Since 1996 SMU has been guided by its five-year strategic plans, spanning 1996–2000 and 2001–2005. Strategic Plan 1996–2000 with its six goals and 25 objectives served as the foundation both for the development of the Campus Master Plan (1997–2015) and for the program enhancements brought about by the highly successful Campaign for SMU: A Time to Lead, which raised $542 million for operations, capital projects, and endowments. Strategic Plan 2001–2005, based upon its predecessor, provided the basis for completing the campaign and guiding post-campaign activities.
It is now time to present the next iteration of strategic planning. This new strategic plan will guide our progress not just for the next five years, but through this Centennial Decade ending in 2015. In this new plan, the first five goals of the 2001–2005 plan continue to focus, articulate, and support the primary aspirations of the University. The sixth goal from the 2001–2005 plan, which involved strengthening strategic alliances, has been incorporated as objectives under the other five goals where appropriate.
As it enters the decade encompassed by the Centennial Strategic Plan, the University enjoys historically significant opportunities to enhance its quality as well as its national and global visibility. In 2011 the University will celebrate the centennial of its founding, and in 2015 the centennial of its opening. The University’s administration and community now face the daunting challenge of determining those areas of the institution where significant attention and support could bring the greatest dividends in enhancing excellence in the University’s programs and greater national recognition for its academic achievements.
As SMU looks to the future with the Centennial Strategic Plan 2006–2015, it builds upon and reaffirms the principles and values expressed in the Master Plan of 1963, which was inspired by the Methodist tradition in higher education. In an era of rapid information flow and increasingly complex issues, it will be more necessary than ever to educate students who can think and act within the context of broad-based perspectives, humane values, and ethical considerations. As the 1963 Master Plan states in part, the University must:
“educate men and women who can think and express their thinking with logic and effect; who know their own tradition in the perspective of other ages, ideas and values and who can understand the problems, issues and challenges of their society and time; who can do something of significance in and with their lives; and who realize the nature of being and are prepared to probe the ultimate questions of life and to relate their own humanity, sense of self, and deepest aspirations to those of others in a creative, constructive way; it is thus the aim of this University to encourage in its students both natural individuality and the development of the whole person....”
The first step toward the enhancement of academic quality during the Centennial Decade was the creation, in fall 2003, of the President’s Committee on Investment in Faculty Excellence, chaired by former Provost Ross Murfin. The Committee’s report was presented to the Board of Trustees on December 3, 2004. As communicated in that report, the establishment of new endowments and other funds to support faculty, graduate programs, and research will be critically important to our efforts to enhance both the quality of the University and the perception of that quality. This report has served as a starting point in planning for the Centennial Decade.
SMU’s focus on Goal One—to enhance the academic quality of the University—is not intended to lessen the importance of the other four goals. Indeed, in the words of Strategic Plan 2001–2005, Goal One is the “overarching goal toward which all others are directed”; thus, its achievement inevitably involves advancements in teaching, research, and student development. However, to enhance the academic stature of the University during the Centennial Decade, it will be important to have as our stated focus the goal of strengthening the University through distinguished faculty appointments, greater support for current faculty, the recruitment and admission of academically gifted undergraduate and graduate students, and the enrichment of strategically important academic programs (identified below).
As an emerging national and international University, SMU is fortunate to have professional schools that are advancing to higher levels of distinction. The professional programs of SMU are viewed as more nationally competitive than is much of the academic core of the University, particularly some programs within Dedman College. Although there are several outstanding departments within the College, the academic stature of SMU will be largely influenced by the overall quality of the departments within the liberal arts and sciences. To improve the stature of the University as a whole, SMU must strengthen key departments considered to be defining areas within the humanities, social sciences, and basic sciences.
Improvements in the quality of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty research programs are likely to have maximum impact if they occur in the most visible and vital areas of the liberal arts and sciences. Across higher education, the core departments are English and history in the humanities; economics, political science, and psychology in the social sciences; and biology, chemistry, and mathematics in the natural and mathematical sciences. In the aforementioned science and social science departments, together with SMU’s already strong anthropology, geology, physics, and statistical science programs, there are ample external funding opportunities that would support the work of distinguished faculty and graduate students. The University should be able to enhance its quality and stature if, during the Centennial Decade, significant resources are targeted for transformative improvement in these academic areas within Dedman College. Specific goals should include increased support for graduate fellowships, capital equipment for research laboratories, and staff to support the acquisition of research funding.
An element of this transformative enrichment will continue to be technology based. Universities now offer innovative curricula to students throughout the world through advances in digital media, and SMU must increase an already robust response to this marketplace. The changing competitive landscape offers innovative universities the prospect to reach out to new markets that were previously inaccessible. Many commercial organizations are seeking to enter the higher education market, particularly at the graduate level. These organizations often promise an alternative means of learning that may attract certain students looking for a different educational venue. The emergence of alternative learning opportunities also requires that residential universities and colleges be able to articulate the value added by the campus experience.
Our students’ expectations for technical support as a component of high- quality teaching continue to increase. In addition, the demands of students for digital media technology within journalism and other academic programs provide both challenges and opportunities. Research advances in the academic disciplines are pushing not only the frontiers of knowledge, but also the institution’s ability to provide the necessary support. Thus, continuously seeking to improve our teaching and research through technology is a key step in reinforcing and deepening the University’s total competitiveness.
SMU must take additional steps to prosper in this new era. Our students must not only acquire state-of-the-art knowledge, but also broaden their global perspectives and foreign language skills. Curricula, programs, and other initiatives must recognize and act upon the wide range of societal influences that now shape our thinking. Therefore, SMU must continue to develop partnerships with organizations in the community, both at home and globally, to extend and deepen our capabilities in emerging arenas.
As with SMU’s previous strategic plans, the Centennial Strategic Planis intended to be flexible in its goals, objectives, and specific actions on a year-to-year basis. This flexibility aims to respond to ever-changing conditions, circumstances, and opportunities that SMU will encounter over the next 10 years. This plan represents the continuation of efforts to chart the University’s course in support of its academic goals and purposes, in light of its competitive situation, and in relation to its current and potential resources. Therefore, the University continues a process of strategic planning initiated in 1963 and rekindled in the mid-1990s, a process that will be ongoing.