Engaged, Embedded, Evolving - A Report on Progress

February 1, 2007

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

In 1999 the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth began a process that engaged the faculty, staff, students and a wide variety of external stakeholders in the development of a strategic plan designed to drive the University forward to ambitious goals. The goals are aspirant and will ultimately result in a stronger and more responsive regional research university.

The plan called upon the University to optimize its intellectual engagement by creating and sustaining a climate that is active, engaged and excited about the work we do at every level; that envisions work being done in synergy and partnership within our region and Commonwealth; that honors our duty as stewards of "our place" but also pushes perspectives and impacts to be global; and responds to current and emerging trends. The process produced a plan entitled, "Engaged, Embedded, and Evolving."

While there was, and continues to be, healthy debate over the many details that shape the implementation strategies, there is clear internal and external consensus about the big things: that smart growth (in both size and depth) and focused high aspiration are the twin engines that drive success. I believe there is also strong consensus, both on campus and off, that UMass Dartmouth has made great progress thanks to our faculty and staff; strong support from the UMass system and Board of Trustees, our state legislative delegation and congressional delegation, and many public and private benefactors who value the powerful impact UMass Dartmouth has had on individual human beings, the region and the Commonwealth.

I believe the results of faculty, staff, student, and community dedication and imagination are clear and tangible: substantial growth in overall student population as well as residential student population while increasing standards and student performance; a responsive and expanded mix of high quality undergraduate and graduate programs; increased innovative research and scholarly activity supported by a dramatic increase in external funding; an ever-growing nucleus of intellectual and cultural activity; and powerful indicators of community and Commonwealth impact in K-12 education, economic development, environmental protection, public policy, the creative arts, and collaborative planning and problem-solving.

These accomplishments flow from the energy and determination of the whole community expressed in the strategic planning process and in daily work. We articulated a clear mission, a bold vision for growth, and six significant goals. I remind us here of these goals.

Our six strategic goals

  • The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is recognized for its excellent undergraduate and graduate programs that integrate innovative teaching/learning strategies and prepare students for advancement in the 21st century environment.
  • A community of respectful learners and scholars is established.
  • The intellectual capital of the faculty, staff and students is embedded in the activities of the region and the Commonwealth.
  • Student access and student diversity have been demonstrated during a period of enrollment growth.
  • An effective physical, technical, fiscal and human infrastructure is in place to support academic activities.
  • Planning is an on-going activity at the University.

Initially, more than 150 faculty and staff participated in nine active focus groups that generated a long list of important strategies and tactics to achieve our goals. This work, despite a myriad of complications, has informed the choices made over the last several years. I applaud the effort of these stalwart participants who took a chance that being a part of campus-wide planning would make a difference. They invested their energy and imagination in suggesting needs and possibilities. It did make a difference in very tangible ways.

Managing a shifting landscape

Much has changed since the internal and external campus community adopted these guideposts for action. The financial, cultural, global and political landscape has shifted simultaneously in many directions:

  • The Commonwealth experienced a major fiscal crisis that forced us to confront severe budget cuts and large numbers of early retirements in faculty and staff. The "buying power" of our state appropriation, when factors such as inflation are considered, remains far less than it was in 2000.
  • World events such as September 11 and global warming have renewed our sense of obligation to be more global and less insular.
  • The Massachusetts' population flattened while regional growth continued upward.
  • Changing federal research initiatives have created opportunities for us, but increasing competition required us to be more nimble, innovative, and aggressive in pursuit of those opportunities.
  • The Commonwealth has shown positive signs of restoring funding to public higher education but not without seeking to also increase standards of accountability.
  • The student demand for distance learning and technology-assisted learning, in a variety of forms, has rapidly increased as students of all ages seek ways to break through the geographical and temporal barriers to higher education.
  • There is a growing expectation that public campuses engage in more self-help by raising private support and entering partnerships with public and private institutions.
  • There is a growing external expectation, emerging faculty desire, and growing student demand for U.S. students to be more fully engaged in both service learning and international exchanges.

Moving from promise to pride

These contextual shifts affected our path but not our determination to reach our goals, and there is much evidence of significant accomplishment. We have much to take pride in and much to build upon.

