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Monday, May 18, 2015

Grand Challenges Research: Identifying Campus Priorities

Provost Hanson has encouraged all Twin Cities faculty to contribute to a "Call for Ideas" process developed by the Grand Challenges Research Strategies Team of 30 distinguished faculty members. This is one part of a broader plan for campus consultation on where the campus is best positioned for major impact.

"Our Twin Cities campus has declared that it will be a place where research, teaching, and engagement integrate to bring solutions to society's complex problems. Which of those many problems should we collectively affirm to be our first target?" the provost wrote in an email to all Twin Cities faculty May 19.

Faculty are invited to submit a two-page description of ideas following a simple template. The first of several deadlines is June 26 (submissions should be emailed to GCrsrch@umn.edu). The ideas will be the basis for focused campuswide discussions in early fall.

"As your peers, we seek what only the faculty can provide—the innovative ideas that underpin the scholarly future of our institution," the research team writes in a cover letter accompanying the call.

"We need your best ideas for complex, multifaceted Grand Challenges, not discrete research project proposals. A Grand Challenge idea will capture areas of scholarship in which the University already has strength, in which it has the potential to have global impact and enhanced local relevance, and in which it also has potential to make a deeper connection with the land grant commitment to engaged teaching and learning and reciprocal partnerships in the public and private sectors."

The GC Research Strategies Team's recommendations will inform the selection, toward the end of the fall term, of 3-5 initial Grand Challenge priorities. The priorities to be selected will be in addition to the three existing areas of strength noted in the strategic plan.

The provost emphasized in her message to faculty that the campus will make a significant commitment to the Grand Challenges that are adopted as institutional priorities, with faculty helping to determine the direction and force of that commitment.

The provost's May 19 message to faculty and the Call for Ideas both are posted on the GC Research Page.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Implementation Update

Provost Hanson presents to Regents on March 27
Provost Karen Hanson presented an update on the strategic plan to the Board of Regents on March 27. She discussed the steps under way to implement the 10-year plan for the Twin Cities campus. She also provided an overview of the methods that will be used to measure progress, with supporting remarks by Lincoln Kallsen, the University's director of institutional analysis.

"As you know, the plan provides a framework for making the most of our capacity—and responsibility—to produce transformative research, outstanding education, meaningful outreach, and productive collaboration," the provost said in her presentation.

"There are four broad goals, but the deep goal is institutional invigoration and excellence."

View Video of Board of Regents Discussion (segment starts 1:40:38)

Key points from presentation 

Strategic framework 

  • The plan is grounded on a clear sense of our signal strengths and special opportunities, and shaped by our understanding of the currents of change that are reshaping higher ed and research universities. 
  • It meets the charge President Kaler set for the campuswide planning group: a bold, achievable plan that will advance the University's quality, impact, and reputation. 

Implementation Priorities Under Way 

  • SP Continuity Team
    • Members drawn from campus Strategic Planning Workgroup or extended Issue Teams. 
    • Will help to guide implementation priorities and engage campus community. 
  • Embedding into campus life
    • Integration of strategic goals into compact and budget activities began during fall semester.
    • Additional work with central offices and deans to align structures, processes, and priorities with the campuswide plan. 
  • Jump-Starting GC Curriculum and Research
    • The plan connects research, curricular, and outreach strategies to ensure that our faculty and staff do their best work and that we provide our students with innovative educational opportunities.
    • Deans and faculty have collaborated with the Office of Undergraduate Education on Grand Challenges courses to be offered starting fall 2016. Minors and theme courses also moving forward. 
    • Grand Challenges Research Strategies Team developing a multifaceted process to gather perspectives from across the campus on crossdisciplinary areas where we have or are poised to have exceptional strength or competitive advantage.
  • Steps Across Goal Areas 
    • Our vision of preeminence in addressing the grand challenges of a diverse and changing world will ultimately be achieved only by concerted progress in all four goal areas. 
    • The plan includes many specific action steps—it is a 10-year plan. 
    • Scoring some "Quick Wins"—e.g., in areas such as faculty recruiting and development, campus climate, retirement incentives, faculty and student awards, public engagement, and other priority areas.
    • Colleges and schools are identifying "stop doing lists" as part of compact planning, aligning strategic plans with campus goals, and working in many ways to cross structural and disciplinary boundaries. This work is spurring new collaborations and will lead to models that can be shared across units.

