Executive Summary - Year 3 Report
Launched in 2012, the 10-year Stevens Strategic Plan has been aggressively implemented and methodically monitored for three years. This progress report provides an update of progress on the 46 goals specified in the plan during the third year of implementation. A detailed report of Year 1 progress was published in Fall 2013 and Year 2 progress was published in Fall 2014. This report covers academic progress taking place during academic year 2014-15 (AY14-15); financial and philanthropy reporting for fiscal year 2015 (FY15), the period of July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015; and fall enrollment and retention statistics as of the October 15, 2015, the “freeze” date for AY15-16.
Consistent with the inclusive process of development of the Strategic Plan, to which more than 300 members of the Stevens community contributed, the implementation of the Strategic Plan has been a community-wide effort. Work toward 46 ambitious goals—some multidimensional and requiring success across multiple areas and some more focused and discrete—has demonstrated significant progress in many of the six areas addressed by the Plan:
- Undergraduate Studies and Experience
- Graduate Studies and Experience
- Research and Scholarship
- Culture and Governance
- Internal Bridges
- External Bridges
Because the Strategic Plan identified specific metrics for many of the goals, along with deadlines by which these goals should be achieved, tracking progress of the plan is also quantitative, where possible.
As of Year 3, progress has been made on 44 of the 46 goals. Ownership of several goals was reassigned with the arrival of a new Chief Financial Officer, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer.
As in the first two years of implementation, two leadership retreats were held during Year 3 to monitor progress and plan for the future. Year 3 retreats focused on diversity and selectivity among the undergraduate and graduate student bodies, optimizing financial aid, faculty diversity and productivity, investing in research, corporate and online education, financial planning, student facilities, fundraising, and alumni engagement. Participants included the President’s Cabinet, the Academic Council, the Chair of the Faculty Senate, and other key faculty and staff who are integral to the implementation and/or monitoring of the plan. In addition to these annual Strategic Plan implementation retreats, the Vice Presidents and the Provost report updates at Cabinet meetings, and periodic meetings take place to review progress toward goals assigned to the Provost.
In addition, the Strategic Plan should be considered a “living document,” one that, with appropriate review and consensus, evolves to reflect current conditions and new information. As a result, new goals may be added and existing tasks may be modified to adapt to changing conditions. Following discussion at the Year 3 retreat and with approval from the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate, Goals G1, G2, R3, R4, C5, and E9 have been revised. These revisions clarify language, ensure conformance with standard reporting metrics, and/or correct baseline metrics. Goals C6 and I1, which are similar, have been combined into a single goal. This set of revised goals will be the metrics against which progress is evaluated in Year 4 and beyond. In all cases where new goals were added or goals were modified, the ambitious standards set by the original Strategic Plan document have guided such adaptations, and the adaptations will remain consistent with the stated vision: “to become a premier student-centric, technological research university.”
In addition to these ambitious, yet incremental, goals against which we measure our progress, the Stevens community achieved a few very significant milestones and accomplishments during the past year:
- Stevens’ first-place finish in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon project brought pride, acclaim, and international recognition to Stevens and the extended Stevens family.
- A #3 ranking among more than 1,300 colleges and universities nationwide in Payscale.com’s 2015 return-on-investment report generated significant attention from a variety of constituencies and validated the tremendous value of a Stevens education.
- The engagement of our alumni and the support of alumni and friends helped push our progress for the leadership phase of the capital campaign over our target of $70 million six months ahead of schedule.
- And, we achieved a very significant milestone in our campus infrastructure needs with the approval of the Academic Gateway Project, our first academic building in a decade. We expect to begin construction of this critically important project in 2016.
A summary of other noteworthy progress made during Year 3 includes:
As of Fall 2015, undergraduate enrollment continued to increase but at a more moderate pace of 3 percent over Fall 2014 numbers (2,976 in Fall 2015 vs. 2,892 in Fall 2014), and consistent with plans enacted due to campus space constraints. Applications increased 26 percent (from 5,190 to 6,540) over Fall 2014; selectivity remained steady at 44 percent, and the trend for the academic profile of new students is positive, as measured by high school GPA, class rank, and SAT scores. Stevens instituted a new program, the Pinnacle Scholars program, to recruit the highest caliber of undergraduate students. Out-of-state students and the percentage of women in the freshman class dipped slightly from Fall 2014, while the percentage of international students in the freshman class increased slightly.
