensive research university with graduate programs in the arts and sciences and the professions and a strong undergraduate liberal arts and sciences core. The University seeks to provide all students with a wide variety of educational opportunities including interdisciplinary experiences. The University at Albany serves as a regional center for higher education for New York's northeastern regional corridor and is an engine for both economic and social development in that region. Most important, the University promotes the interests of the State of New York by serving as a national center for research, education, and service.

Historically, the University at Albany has invested most substantially in the policy component of its mission, and relative to comparable research universities, it has not invested as much in the sciences broadly. In more recent years, the campus has moved to invest aggressively in science and technology, with special emphasis on atmospheric sciences, microelectronics, advanced materials, and the life sciences. Investments have come from both the State and Federal governments as well as from private sectors.

Since 1997, the University has been engaged in a mission review process, a System-wide academic planning effort initiated by the SUNY Board of Trustees focusing on the mission and critical goals of each campus. On the University at Albany campus, this review process has focused on the institution's research and academic programs, including analysis of the institution's focus on high-quality teaching, relations with industry, international programs, and campus life.

Master Planning & Strategic Planning Processes

Both of these processes have evolved in parallel. Each has involved broad representation from the University community through committees, public hearings, and use of the institution's governance structure. The development of a master plan was critical to the institution's future in the light of significant growth in the University's programs and enrollment. In spite of this growth over a Midyear period beginning in the 1960s, no new academic facility had been built since 1969. The master planning process was effective in producing consensus regarding goals, guidelines, and principles for facilities planning for the next decade. Proof of that effectiveness lies in the allocation by the Governor and Legislature of $120 million for the first phase of the plan. (It is also significant that the University is working with the larger community on related transportation and parking issues as a part of what is known as the Urban Corridor Study.)

The strategic planning process no doubt has been very helpful to the campus in preparing its Self-Study for the Middle States visit because the planning process focused on all aspects of the University. Out of this process emerged the campus's strategic plan, Charting the Future: Creating a New Learning Environment for the 21st Century, which reflects a balance between traditional strengths and new initiatives. It is significant that this process reflected a commitment to engaged learning, discovery, societal responsibility, innovation through technology, and distinctiveness. The process also identified strategic goals and initiatives related to the academic programs and to recruitment and retention of the best faculty and students. Significantly, the process includes strong linkages among planning, resource allocation, and assessment.

One strategic goal, involving extensive consultation with faculty, is the emphasis on distinctiveness, resulting in a decision to invest in selected areas. This decision is especially important in the light of the major loss of faculty positions in the 1990s. The campus administration works with colleges, schools, and departments to discuss programs to be enhanced and strategic investments, emphasizing interdisciplinary work tied to areas of focus, thus allowing for broad participation and inclusion (e.g., more joint faculty appointments). As the academic units engage in planning, budgets must be tied to performance measures with quantifiable benchmarks. The deployment of the strategic plan to the Vice Presidents and Deans is underway. They submitted their strategic plans to the Provost earlier this year, and the plans were evaluated based on their alignment with the goals articulated in Charting the Future. Several of the plans are now being revised in an iterative process.

The resource allocation process is visible and consistent. Budget decisions reflect a clear sense of purpose, and the vast majority of large resource commitments are made within the established process. The University Resources and Priorities Advisory Committee plays a constructive role in the review of the entire University budget and the recommended allocation of resources. Each unit's annual budget request is reviewed in the context of its plans, and the Vice Presidents give presentations to the Committee regarding decisions, directions, and the alignment of their goals with the campus's strategic plan. Faculty involvement with the Committee adds further to the collegial environment.

Discretionary resources are invested to advance institutional priorities, particularly through the movement of faculty lines in response to enrollment demand, core curriculum requirements, and areas of strength. The University has been successful in making difficult decisions about personnel, programs, and space and equipment allocation based on sound planning principles.

The Team recommends that the University continue to give serious attention to faculty hiring, recognizing that the quality of new faculty who are hired will have significant influence on the University's ability to build research capacity. At the same time, the University will need to provide appropriate resources to those departments responsible for meeting new General Education Requirements. As departments recruit new faculty, the Administration should continue to encourage them to identify strengths and weaknesses in order to be as strategic as possible in the hiring. Hard decisions will need to be made regarding those areas to be expanded and those that will not.

Most important, the institution understands that both the master planning and strategic planning processes should be ongoing. It has integrated academic planning, enrollment planning, capital planning, and staff-related Flaming. It also understands the need to continue to refine these processes and has developed considerable momentum as a result of its deliberate movement toward Carnegie-I Research status and its aspiration to become a member of the American Association of Universities. The University recognizes that the continued growth of the research enterprise will be contingent upon investment in faculty and related infrastructure, including support for graduate students. Moreover, the University should continue building on its recent success in connecting the University's research initiatives to the economic development of the State.

Finally, campus decision-makers currently have the capability to review simultaneously all academic departments. Similarly, it appears that the support units in the Finance and Business area have a process for program review. In order to take this process to the next level, the Team suggests the University consider developing the capability for reviewing both types of units—academic and support—in an integrated fashion.

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