Measuring Our Success 

  • To keep our eye on the ball, we need to measure our efforts—to discern what is succeeding and what needs a fresh start. 
  • The plan is a focused framework for advancing progress in strategic areas to invigorate the U’s core academic mission—and so measuring its success will primarily mean looking at the existing metrics and benchmarks used by our institution. 
  • We will use some specific measures drawn directly from the terms of the plan to make sure we are attending to its details (e.g., how many external faculty awards? How many students participating in GC curricula?) 
  • We will also need to develop more nuanced criteria for success—more challenging to measure (e.g., is interdisciplinary work now easier to pursue on our campus? Are we doing work of major impact?) 
  • The baseline for accountability should be the metrics the U and its peers use to track performance. 
  • Work is moving forward to develop ongoing metrics tied to our core mission, long-range planning, and ten-year strategic vision. Measures will include operational management measures linked to action steps, to assure that progress is being made on the "nuts and bolts." 
  • A May presentation to the Board of Regents will focus on the University's metrics framework.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Moving Forward with Grand Challenges Research and Curriculum

Update from Provost Hanson 

In my last update on campus strategic plan implementation I noted the work of alignment that is guiding the annual college and school compact and budget meetings, as well as the steps being taken by central offices to take up some of the specific tasks set for them by the strategic plan. I also mentioned that I would very shortly be convening a Grand Challenges Research Strategies Group to help shape grand-challenges research priorities.

I requested suggestions for membership from all of the Twin Cities campus deans, indicating that members of this workgroup should be faculty who would be deeply respected and accomplished in their own fields, but whose perspective on this strategic work would not be shaped primarily by their own scholarly interests. This was to be a group of senior faculty who could take an expansive and informed view and yet be open to extensive consultation with all levels and elements of our campus.

This group has now been formed, and I am delighted to announce that Bud Duvall (Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Political Science and former interim dean of CLA) has agreed to chair it. In addition to Bud, the following distinguished faculty have agreed to serve as members:

