With the help of your Senate leaders and the Senate Executive Committee, the past year has been a successful one in many respects.
In research, the number and variety of significant contributions by Penn faculty continues to grow, and increasingly, to receive the recognition many of our colleagues and their achievements richly deserve. In undergraduate education, planning for the 21st Century Undergraduate Experience is moving forward under the direction of Provost Chodorow and the four undergraduate deans. Many of you are actively involved in that effort, and we are grateful for your time, involvement and perspective. Pilot implementation of some programs will begin next year.
Likewise, in administrative restructuring, in admissions, in alumni and donor relations, and in the well deserved positive recognition of Penn--of you--we have made strong progress this year.
When I first addressed you a year ago, I said that a critical part of my role as president is to focus attention on the most important academic and educational issues that we confront. One of the most important priorities to which I have been pointing throughout this year is the need for Penn, both as a whole and in its individual schools and administrative units, to make some hard strategic choices that will largely determine our future well into the next century. I know that every strategic planning process has its critics--either because past experience indicates that such processes do not matter very much or because the choices they impose are sometimes difficult.
But strategic planning that will make a difference must make differences, must have tangible and measurable outcomes. That is the message I have been trying to convey as I have met this year with faculty from many of our schools and departments and in my public comments on the Agenda for Excellence.
As you know, I believe that the competitive climate in which Penn will operate in the remainder of this decade and in the next century will continue to tighten. It will tighten in the competition for the best faculty, for the best students, for the best research facilities, for public and professional recognition of excellence and leadership--and it will tighten in the competition for the resources needed to make us the best.
This tightening is the result of some fundamental and very long-term changes in the environment in which we operate...among [them] the downturn in postwar prosperity, the end of the cold war, the achievement of globalization, the explosion of technology, and the productivity of basic science.
These forces have produced major changes for all of higher education. Among those changes are the expansion of our constituencies, the increased complexity of our communications, the tightening constraint of financial resources, and the technological transformation of teaching and learning.
To summarize these impacts much too superficially:
Knowledge is exploding, yet, the government infrastructure and financial support on which its growth was based are eroding. The public has come to doubt--or reject--higher education's promise of more satisfying lives, more and better jobs, a richer and more sophisticated culture. Parents, prospective students, and government officials wonder if the cost of the educations we provide are worth the price. And colleges and universities are no longer the only--or even the major--producers of new ideas.
Taken together, these changes and their impact on Penn and all of American higher education have created a "hyper-competitive" environment in which success as an institution will become harder, not easier, in the years ahead.
Unfortunately, we have no choice about whether to compete in this new and highly challenging environment. Quite literally, our ability to be who we are, to do what we entered academic life to do, and to be Penn, are all at stake.
Fortunately, I believe Penn is well positioned to not only succeed, but truly, to thrive in such an environment. As the strategic planning process moves to completion this spring and next fall, I believe we will see an outline of Penn's future emerge that will generate enthusiastic support from the vast majority of our colleagues and Penn's students, alumni, and financial supporters.
A crucial step in that process is the completion this week of strategic plans for each of our major administrative units. Initially, these will be reviewed by Executive Vice President John Fry, Provost Chodorow, and me, and I will be meeting individually with each of the administrative officers to discuss them. Then, a month from now, each of the schools is due to submit its new or revised strategic plan, building on the framework established in the Agenda for Excellence published last fall. Each of the school plans will reflect the participation of the individual faculties in their schools' internal planning processes. All of the school plans will be analyzed and integrated this summer by the deans, the Provosts and me and the ideas will be synthesized with the original Agenda for Excellence to form a full-scale University strategic plan. The draft plan will then be reviewed by the Academic Planning and Budget Committee at the start of the Fall semester, presented to the Faculty Senate, published as a whole or in summary form in Almanac, and presented to the Trustees for final approval at their October meeting.
Let me close by thanking each of you for your participation in this process.
Volume 42 Number 29
April 23, 1996
Return to index for this issue.