June 17, 2019 | 78° F

Board of Governors approves Rutgers strategic plan

Photo by Julian Chokkatu |

BOG chair Gerald Harvey, left, and University President Robert L. Barchi speak at the BOG meeting yesterday at the Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers-Newark.

NEWARK, N.J. - Actionable, achievable and measurable. These are three terms Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi used to describe the University's strategic plan, which the Board of Governors approved moments ago at the Paul Robeson Campus Center in Rutgers-Newark.  

"This is a singular moment for Rutgers," Barchi said to The Daily Targum. "We can't make the progress we want without having a plan ... and we did not have one. There hadn't been a strategic plan of this sort done at Rutgers in nearly 20 years."

The Board approved Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, to be the 2014 commencement speaker, and plans to award the chair of the Board of Governors, Gerald Harvey, a doctor of humane letters.

The strategic plan, which Barchi said would take five years to complete, aims to help put Rutgers among the country's leading public universities.

Rutgers hired Boston Consulting Group to help the University with data-collection, logistical work and data comparisons. Barchi said BCG did not write the strategic plan, but helped with background work.

According to the strategic plan report, Rutgers distributed 75,000 surveys, had hundreds of members of the University community participate in 46 focus group discussions and coordinated six town hall meetings, faculty forums and 27 interdepartmental discussions, which included representation from more than 100 departments and schools.

Barchi said the BCG consultancy cost about $3.4 million and was partially paid for by the University and partially by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A majority of it was paid for by the University. The entire grant from RWJF was $12.5 million, according to Rutgers Today.

The strategic plan mentions that tuition will not be a major source of funding for the five-year plan.

"Although we've been looking at decreased state funding over the past 15 years, and that has driven of necessity an increase in tuition, because we only have limited sources to pay for the education cost, I think we've reached a point where our students cannot sustain a bigger fraction of the educational cost," Barchi said. "We can't build this on the back of tuition."

He said a few ways the strategic plan hopes to widen Rutgers' revenue stream is through increasing grant support, thinking of new educational programs that can be delivered in a way that generates revenue for Rutgers and by looking at ways to be more effective in how Rutgers delivers corporate services.

"We can be more creative in the way we do public/private partnerships that can bring dollars in, we certainly can be more effective in our fundraising, in our philanthropy," he said.

The strategic plan has three main categories: strategic priorities, foundational elements and integrating themes.

Under the strategic priorities are sub-categories on how Rutgers is looking to "envision tomorrow's University", "build faculty excellence", "transform the student experience" and "enhance public prominence", according to the report.

Foundational elements focus on preserving Rutgers' strong core of sciences and humanities, stimulating a diverse culture, enforcing an efficient infrastructure and staff, address the University's financial position and improve communication.

"We're going to focus on recruiting faculty that are really building at the top of our reputation level and we're going to invest money in doing that," Barchi said. "Preserving the areas of strength but also investing those dollars into the areas we need to be improving, mainly undergraduate engineering, undergraduate business, and life and health sciences."

According to the plan, the University also hopes to integrate several themes such as "creating a sustainable world through innovation, engineering and technology" and "educating involved citizens and effective leaders for a dynamic world".

"I will be challenging the faculty to come up with a University-wide course, that means all three campuses, in each of those areas that is accessible to all of our students and hope that our students will take one or two or more of those courses during the time that they are here, showcasing these important areas, again, through the lens of the critical and unique capabilities and insights that Rutgers has to offer."

Rutgers is also working on a physical master plan, which is expected to be complete by the fall of 2014, Barchi said.

"We've got the data collection pretty much done on the physical master plan and now we're on the conceptual part, and t hen after that it has to be taken out to the community and that's going to be done in March and April," he said. "We have a whole bunch of open forums on all campuses to talk about what we've learned and what our general directions are."

Vice President of University Facilities and Capital Planning Antonio Calcado presented results of the MyCampus survey, which is a part of the physical master plan to the the Board of Governors.

"This is really where we try and build a foundation ... and try and understand what the experiences are outside of where I sit, for instance" Calcado said.

The strategic plan is matched up with a capital spending plan for the next five years, which Barchi said is separate from the physical master plan.

"We are right now in the midst of a capital construction program that is in excess of $800 million, much of which is either in the ground right now or will break ground in the next six to nine months," he said.

The strategic plan mentions the construction of several of these buildings in the program such as the Wright Rieman Chemistry and Chemical Biology building, which will feature 145,000 square feet of flexible research space and classrooms, the William Levine Hall, which is a proposed three-story, 57,000-square-foot, $37.5 million addition to the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, and the Sustainable Systems Engineering building, which is a 112,500-square-foot interdisciplinary facility.

The list in the strategic plan altogether displays six new buildings on the New Brunswick campus, two in Newark, and one in Camden. The plan does mention that the list concentrates on main projects and does not mention numerous other infrastructure projects.

Rutgers Athletics is not a part of the capital construction program and Barchi said he hopes to see the athletics department become financially independent within six years.

"That has to do with the timing or entrance into the Big Ten, and the way the movement into full membership in the Big Ten takes place," he said. "Five years won't do it but six most likely will. We have a plan that we are looking at very heavily with and athletics buys into in terms of moving towards funding for athletics that does not require support from the operating budget."

By Julian Chokkattu

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