Work on Strategic Plan continues

Sammy Caiola

With the school year coming to an end, the administration is still working tediously on University President Morton Schapiro’s 10-year Strategic Plan, which University Provost Dan Linzer said could be shared publicly sometime next fall.

Linzer said the plan focused around four main issues: research, educational experience, community and outreach beyond the Northwestern campus. He said administrators have been holding frequent discussions with the Board of Trustees on how to adjust the plan to meet the University’s needs.

“It will still be an evolving document and an evolving set of ideas,” Linzer said. “It’s a living thing. The University is a place where you’re constantly adjusting and trying to improve.”

Regarding research, Linzer said the drafters of the plan are assessing the University in terms of what big, important issues it is in the best position to attack. He emphasized that NU is different from other schools because it has a unique array of schools and departments that work together to solve problems.

Linzer referenced the number of studies published by faculty members from different departments as an example of how NU can do work that is of interest in multiple fields. He also noted that the research and educational elements of NU are not kept separate.

“We have faculty who do both research and teaching and students who do both learning and research,” Linzer said. “We’re all engaged in learning together, and the areas we research should also be areas that are of intense interest to our students.”

This goal of collaboration will be taken into account when assessing the future projects of individual schools, Linzer said. During the University budget process, which Linzer chairs, deans of the individual schools present projects that they feel the University should fund.

“What we’re looking for over the next few years are ideas from the deans that express the goals of the Strategic Plan,” Linzer said. “If it has nothing to do with the plan, the dean has to find the resources for just that school to do it. The University plan is for big ideas across schools that stitch the University together.”

When speaking about the educational experience at NU, Linzer expressed the need to make the University’s many opportunities more accessible for all students. He said there is still the possibility of the “3 and e” program, which Schapiro told The Daily last quarter would require students to partake in co-curricular experience for academic credit. The concept would replace one of students’ four currently required courses with an experiential course – hence the “3 and e” moniker.

“We’ll see,” Schapiro said in a recent interview with The Daily. “You can’t get these curricular things done without the support of the deans.”

Comparing his idea to current programs like Chicago Field Studies and Medill’s Journalism Residency, Schapiro said he wanted experiential learning to be a more frequent part of the curriculum, taking place every quarter or every other quarter.

But Schapiro will face significant challenges in implementing the idea.

“Some deans, frankly, I think are just not going to do it… I can’t force them,” he said. “Unless the deans really think it’s a good idea, it is not going to happen, and it’s not clear to me whether they really think it’s a good idea.”

Schapiro said he didn’t have a sense of what NU faculty thought of the plan.

“I’ve only been here less than two years, and I know a fair number of faculty, but I don’t know them well enough where they could really say to me as some Williams faculty said, ‘You know what? Experiential learning isn’t going to happen, so stop talking about it.’ And, boy, were they right,” he said.

In contrast to Williams’ 32 required courses, NU requires most undergrads to graduate with anywhere between 45 to 48 credits, depending upon their undergraduate school. Schapiro said it was “different,” but he still wasn’t sure the plan would work out.

“I can’t force anybody to do anything. I’m just the president,” he said. “It’s not the way it works.”

The third focus of the plan is community. Linzer said the NU campus is fragmented and brought up the divide between North and South campus. He said that by creating more spaces and hosting events like Dillo Day when everyone comes together, the administration is trying to make the campus less fragmented.

“It’s that breadth of Northwestern that we bring together because we’re a smaller campus where people bump into each other. And they live with people who are not like themselves, but they’re all Northwestern,” Linzer said.

NU is hoping to reach this goal by creating Residential Communities that would include live-in faculty and additional educational opportunities, Linzer said. The recently renovated Elder Residential Community is a pilot program for the idea, with its seminar rooms for small classes and study rooms for group work. There are plans to start work on Allison Residential Hall this summer, Linzer said.

“We’re going to try to transform housing to be much more than a place where you sleep, but a community where you live and learn,” Linzer said. “That helps break down a big place into more manageable-sized units. It’s easier to get to know 200 to 300 kids well than it is to get to know 8,000 kids well.”

Linzer also said they are thinking about ways to provide more apartment-style housing to upperclassmen.

The fourth focus of the plan is outreach, which Linzer said has already started with NU in Qatar. NU is talking with trustees about more wide-reaching international projects that would require a lot of funding, he said.

“They have to be achievable but still ambitious,” Linzer said. “And in order to be achievable, they have to be compelling to our friends who want to help us accomplish that by supporting it. Trustees are key people for vetting these ideas and whether they will attract the philanthropic support we need.”

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