Incorporating Changing Reality into College Strategic Plans: Part 4: Incorporated Research

Physics laboratory at Brooklyn College

This blog tries to deliver on last week’s blog’s promise to look at the broader impacts of research in the Brooklyn College (BC) Strategic Plan. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs in this series, universities are endowed with the strongly interconnected dual functions of education and research. Much of the learning happens through research; at the same time, the structure of most universities is departmental, rooted in the education task. Furthermore, since most students come to universities in their late teens or early twenties with the expectation that the university will prepare them for a productive future of their choosing, the university’s vision should be focused on the future. Neither faculty nor students are prophets endowed with the ability to predict the future. Instead, the role of universities is to engage in research that contributes to understanding the past and present and draws sound consequences about the likely future and what needs to be done to prepare for a variety of scenarios that might develop.

All universities understand this mission. Again, as in previous blogs in this series, I will focus on my university (CUNY) and my College (Brooklyn College).

The key documents of the strategic plans, including the list of goals, were first mentioned in an earlier blog (May 2, 2023), however, I am repeating them below:

  • Goal 1: enhance our academic excellence.
  • Goal 2: increase undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students’ success.
  • Goal 3: educate students about opportunities for fulfilling work and leadership in their communities.
  • Goal 4: develop a nimble, responsive, and efficient structure to serve our students and carry out our mission.
  • Goal 5: leverage Brooklyn College’s reputation for academic excellence and upward mobility.

The two key documents include a 43-page detailed version  of the plan and a much shorter, tabular, version of 5 pages that focuses on the main performance indicators. Earlier blogs in this series focused on the shorter document. Taking only the Key Performance Indicators and Targets from the shorter tabular plan gives us the following entries, with the first number indicating the goal number:

1.2b Increase the average number of faculty pieces of scholarship/creative activity from 0.9 to 1.3 (2017-2018 PMP).

1.2c increased number of funded research grants from 45 to 53 (2017-2018 PMP).

4.4b Increase the total number of alumni donors by 30% from 5849 to 7644 (FY 2018, OIA). 4.4c Increase external funding (donor, grant and foundation support) by 50% from $8.9 million in FY 2018-2019 to $13.35 million in FY 2023 (OIA).

For more details, and to emphasize research, we need to examine the longer plan. Its typical structure consists of a list of objectives, along with a particular goal, the college office that will be held responsible, and a list of benchmarks to be followed. A brief reminder here, that shortly after this plan was instituted, we were all hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, which made most of the commitments difficult to follow. This week, I’m looking at three research-related examples from the latest strategic plan. Two of the examples are given below. I discuss the third one later in the blog.

  • Improve the office of grants and research:
    • Goal 1D:  Support and promote excellent research and increase sponsored research to advance intellectual inquiry.

 a. The Office of the Provost will enhance staffing and resources at the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to meet the needs of faculty across the college.

YEAR 1 BENCHMARK: Assess the staffing needs of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) and evaluate its effectiveness for faculty.

YEAR 2 BENCHMARK: Hire full-time grants manager for the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences (NBS). The dean will develop a school-wide plan for NBS to enhance research.

YEAR 3 BENCHMARK: Make necessary staff and operations adjustments based on the assessment in Year 1. Deans across the campus will develop plans to enhance research.

YEARS 4 AND 5 BENCHMARKS: New staff will work with faculty to carry out the plans to apply for additional grants.

5-YEAR OUTCOMES: Enhance staffing of ORSP to enable enhanced support for the pursuit of grants across the five schools

d. The dean of the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and the Brooklyn College Foundation will work with departments to generate funds and coordinate researchers on campus to create an interdisciplinary Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research.

YEAR 1 BENCHMARK: Establish the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research through Brooklyn College and CUNY governance bodies. Develop a fundraising case for support for the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research.

YEAR 2 BENCHMARK: Develop a methodology of using Research Foundation indirect cost recovery funds to create a stream of revenue for operating costs for the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research.