  • We have attracted more than 130 new and outstanding tenure/tenure-track faculty members who are having a transformative impact on our intellectual community. Supported with a new faculty institute to help them get established, they walk in the footsteps of founding faculty who believed in their hearts and souls that Bradford Durfee Tech and New Bedford Tech, SMTI, SMU and the Swain School, and now UMass Dartmouth should and would transform the lives of the students who came here, and thus impact our region and Commonwealth in positive ways.
  • We have expanded our enrollment to more than 8,800 students and doubled the number of residential students. We are on-track toward 10,000 with more demanding standards and with greater diversity.
  • The School for Marine Science and Technology in New Bedford (SMAST) now has a privately funded endowed chair and a vibrant doctoral program with faculty that attract $10 million dollars in external funding every year. SMAST is responsible for the revitalization of the New Bedford fishing industry and the establishment of the Marine Fisheries Institute. It is developing a collaborative endeavor with UMass Boston, MIT and Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute to establish a marine science and technology corridor along the Massachusetts coastline that will become a new model for collaboration and inter-institutional innovation in ocean research and observation.
  • Through enhanced fundraising activity, we have attracted major private donors to support our Claire T. Carney library renovation and the building of our Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives space and special collections. These contributions will allow us to transform the intellectual heart of the campus as a vibrant 21st century center of learning and discovery.
  • The Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center in Fall River has been instrumental in jumpstarting development of 15 start-up companies, attracting bio-tech leader Avant Immunotherapeutics and medical software giant Meditech to the region; and providing first-rate services to local companies and effective research and internship opportunities for students and faculty across many disciplines.
  • The opening of the Star Store arts campus in downtown New Bedford gave our faculty and students the quality space they have always needed and deserved. The building and its programmatic activity and energy have inspired the redevelopment of many other downtown buildings, and through its gallery and creative programs greatly enlivened the downtown cultural community. Thousands of people visit the facility each year to participate in cultural activity.
  • Professional and continuing education centers in downtown Fall River and New Bedford have
  • expanded access to our programs with hundreds of students enrolled in programs ranging from citizenship education to MBAs to nursing to degree completion. The Fall River center partners with Bridgewater State College and Bristol Community College as a site not only for courses but for activities such as a children's film festival and an art gallery that enhances the city's culture and learning environment.
  • We completed the campus' first ever Facilities Master Plan in 2005 and opened a new Charlton College of Business building. We will open a 20,000 square foot research facility this spring, including an FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) laboratory. These new academic buildings coupled with our renovation of our classrooms, new technology infrastructure, and significant maintenance improvements will better align our physical infrastructure with our academic goals.
  • In K-12 schools, our Math Education Research Group is playing a leading role in modernizing strategies to teach math; we convene the SouthCoast Compact, a coalition of higher education, business and K-12 leaders devoted to raising education attainment levels in the region; our Center for University and School Partnerships and our faculty, staff and students are working with teachers throughout the region.
  • The newly named Materials and Textiles Department in our College of Engineering, born from our textile institute roots, is working at the intersection of biology and nanotechnology.
  • A new doctoral program in biomedical engineering is promoting new collaboration among departments, colleges and campuses.
  • Despite severe cuts in our state appropriation, we eliminated a significant operating budget deficit, and we are becoming more transparent and strategic about budget decision-making.
  • We continued to build on our work in the arts and humanities and celebrated the development of our Center for Portuguese Studies. We formed a new department, undergraduate and masters programs, as well as our Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives, and we have endowed a chair in Portuguese Studies . A doctoral program in Luso-Afro-Brazilian Studies is being developed.
  • Our College of Nursing attracted major donors to fund a Fellowship in Chronic Disease and has dramatically expanded its undergraduate and masters programs to meet demand and need in the region and the Commonwealth. Creative thinking has developed a new doctoral program to help us grow our own new faculty.
  • The Charlton College achieved ASCSB accreditation and has supported major outreach efforts in entrepreneurship, marketing and management.
  • We have developed a model program in the UMass system for integrating technology into instruction and for developing e-portfolios.
  • And, importantly, we have stayed true to our roots as a teaching institution through the development of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship (CATLS) and the New Faculty Institute.

These are major achievements, and there are many other important teaching, learning, research and service activities - big and small - that have transformed us and shaped us into the institution we are today. This brief list only reminds us of the powerful outcomes that are possible when we believe we can shape our future and when we collectively invest in making it happen.

Focusing on the future

As expected, there is still unfinished business. Several important items listed by the original strategic planning focus groups remain to be tackled. I am also reminded that our final strategic goal requires us to constantly renew our plan.

We know that a university's fundamental purpose - cultivating human potential - is ongoing. Emerging opportunities and challenges require us to act differently today and inspire us to imagine new pathways toward our enduring goals. Some of these pathways are evident:

  • UMass Dartmouth must constantly attract high-quality and diverse talent to our faculty, student body and staff by creating and sustaining teaching and research programs of high quality and distinction.
  • We must continuously challenge ourselves to build a diverse community that is inclusive of a broad spectrum of people and ideas.
  • We must engage in entrepreneurial initiatives that aggressively compete for non-state funds, including those from private philanthropic sources, foundations, corporations, and federal agencies.
  • We must design and build new bridges that balance the needs and aspirations of the community with those of the university.

With the assistance of the Education Alliance, a national higher education strategy consulting firm, we developed this progress report. It will remind the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth internal and external communities of our collective accomplishments and provide a platform for next steps. We now have a new starting point for intellectually re-engaging, for embedding

Renewing our commitment

I have asked Provost Anthony Garro to lead the next phase of this strategic planning effort during this academic year. Please join us in moving our growth agenda forward. Your expertise, passion, and energy will be most valued in this process. Going forward, we will continue to link goals to planned activity and resources, and we will annually report to the internal and external community on progress. We need to welcome new members of our community into this activity and to inject new thinking about our goals as we shape the pathways that we will travel in the coming years. I invite all of the community to participate in this dialogue.

            Yours sincerely,

            Jean F. MacCormack