Yesterday, faculty, students, and administrators met in the Walsh Function Room to have a conversation on the future of Boston College. This event, "BC Moving Forward", was part of the University Strategic Planning Initiative (USPI), a new strategic planning effort focused on constructing goals for Boston College over the next decade.
In late fall of 2015, University President William P. Leahy, S.J. appointed Executive Vice President Michael J. Lochhead and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley co-chairs for the initiative, working alongside a steering committee made up of deans, faculty, administrators, and students.
Strategic planning initiatives are not new to Fr. Leahy’s administration. A previous plan was completed in 2006 in anticipation of the school's 150th anniversary in 2013. This resulted in the Seven Strategic Directions, which laid out the goals for the school. With the information from this self-assessment, the university took action, creating the School of Theology and Ministry, the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, and the Institute for the Liberal Arts, along with implementing various other programs.
According to Fr. Leahy, the USPI calls on Boston College to devote time and energy to “candid assessment of our strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities as a major university...dialogue, analysis, and reflection, especially in the context of our history and tradition that lead to our founding” and “the creative process, based on the conviction that people committed to strengthening our institution can develop ideas and plans that are aspirational and inspirational.”
“BC Moving Forward" was a follow-up to an event last spring entitled “BC Looking Forward”, which focused on similar goals of encouraging students to look towards BC’s future. Both were organized and led by UGBC.
UGBC President Russell Simons, MCAS ‘18, and Executive Vice President Meredith McCaffrey, MCAS ‘18, opened the event by introducing Provost Quigley and Michael Lochhead, who discussed the progress of the USPI so far and the expectations for the night.
To begin, Quigley introduced the primary themes of the USPI that had been identified so far. These themes came from analyzing the assessments of 24 teams, made up of academic, administrative, and cross-sectional committees. He continued by discussing primary challenges, new and old, that BC faces, including the decreasing school age population of New England schools, the high cost of living in Boston, financial aid costs, and the rise of online graduate programs.
From there, the individual tables of students, each with a scribe and a facilitating faculty member or administrator, discussed issues on campus and strategies to better the institution based on the USPI's primary themes. Students from all four classes with various majors, goals, and ideas were present, and a variety of topics were discussed.
For example, students discussed how to integrate more technology into a liberal arts education, the on and off campus housing process, healthcare career advising, the recent mod-lot sign vandalization, and additional academic programs.
All of the concerns brought up by students were then passed on to be considered by the USPI leadership. “Sitting at a table of students was wonderful. I was able to get their perspective on a lot of different issues,” Lochhead said.
At the end, a brief Q&A took place, and students were able to raise any questions or concerns. One student asked about aspects of environmental sustainability in the plan. In response, the co-chairs referenced research that addresses societal issues on top of existing environmental standards.
Another student asked about careerism and the liberal arts education. The co-chairs reaffirmed that BC is committed to the mission of developing the whole person, while still creating employable students. Students also raised topics including smoking on campus and the high costs of BC dining.
One of the most topical questions posed was about how inclusion fit into the strategic plan. Recognizing the importance of a welcoming environment and citing the recent mod-lot sign defamation, the co-chairs stated that being introspective, being self-critical, and learning from recent events will be necessary to create the desired community.
Quigley and Lochhead also explained that change requires both administrative and student leadership, as well as time to create strategies for improvement. But overall, they emphasized that the USPI is an important step in developing a better BC.
After the event, UGBC and the USPI leadership expressed gratitude to all the students for participating. Students were also encouraged to provide even more feedback through the USPI website, so that all ideas could be heard and considered as a part of the strategic plan.