  • Bruce Blazar, Regents Professor of Pediatrics and CCRF Land-Grant Chair in Pediatric Oncology, Director of Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Chief of Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, Medical School 
  • James Bradeen, Professor of Plant Pathology, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences 
  • Tom Clayton, Regents Professor of English Language and Literature, Classical Civilization Program, CLA 
  • Marilyn DeLong, Professor of Design, Housing, and Apparel, College of Design 
  • Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Civil Engineering, Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Chair in Environmental Engineering, College of Science and Engineering 
  • Gunda Georg, Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, Robert Vince Endowed Chair, Director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development, College of Pharmacy 
  • Apostolos Georgopoulos, Regents Professor of Neuroscience, McKnight Presidential Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, American Legion Brain Sciences Chair, Medical School 
  • Marc Hillmyer, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers, College of Science and Engineering 
  • Sarah Hobbie, Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences 
  • Deborah John, Professor and Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Marketing, Carlson School of Management 
  • Sonja Kuftinec, Professor of Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA 
  • Richard Leppert, Regents Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, CLA 
  • Ann Masten, Regents Professor, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, and Irving Harris Professor of Child Psychology, Institute of Child Development, College of Education and Human Development 
  • Matt McGue, Regents Professor of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts 
  • Phyllis Moen, Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Sociology, CLA 
  • Thomas Molitor, Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine 
  • Gary Muehlbauer, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Endowed Chair in Molecular Genetics, Agronomy and Plant Genetics, CFANS 
  • Fionnuala Ni Aoláin, Professor and Dorsey & Whitney Chair in Law, Law School 
  • Harry Orr, Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Edmund Wallace Tulloch and Anna Marie Tulloch Chair in Genetics, Director of the Institute for Translational Neuroscience, Medical School 
  • Mike Osterholm, McKnight Presidential Chair in Public Health, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, School of Public Health 
  • F. Abel Ponce de León, Professor of Molecular Genetics, Animal Science, CFANS 
  • David Pui, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Mechanical Engineering, CSE 
  • Peter Reich, Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Forest Resources, F.B. Hubachek Sr. Chair in Forest Ecology and Tree Physiology, CFANS 
  • Steve Ruggles, Regents Professor of History, Director of the Minnesota Population Center; CLA 
  • Karen Seashore, Regents Professor of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development; Robert Holmes Beck Chair of Ideas in Education, CEHD 
  • Donald Simone, Professor of Dentistry and Division Director/Basic Sciences, School of Dentistry 
  • Joe Soss, Cowles Professor for the Study of Public Service, Humphrey School of Public Affairs 
  • Ann Waltner, Professor of History, CLA
  • Jean Wyman, Professor and Cora Meidl Siehl Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, School of Nursing; Director, Minnesota Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence; Co-Director, Powell Center of Women's Health, Medical School
This group has been charged with gathering perspectives from across the campus on the cross-disciplinary areas of research and scholarship where we have, or are poised to have, exceptional strength and a competitive advantage. In consultation with our faculty, staff, and students, and with relevant external experts, they will then suggest which of these areas might best align with the Grand Challenge criteria outlined by the Strategic Planning Workgroup.

Key criteria outlined by the SP Workgroup include: global impact and local relevance, extent of existing faculty strength and leadership, disciplinary diversity, impact on the University and its reputation, suitability for a land-grant research university, interconnection with education, engagement of external constituencies, and sustainability. (You can find a discussion of these criteria in the final planning report.)

I want to emphasize, as I have previously, that the three areas identified in the plan (related to food, environment, and vibrant communities) were intended only as examples and models—areas where robust interdisciplinary work congruent with grand challenges ambitions is already under way. And I again emphasize, too, that alongside boundary-breaking Grand Challenges research, we will continue to nourish and celebrate basic research and focused disciplinary scholarship and creative activity.


Grand-Challenges Curriculum Jump-Start

On the curricular side, the Office for Undergraduate Education has collaborated with the Twin Cities deans to shape a call for proposals for Grand Challenges courses, to be offered to students in 2015–16.

These courses will aim to help students develop a foundational set of knowledge, skills, and values that can be applied across a range of potential grand-challenge topics. Proposals are invited from both freshman-admitting colleges and professional schools. The schools and colleges have been asked to distribute the call for proposals, but principles and processes can also be found here.

Proposals for fall 2015 Grand Challenges courses should be submitted by the end of the month and for spring 2016 by August 31 via the Grand Challenges Online Proposal Form.

Implementation of the University’s strategic plan will be a dynamic, decade-long process aimed at creating a nimbler, more integrated and vitally engaged research university for our students and state. Achieving our goals will require many small steps over time, many conversations, and wide-ranging collaborations that engage everyone in our campus community. I encourage you to look for opportunities to help the campus move forward.

This update, in modified format, was emailed by Provost Hanson on March 4 to Twin Cities faculty and staff.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Strategic Planning Update

From Provost Hanson 

I write with an update on the task of implementing the new strategic plan for the Twin Cities campus.

In recent weeks, senior leaders, deans, and others have focused on integrating strategic goals into annual planning and budgeting processes and on identifying ways in which our various colleges and campus units can help bring the strategic vision to life. We are laying the groundwork for progress in each of the four goal areas:
  • creating an invigorated campus culture of ambition, challenge, exploration, and innovation;
  • leveraging our breadth and depth, building on our strengths so that our faculty, staff, and students can successfully address the grand challenges of our state, nation, and world;
  • recruiting, retaining, and promoting field-shaping researchers and teachers;
  • capitalizing on our location and our reach to expand campus-community partnerships and to create new 21st-century learning and career pathways for our students.