YEAR 3 BENCHMARK: The dean of the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and the Brooklyn College Foundation will develop a list of potential individual and institutional donors to support the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research. Solicit lead support for facilities, endowed positions, and research projects. Develop a public communications plan that supports the effort.

YEAR 4 BENCHMARK: Refine the case and expand fundraising solicitations for the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research to individual and institutional donors prospects.

YEAR 5 BENCHMARK: Steward lead gift donors and expand engagement of individual and institutional donor prospects for priority funding opportunities for the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research.

5-YEAR OUTCOMES: Enhance external funding for facilities and operations of the Brooklyn College Center for Cancer Research.

Similarly to the task of the Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences, all five college deans are tasked to “work with departments and programs to generate funds to advance research and creative work,” in areas relevant to their schools.

Not surprisingly, the content of the research is hardly mentioned (faculty don’t like to be told what research they should do). The only content-related entry is the recent establishment of a Cancer Center at Brooklyn College, which I’ve mentioned previously. However, all research needs financial support and successful, productive, research enhances the standing of the institution. The “broader impact” of addressing the needs of society beyond the university walls is accounted for in both versions of the plan. Table 1 addresses the relevant sections in the tabular plan, however, the key performance indicators have yet to be assigned for these particular segments:

Table 1 – Selected “broader impact” segments of BC Strategic Plan 2

Objective Strategic Action Priorities Key Performance Indicators and Targets
3.4 Prepare students to become engaged, global citizens and decision makers in a complex, diverse, and sustainable society. The Brooklyn College Foundation and the Office of International Education and Global Engagement will expand funding to support students to study, work, and intern abroad
5.3 Position and develop Brooklyn College as a vital resource to advance the public good in our borough. Brooklyn College, working closely with the Center for the Study of Brooklyn, will strengthen partnerships, with organizations and projects that share our commitment to advancing the public good, such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York City Department of Education, The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Mayor’s Office, community boards, city parks, the National Park Service, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Department of Sanitation’s Compost Project, and increase students’ opportunities to engage with them.

The needs for interdisciplinary training of society and students are addressed separately in Goal 1A-b of the detailed plan:

The provost and deans will support and encourage the cross-school development and success of curricula, programs, and major/minor pairs that promote interdisciplinary work.

YEAR 1 BENCHMARK: The deans will collaborate to prepare an inventory of existing major/minor pairs within schools and major/minor pairs across schools that promote interdisciplinary work. The deans will catalogue, communicate, and promote these pairs.

YEAR 2 BENCHMARK: Building upon existing programs and supporting new ideas, the deans will collaborate with faculty to assess potential new major/minor pairs that promote interdisciplinary work.

YEAR 3 BENCHMARK: The deans will support faculty and departments in the development of new curricula to promote the major/minor pairs identified in Year 2. Curriculum changes will be submitted to Faculty Council.

YEAR 4 BENCHMARK: Faculty and departments will teach courses in the new major/minor pairs. These will be documented and promoted to students. Additional pairs will be developed.

YEAR 5 BENCHMARK: The provost, deans, and departments will collaborate to assess the effectiveness of the new major/minor pairs for promoting interdisciplinary work.

5-YEAR OUTCOMES: A well-thought-out set of cross-school course offerings that meets the needs of students and faculty in participating departments, interdisciplinary programs, and schools will be documented and promoted.

We are now living in an era of accelerated changing global realities (See September 27, 2022 blog) in areas such as:

  • Mandated decarbonization
  • Mandated decrease in the use of single-use plastics
  • Testing of sewage for early detection of viral threats
  • Running schools with decreased enrollments
  • Preparing society for adaptation to extreme conditions.

The present BC strategic plans do not mention such changes. However, this strategic plan is about to expire, to be replaced by a new one. The next blog will focus on my thoughts about preparation for such changes in future strategic plans.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *