On December 12th, a new tradition began at Stevens – a biannual meeting of faculty, staff and administrators in which President Nariman Farvardin reported on the "State of the Institute" and answered questions from the audience. Dr. Farvardin sees these meetings as critical to his administration's effort to advance Stevens to higher levels of accomplishment and distinction, an endeavor which requires the commitment, enthusiasm, engagement and agreement of the entire university community.
In front of more than 250 faculty and staff in the DeBaun Auditorium, Dr. Farvardin began his presentation by sharing some of the major accomplishments from across the university community this semester.
"This is just a small percentage of the achievements of our community since the semester began, but even a glance demonstrates the obvious breadth and quality of the academic and research enterprise and athletic activities at Stevens," he said.
Dr. Farvardin also reported on the status of major, university-wide activities underway at Stevens. This included a strategic planning process to chart the university's ascent over the next decade.
"The key to this initiative is collecting feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni, corporate partners and all of our other constituencies," Dr. Farvardin said. "The first event – a Town Hall meeting – was extremely well attended, evidence that the process is moving forward and moving forward well."
Through the Board of Trustees, the university also engaged in a peer benchmarking study which identified five similar, tech-focused universities and seven key categories of metrics to compare Stevens against, allowing the administration to set specific goals for improvement in a number of important areas, including the number and academic profile of students; retention and graduation rates; academic reputation; levels of philanthropic support; and demographics of students.
On the development front, the President's Initiative for Excellence has already achieved some significant milestones as the administration works to raise $30 million in the next three years. The development team has worked tirelessly to reengage with alumni and friends across the country this semester, and Dr. Farvardin said he is confident the university can get to a point where it can raise $25 to $30 million consistently on an annual basis.
Other ongoing activities included the launch of a Master Planning process for developing the university's infrastructure; a plan of specific budgetary steps to put the university on a strong financial footing; and focused efforts to improve student recruitment, retention and graduation rates, entrepreneurship and enterprise development.
Next, Dr. Farvardin shared high-level results from a comprehensive faculty and staff survey which was completed this semester and will be conducted on an annual basis moving forward. He outlined steps to address major areas of concern, including the transparency and effectiveness of administration and governance; the physical state of classrooms and lab facilities; and the quality of faculty support services, especially IT. He also identified other steps to improve the university's standing, including in the US News & World Report ranking, and improve its performance compared to its five peer universities.
"When we improve these areas our university will look completely different," he said.
Finally, Dr. Farvardin outlined Stevens' key differentiators: its location next to the world's greatest city; the strength and legacy of its science, engineering and technology programs; its accomplished alumni in positions of influence and affluence; its nimble and entrepreneurial character; and its highly-engaged and enthusiastic faculty and staff. He called on the audience to take advantage of these strengths in every single endeavor.
"To build Stevens' future, we must be selective, but we must also be excellent in all that we choose to do," he said. "I have no doubt that by drawing on our many strengths, we can take the university to great heights worthy of its legacy as a premier, technology-centric university."