Moving Ahead: Curriculum and Other Areas

While the process of large-scale change in the campus curriculum must be a deliberative one, we are moving on some of the recommendations for curricular “quick wins” delineated in the strategic plan. Working with the college and school deans, the Office for Undergraduate Education has established principles for new team-taught courses on grand challenge topics. Those principles will guide the solicitation of course proposals this month, and these new courses will begin to be available to undergraduates in fall 2015.

The basic approach is an adaptation of one that has been successfully employed in the University Honors Program—and these new courses, interesting on their own, will also serve as pilots and models for future transdisciplinary curricular efforts. These new grand challenge courses will be taught by faculty from different units, and all types of partnerships will be encouraged, including those between undergraduate and graduate and/or professional colleges.

Early attention is also being given to the development of grand-challenges minors, and to other experiments in this vein, including development of a series of one-credit courses that might, across a student’s entire degree program in any major, add perspective and expertise on a specific grand challenge.

We are attending as well to the important process of connecting various units’ strategic plans with the larger campus plan. This is central to the compact and budget processes, and it is a key task for the central administrative offices. So, for example, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs and the Office of Human Resources are launching new programs of mentoring and training for department heads and other leaders, as proposed in the strategic plan, and the Office of the Vice President for Research is helping to align the systemwide Five Years Forward research strategic plan with the research strategic goals of the Twin Cities campus plan.

In addition, I will very shortly convene a Provost’s Grand Challenges Strategies Group to shape grand-challenges research priorities and identify interdisciplinary areas of inquiry where we are well positioned to be national and international leaders.

Strategic Planning Continuity Team

The Strategic Planning Continuity Team met last month with Dean Mary Nichols and me to advise on implementation issues and priorities. Composed of members of the original strategic planning workgroup and issue teams, the Continuity Team provided helpful feedback on work to date and highlighted challenges and opportunities for communications and campus engagement. The members of the Strategic Planning Continuity Team are:
  • Neil Anderson, Program Director, Extension
  • Heidi Barajas, Associate Professor, Education; Executive Director, Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center
  • Renee Cheng, Professor, Architecture; Associate Dean for Research, College of Design
  • William Durfee, Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • Carl Flink, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts and Dance
  • Rhonda Franklin, Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Timothy Kehoe, Professor, Economics
  • Reuben Harris, Professor, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
  • Christy Haynes, Professor, Chemistry
  • Elizabeth Lightfoot, Professor and Doctoral Program Director, Social Work
  • William O’Neill, Associate Director, Facilities Management
  • Katey Pelican, Associate Professor, Veterinary Population Medicine
  • Rebecca Ropers-Huilman, Professor and Chair, Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; Chair, Faculty Consultative Committee
  • Valerie Tiberius, Professor and Chair, Philosophy
  • Jakub Tolar, Professor, Medical School
  • Christopher Uggen, Distinguished McKnight Professor, Sociology; Vice Chair, Faculty Consultative Committee

I thank all of these individuals—and thank all of you for your continued engagement as we move forward together.

This update, in modified format, was emailed by Provost Hanson on Feb. 12 to Twin Cities faculty and staff.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Moving Forward With Our Strategic Plan

Update from Provost Hanson 

I write to update you on steps we are taking to begin implementation of the new strategic plan for the Twin Cities campus.

As you know, the plan is intended to guide our campus over the next decade. In the few weeks that have passed since the plan was formally approved by the Regents, we have laid the groundwork for implementation efforts that we hope will be as thoughtful and collaborative as the work that shaped the plan.

First, I am happy to inform you that Dr. Mary L. Nichols has agreed to assist me in providing leadership and coordination for implementation efforts. Mary brings to this role valuable expertise as a professor of strategic management in the Carlson School of Management. She also brings strong academic leadership experience, including guiding two colleges through periods of great change, as dean of the College of Continuing Education since 2001 and, previously, as associate dean for academic programs, for seven years, in the Carlson School of Management.

Mary has been a highly engaged campus leader, and she knows the University extremely well. In assuming her new role as special assistant to the provost, she will balance strategic planning responsibilities with her ongoing role as CCE dean. I look forward to working closely with her as the campus moves to implement the new plan.

We all do have much work ahead of us. Our vision is that we will marshal the strengths and resources of our campus to be preeminent in addressing “grand challenges”—the most critical and complex challenges of our diverse and changing state and world. The full vision statement articulates the aspirations that shape our mission. (You can also review the entire Final Strategic Planning Report and Executive Summary.)

Our supporting goals commit us to draw on our exceptional breadth and our unique location in order to build new collaborations across disciplines; to deepen our campus-community partnerships; to be a magnet for field-shaping researchers and teachers; and to create 21st-century learning experiences to prepare our students for life, work, and global citizenship.

Implementation Groundwork

Important implementation groundwork is already under way. Academic and support units have been asked to connect their annual unit planning, including budget planning, with the goals of the strategic plan. I have in addition asked all the deans to suggest appropriate faculty to work on defining and selecting grand challenge priorities for our university. (I expect those faculty will then issue a broader call for proposals to the entire campus.) We are also in the process of forming a continuity team of faculty, staff, and students to shape implementation priorities and develop benchmarks for success.

As we have begun sharing the plan with external stakeholders, we have found that our “grand challenges” vision readily captures the public imagination. In embracing this vision, we must also focus internally on achieving the plan’s broader goals of institutional transformation. Our aim is to build a stronger, more nimble, better integrated, and deeply engaged research university, one in which focused disciplinary work flourishes alongside boundary-breaking collaborations.

I will continue to update you regularly on this important campuswide effort. Please watch for new opportunities to contribute to this effort as we move forward together.

This update, in modified format, was emailed by Provost Hanson on Nov. 21 to Twin Cities faculty and staff.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Implementing Our Plan: Next Steps

Update from Provost Hanson 

I am pleased to report that, last Friday, the Board of Regents unanimously approved the new strategic plan for the Twin Cities campus.

The plan calls for the University to move with new energy and imagination to address the most critical and complex challenges of our state and global communities. We are committed to drawing on our exceptional breadth and our unique location in order to build new collaborations across disciplines; to deepen our campus-community partnerships; to be a magnet for field-shaping researchers and teachers; and to create 21st-century learning experiences to prepare our students for life, work, and global citizenship.

More fundamentally, the plan calls on us to build on our existing strengths, to embrace excellence and reject complacency - and to support an invigorated campus culture of pride, ambition, and innovation.
View Final Strategic Planning Report

View Executive Summary  

View Video of Board of Regents Discussion (segment starts 12:35)

The final plan incorporates comments made by the Board and the campus community on September's penultimate draft. Responses were highly positive overall, and I thank all of you who took the time to offer your constructive comments.

We drew on your suggestions to clarify or underscore some key points - including the importance of disciplinary strengths, even for interdisciplinary efforts; the centrality of global engagement for our 21st-century mission; the way in which our commitment to access, equity, and diversity is critical to our strategic vision and to every aspect of our core activities; how crucial it is that our University be a good place for faculty and staff alike to build careers where they can do their best work; and the importance of the health sciences among our academic priorities.

The final plan more clearly asserts that the three Grand Challenges topics sketched out in the research section are examples of strong transdisciplinary work that is already under way. As in earlier drafts, the final version recommends a set of criteria for the evaluation and selection of a full slate of grand challenges that we will embrace as institutional priorities.

Next Steps

A collaborative process for selection of grand challenges will be among the first implementation priorities. The strategic planning framework is already being integrated into the normal processes of academic planning, including compact and budget processes for academic and administrative units. The goals of the plan will be connected in a variety of ways with those of academic and administrative units and the system campuses. Additional "next steps" are outlined in the full report (pdf).

I will keep you informed about implementation steps and how faculty, students, and staff can continue to engage in the process. We intend for this plan to be a dynamic one that is advanced collaboratively. We will rely on you - faculty, students, and staff - to help refine the plan, set meaningful benchmarks to track our success, and ensure that the plan remains a good roadmap for achieving shared aspirations and goals.

I want to thank again the members of the Strategic Planning Workgroup, who capably stewarded the planning process, as well as the five extended teams of faculty, students, and staff who helped map issues and action steps. Their diverse voices, thoughtful perspectives, invigorating discussion, and exceptional diligence shaped a bold and achievable plan that draws on our fundamental land-grant mission and will position us well for an exciting future.

This update, in modified format, was emailed by Provost Hanson on Oct. 15 to Twin Cities faculty and staff.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Strategic Plan Approved by Board of Regents

The new Strategic Plan for the Twin Cities campus was unanimously approved today by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

View Final Strategic Planning Report 
View Executive Summary  
View Video of Board of Regents Discussion (segment starts 12:35)

The plan was presented to the board by President Kaler and Provost Hanson as the culmination of many months of discussion and planning by the campus community, stewarded by the Strategic Planning Workgroup and five collaborative teams of faculty, staff, and students.

In remarks to the board, the provost stressed that the plan "presents a vision for building on our defining strengths to reinvent our land-grant research university at a time of great change, challenge, and opportunity."

The Strategic Plan will build on signal strengths and opportunities of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities as one of the country's most comprehensive research universities, fortunately situated in a complex and vibrant metropolitan area and guided by a durable land-grant mission.

The plan aims to:
  • combine University strengths more broadly and deeply to address "grand challenges"—the most pressing and complex problems facing the state, nation, and world;
  • support excellence and reject complacency; build an invigorated campus culture of pride, ambition, and innovation;
  • create a "University of Transformational Opportunity" where there is flexibility accompanied by responsibility and accountability and where field shapers can do their best work; 
  • build a culture of mutual engagement and create more partnerships between the University and our community, business, government, and nonprofit stakeholders across Minnesota and beyond; and
  • create new 21st-century learning and career pathways for students; develop curricular and cocurricular opportunities that will be attractive to Minnesota's most ambitious, talented, and motivated students--indeed, attractive to the nation's and the world's most talented students. 

Final report informed by campus feedback

A draft report was reviewed by the Board last month. The final report incorporates feedback received from the Board and campus community between that time and today.

The provost noted that responses to the plan were mostly extremely positive. "A number of responses offered thoughtful, constructive suggestions about aspects or details that needed to be clarified or underscored."

Examples included the need to emphasize the importance of disciplinary strengths as key to interdisciplinary opportunities; global engagement as implicit to our 21st-century mission; access, equity, and diversity as critical to our strategic vision and every aspect of our core activities; ensuring that our University is a good place for faculty and staff alike to build careers and to pursue excellence; and the importance of the health sciences among our academic priorities.

Selecting Grand Challenges, implementing the plan

The final plan also underscores that the three Grand Challenges topics sketched out in the plan are three examples of strong transdisciplinary work addressing grand challenges that is already under way at the University of Minnesota. The plan recommends a set of criteria for the evaluation and selection of the next grand challenges that will be embraced as institutional priorities. A process for selection will be developed in the implementation phase of the plan.

Implementation will also be effected through attention to the Strategic Plan in the normal processes of academic planning. This will start immediately with compact and budget processes. The goals of the plan will be connected in a variety of ways with those of academic and administrative units and the system campuses.

Also launching this fall will be continuity and implementation teams to shape next steps and develop benchmarks. Campuswide engagement and communication processes also will begin this fall.