UMTC campus


Driving Tomorrow, the Strategic Plan for the Twin Cities campus, is a focused framework for accelerating advancement of excellence in research, teaching, and outreach. 

The plan, adopted by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents in fall 2014, was developed with broad input over many months by a campus-wide workgroup and extended teams of faculty, staff, and students. The plan builds on the strengths of the campus as Minnesota’s globally engaged research university and one of few major land-grant research institutions situated in a major metropolitan area. With its theme of “Driving Tomorrow,” the plan recognizes the special opportunities and responsibilities the campus has to bring its resources more powerfully to bear on “Grand Challenges”—the most pressing and complex challenges of the state of the Minnesota and the world.

The plan frames many actions the campus will take over the next decade to fulfill its distinctive responsibilities as Minnesota’s land-grant university, dedicated to serving the public good; and the state’s designated research institution, charged with positioning Minnesota at the forefront of emerging knowledge and educating highly skilled workers, professionals, leaders, and global citizens to thrive in a diverse and changing world. 

Campuswide Planning Process

The plan was developed during a yearlong planning process, convened in fall 2013 by President Eric Kaler, to develop a 10-year strategic vision and goals for the Twin Cities campus, aligned with Board of Regents planning. The president called for a bold, aspirational, and achievable plan that would build on the exceptional strengths and opportunities we have as a campus and set a general direction for key strategic priorities and decisions over the next decade.

The collaborative effort was driven by a Strategic Planning Workgroup, a 30-member faculty-staff-student group formed from open nominations and led by Provost Karen Hanson. Over the course of a year, five 20–30-member “issue teams” focused in detail on goals outlined by the workgroup to "map issues" and suggested action steps.

A draft of the completed plan was completed during summer 2014 for campuswide feedback. Campus listening sessions took place July 8 and August 12; a completed draft was shared at a Campus Conversation on September 3 and with the Board of Regents on September 12. An open comment period in September helped to fine-tune the plan before it was presented to the Regents for final approval October 10.

Implementation of the plan is moving forward. The ten-year plan will focus particularly on the core academic mission of research and discovery, teaching and learning, and outreach and engagement. It is intended to be a dynamic framework that will engage the entire campus and be subject to reexamination as needed.

Implementation Steps and Progress

Colleges and departments have been centrally involved in aligning programs and activities with the broader campus goals. The plan’s priorities have been integrated into the compact planning and budget planning processes that shape academic directions and strategic investment decisions. Its goals have also been incorporated into work plans in the central administrative areas of undergraduate education, graduate and professional education, faculty and academic affairs, student affairs, equity and diversity, human resources, and other areas.

Initiatives and collaborations during the first full year of implementation have yielded specific campus accomplishments across the four goal areas, and  progress has been made on larger institutional transformations. The campus has placed special emphasis on jump-starting curricular and research goals as key components of the larger vision of a more nimble, integrative, and vitally engaged research university. A Grand Challenges Curriculum was launched in fall 2015, with courses focusing on foundational competencies students can apply across a range of topics. 

In early 2016, the Report of the Provost's Grand Challenges Research Strategies Team detailed recommendations to advance the plan's strategic research goals, including a set of Grand Challenges where the University has opportunities for exceptional impact. The report reflected a multifaceted campuswide process led by 30 distinguished members of the University's faculty.

The research recommendations highlight a slate of five areas where the campus can marshal interdisciplinary and collaborative strengths to have a powerful impact on critical challenges of the state and world. They reflect criteria in the Strategic Plan including global impact and local relevance, existing faculty strength and leadership, disciplinary diversity, interconnection with education and external partners, and other key considerations. Provost Hanson subsequently announced faculty research opportunities and next steps to begin to implement these recommendations. In fall 2016, the provost announced an investment of $3.6 million to fund a slate of 29 Driving Tomorrow research collaborations addressing the Grand Challenges priorities

Vision and Goals

The Strategic Plan for the Twin Cities campus includes an aspirational vision and four supporting goals as a ten-year framework for advancing the quality, impact, and reputation of the University.

The plan aims to marshal the University's strengths more powerfully to address Grand Challenges of the state and world as part of a broader aim to create a stronger, more nimble, better integrated, and deeply engaged research university. The four supporting goals are mapped to many specific action steps--from small incremental steps to large culture changes--designed to move the campus on a path to transformational improvement over the course of a decade.

Venn diagram showing the strategic vision and goals.


The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities will be preeminent in solving the grand challenges of a diverse and changing world

In pursuit of this vision we will:

  • Use our depth and breadth to capitalize on our exceptional students, faculty, staff, and on our location in a vibrant metropolitan setting to generate and disseminate new knowledge and insights.
  • Create an educated populace able to identify, understand, and solve demanding problems.
  • Leverage the power of divergent paths to knowledge and creativity in order to address grand challenges.
  • Partner with the communities and people of the state of Minnesota to benefit the common good.

Our Strategic Goals

Build an exceptional University, leveraging our research and curricular breadth and depth to address grand societal challenges

  • Educate, cultivate, and empower leaders to foster institutional and societal change
  • Target resources that will build capacity to harness the University’s depth and breadth to address these grand challenges
  • Prepare students who can uniquely contribute to solving grand societal challenges
  • Transform curricula in a way that combines grand challenges with disciplines
  • Coordinate and leverage research in institutionally cross-cutting areas of strength

Support excellence and, with intention, reject complacency

  • Establish incentives for creative disruption and accept productive tension
  • Increase efforts to empower individual initiatives
  • Streamline rules and regulations
  • Measure and set goals for meaningful diversifying experiences

Aggressively recruit, retain, and promote field-shaping researchers and teachers

  • Build a pipeline to recruit and retain the best and brightest field-shaping teachers and researchers
  • Support their work with needed infrastructure and a culture of high expectations
  • Reduce barriers to productive transdisciplinarity and advance transinstitutional partnerships
  • Acccelerate transfer of knowledge for the public good

Establish a culture of reciprocal engagement, capitalizing on our unique location

  • Better leverage our location for the mutual benefit of the University and the community; contribute to and benefit from a vibrant and enriching economic, creative, social, and intellectual environment
  • Clearly define and embrace what it means to be a land-grant research university in the 21st century

The Plan