The freshman to sophomore retention rate reached 97 percent, (including leave of absence) and 94 percent (not including LOA students), and the six-year graduation rate remained at 82 percent.
Stevens continued its stellar record of post-graduation placement, with 95 percent of Class of 2015 securing employment, admission to post-graduate study with 1 percent entering the military six months after graduation. The Payscale.com return-on-investment rankings increased from #5 in the country in 2014 to #3 in 2015.
Recruitment and enrollment of graduate students also improved over Year 2. The number of graduate applications increased 12 percent in Fall 2015 over Fall 2014, from 5,187 to 5,810. Selectivity increased 4.3 percent, from 64.1 percent of graduate applicants accepted in Fall 2014 to 59.79 percent in Fall 2015. The cohort of new graduate students for Fall 2015 declined 2.9 percent from Fall 2015, from 1,236 to 1,210 new students. Full-time graduate enrollment increased 6.4 percent over the prior year, from 2,008 to 2,137, and part-time graduate enrollment increased 1.7 percent, from 1,225 to 1,246, with total graduate headcount at 3,383. Full-time students continue to comprise approximately two-thirds of the overall graduate student population.
The FY15 externally supported annual research expenditures per tenured and tenure-track (T/TT) faculty was $253,267, up by approximately 17.4 percent from $215,566 last year. The dollar value of awards increased by 37.6 percent, from $30.8 million in FY14 to $42.4 million in FY 15, despite a decline in the number and dollar value of proposals submitted in FY 15. The number of Ph.D. degrees awarded per T/TT faculty increased from .31 in AY 2013-14 to .5 in AY 2014-15.
Year 3 progress in the area of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) includes: the establishment of the IDEaS (Innovation, Design, & Entrepreneurship at Stevens) initiative and PROOF (Prototype Object Fabrication) Laboratory to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurship thread within the design-spine content of the undergraduate curriculum; an increase of over 30 percent in the number of patent disclosures and issuances over last year; and the launch of a variety of new communications and programs to promote I&E with students, faculty and alumni.
In Year 3, efforts continued to institutionalize initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in the faculty, increasing transparency, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness, and strengthening shared governance.
There was modest progress in efforts to increase faculty diversity. From AY 13-14 to AY 14-15, the percentage of tenured women faculty decreased by 2 percent (a decrease of one faculty member), while the percentage of tenure-track women faculty increased from 26 percent to 31 percent (an increase of three faculty members) and full-time non-tenure track women faculty increased from 21 percent to 22 percent (an increase of seven faculty members).
Several programs to enhance diversity were initiated and/or supported by the NSF ADVANCE grant in three areas: Academic Culture, Leadership Development, and Hiring and Faculty Advancement. These initiatives have introduced thought leadership and best practices to Stevens faculty and administrators.
To address the Strategic Plan goal to identify the metrics by which “exemplary faculty members” are identified, a proposal was submitted and adopted at the December 2014 Board of Trustees meeting to designate “University Professors,” along with the requirements, role, and methods to recognize such faculty.
Joint meetings of the Faculty Senate and the President’s Cabinet have continued in Year 3. In addition, the series of informal meetings between President Farvardin and academic and administrative units continued, in an effort to improve communication between faculty and staff and university leadership. The annual faculty and staff survey and the bi-annual Excellence in All We Do (unit and sub-unit) surveys were administered, and results were reported to the community. Other ongoing initiatives in Year 3 include: salary benchmarking of new administrative and staff positions and once-per-semester “Conversation with the President” updates to the community.
Analysis, restructuring, reorganizations, and new appointments to improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout the organization continued, including the appointment of a new Chief Financial Officer, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer. In addition, new approaches to increase ROI of university resources for greater impact have been established, such as the implementation of the Workday Human Capital Management system; the launch of the Virtual Learning Environment; the merger of the Co-op and Career Services units to form the Stevens Career Center; and a reorganization of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
The Internal Bridges elements of the Strategic Plan focus on strengthening Stevens’ physical and IT infrastructure, as well as the university’s financial position and fiscal outlook. Substantial progress has been made in each of these areas during Year 3.
IT upgrades impacting academic and administrative operations in Year 3 include: the successful launch and full operation of the Workday Human Capital Management system; the successful use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in the E120 Engineering Graphics course; and the renovation of the Stevens Data Center.
Projects to improve the physical infrastructure—academic, administrative, and student life spaces—continued in Year 3. Significant developments include: Zoning Board Approval of the Academic Gateway Project, an 89,000 sq. ft. building in the academic core of the campus, scheduled to house 11 “smart” classrooms, the Department of Computer Science, the Center for Healthcare Innovation, the Smart Energy Systems Lab, the Innovation and Design Laboratory, and the Digital Learning Laboratory, as well as collaboration space and faculty offices. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016. Construction commenced on the 3,900 sq. ft. American Bureau of Shipping addition to the Davidson Lab, with expected completion in summer 2016. This addition will include three engineering labs, 13 faculty offices, and 34 seats for student study space. Three classrooms were created or renovated during Year 3, adding 50 new seats for instructional use. Other critical infrastructure projects were completed, including the complete modernization of two elevators and the connection of 11 buildings and campus domestic water pumps on emergency power. Other renovations and improvements were made to reclaim and enhance academic space, including the transformation of the south bay of the Griffith building into flexible space for student projects. Landscape enhancement continued, and a number of energy and sustainability efforts continue into Year 3 to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Stevens was recognized with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Silver Star rating.
Dr. Louis Mayer, an experienced professional in financial management for higher education, was appointed Chief Financial Officer, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer in March 2015. For the third year since the implementation of the Strategic Plan, a stronger fiscal position was recorded. The "liquidity index," which measures the sufficiency of cash and liquid assets to cover a portion of the university's annual total operating expenses (where a threshold value of 1.0 indicates a healthy level of liquidity) improved from 0.55 in 2014 to 0.83 in 2015. The “composite financial index,” is a combination of several metrics into a single measure of overall financial health, where 3.0 is a minimum threshold value. Stevens’ computed score changed from 5.21 in 2014 to 4.46 in 2015. Other significant indicators, such as reliance on a line of credit, continue to significantly improve. In each week of FY15, the university had an improved cash balance compared to the corresponding week in the prior two years. A 5 percent margin in the operating budget was recorded at the end of FY15.
The leadership phase of a major capital campaign remains on schedule, with $28.6 million in gifts and pledges at the conclusion of FY15, a record for Stevens. The campaign total has surpassed the $70 million goal by $1.64 million six months ahead of schedule (December 2015). The giving participation rate increased from 16 percent in 2014 to 18 percent in 2015. For the second year in a row, Stevens received a Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award for overall improvement in fundraising.
Progress toward Stevens’ reputation and prestige goals continued. The SURE House Solar Decathlon victory resulted in more than 100 media placements, with double digit increases in social media followers and web site viewership over last year. Stevens moved up one place, to #75, in the 2015 America’s Best Colleges issue of U.S. News & World Report, and ranked #3 in the nation in Payscale.com’s return-on-investment ranking of more than 1,300 colleges and universities nationwide, up from #5 in 2014. A new research publication has been launched to position Stevens as a premier research institution to other university research administrators, provosts and deans.
Efforts to continue to deepen collaborations with the City of Hoboken continued and intensified, with numerous events and programs, including the STEM-a-thon, for all of Hoboken’s 6th grade students; the Provost’s Lecture Series for Women in Leadership; a jointly-sponsored exhibit on “The Extraordinary Stevens Family,” in collaboration with the Hoboken Historical Museum; the SATMax test preparation program sponsored by Stevens faculty and students for Hoboken High School students, and more. These efforts earned a Council for the Advancement and Support of Education Gold Award for Community Relations programs.