A Collaborative Effort to Achieve Academic and Leadership Renewal
Welcome to the 2017-2018 academic year at Stevens. I would like to extend best wishes to the Class of 2021, to our incoming graduate students, to all of our returning students and to our faculty and staff.
As members of our community gather on campus for the start of this new year, I am optimistic that we are making substantial strides toward our collective goal of establishing Stevens as a premier research and teaching institution.
Across our campus and in all of our schools, we are beginning to see the results of the academic and leadership renewal that we have undertaken in recent months.
This fall, we welcome a strong, diverse incoming undergraduate class of 817 and 1,368 graduate students, including at least 56 Ph.D. candidates.
We have also expanded our faculty, the heart of the university, by hiring 19 new members to bring the total to 296. These new faculty members – the result of an aggressive recruiting effort – arrive with impressive credentials, and I am confident that they will contribute much to the university community for many years to come as we build our research and teaching capabilities.
We also continue to expand and update our infrastructure, the backbone of our enterprise and a key component of our efforts to remain competitive and attract top students and faculty. The North Building is open, and we have worked through the summer to modernize and renovate classrooms and public areas in Babbio, Burchard, EAS and McLean, adding new audiovisual and educational technologies and creating more attractive gathering spaces. Soon, we plan to break ground for a major 90,000-square-foot academic center that is scheduled to open in July 2019. These endeavors follow the dedication, last fall, of the ABS Engineering Center, an important new facility housing five engineering laboratories, classrooms, workspaces, offices and meeting areas.
Advances Across All of Our Schools
At the same time, our individual schools continue to make strides, with new leadership and new academic initiatives:
- In May, Dr. Jean Zu took the helm as dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science, bringing energy and fresh perspectives to our largest school. Dr. Zu has named a new leadership team to help her invigorate the school while preserving its strengths. She just held the school’s first strategic planning retreat to help create a blueprint for the future of the school, and is launching an SES newsletter to promote better communication.
- The School of Business has completed the successful integration of the financial engineering programs and recently celebrated the opening of the Hanlon Laboratory for Financial Analytics and Data Visualization (known as Hanlon 2), which puts cutting-edge data analysis and visualization tools in the hands of our students. The school also welcomed five new faculty who started in August.
- The School of Systems & Enterprises is launching a new undergraduate degree program in industrial and systems engineering. We are renewing our commitment to SSE, and the search for a new dean is proceeding vigorously.
- The College of Arts and Letters continues to explore the frontiers of creativity and technology. Recently, faculty in the Music & Technology and the Science, Technology & Society programs were awarded a total of close to $1 million by the National Science Foundation and Carnegie-MacArthur Foundation to advance exciting research in the arts and humanities.
Late this summer, we also launched the online education venture StevensOnline, which is anchored by our award-winning WebCampus distance learning platform. As a part of this initiative, we have made it possible to earn a complete master’s degree entirely online. We have ambitious goals for StevensOnline, which will allow us to offer more options to attract larger numbers of highly motivated graduate students.
StevensOnline is just one aspect of our efforts to transform our graduate programs and, concurrently, the research enterprise at Stevens. Under the leadership of Paul Easterling, whom I recently appointed as Assistant Provost for Graduate Studies, we have reorganized the Office of Graduate Admissions and launched the new Provost’s Doctoral Fellowship Program, investing $1.6 million toward attracting higher quality Ph.D. students, and greater numbers of them, with competitive multi-year financial aid packages. We also held our first Ph.D. Recruitment Weekend in the spring, an event created to showcase Stevens and increase yield among accepted students. Fifty-seven percent of the accepted students who attended – 20 of 35 – chose to attend Stevens.
Strategic Growth and Development
All of these are important and significant steps, but they are just part of a process of growth and development that will unfold in the coming years. We will continue to be guided through that process by Stevens’ visionary 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create. This year, we embark enthusiastically on the second half of that plan with a revised set of goals.
In early 2017, President Nariman Farvardin, the academic and administrative leadership, the faculty and its leadership in the Faculty Senate, and members of the broader Stevens community joined forces to update the plan. The revised strategic plan, released in late May, reflects the progress we have made in many areas, accounts for new opportunities and challenges, and incorporates lessons we have learned.
Now, we are moving forward with a working group – composed of myself and key faculty, academic and administrative leaders – that is charged with developing an implementation strategy for Year Six of the plan plus an implementation framework for 2019-2022. The members of this working group will also act as a liaison with the Faculty Senate, the faculty at large, the students and other members of the Stevens community to ensure that all of our stakeholders continue to be included in the process.
I am confident that our revised strategic plan will focus and strengthen Stevens’ academic enterprise and its reputation. Significantly, the plan now focuses on several foundational pillars – promising and important fields in which Stevens has an outstanding record and future. They are: artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity; biomedical engineering, healthcare and life sciences; complex systems and networks; data science and information systems; financial systems and technologies; and resilience and sustainability.
An Empowering Budget Process
The plan also calls for us to modernize and improve our allocation of resources by developing and implementing a Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model. RCM budgeting will allow us to align resources with priorities and the amount of activity at the academic-unit level. It will empower our academic units to make financial decisions, while at the same time promoting accountability for how resources are used. It will also provide incentives for reasoned, high-quality growth aligned with our strategic priorities. Over the next three fiscal years (2018-2020), the University will pilot the RCM approach to budgeting and resource allocation.
In all, the revised plan provides a reasonable and sustainable growth model; an investment in faculty renewal; a path toward building the research enterprise; a strengthened infrastructure for faculty and graduate students, especially doctoral candidates; a resource allocation philosophy that promotes empowerment and accountability; and an invigorated commitment to diversity.
Finally, this academic year will also see the university’s Middle States accreditation come up for renewal, a critical event that will require everyone’s cooperation.
I am excited about the goals we have articulated and gratified by the university community’s dedication to Stevens’ evolution and success. Together, I am certain that we will continue to create a proud and distinguished future for Stevens.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs