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Campus News

CAS announces strategic plan for growth

Claude Welch teaching a class

An increase in CAS faculty of 60, or 13 percent, is expected to enhance diversity, improve course offerings and improve the student-faculty ratio. Photo: Douglas Levere

By PATRICIA DONOVAN

Published May 30, 2013

“CAS@20 is the first step in making UB and the college the destination of choice for students and faculty.”
E. Bruce Pitman, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences

After several years of budget contraction and reduction, the College of Arts and Sciences, UB’s largest and most diverse academic unit, has developed phase one of a plan to invest new resources in its faculty, students, programs and community relationships.

The plan calls for increases in faculty and staff, enhanced educational offerings, greater support for faculty research and innovation in teaching, and much more.

Like other university units, the college suffered from budget cuts in 2008-11 in the wake of the economic downtown that affected the state and country.

“Steady enrollment and the NYSUNY 2020 legislation, however, have afforded us financial stability and new resources,” says CAS Dean E. Bruce Pitman. “We are now developing and implementing a strategic plan—‘CAS@20’—to assist us in improving UB’s standing among AAU institutions, enhancing the student experience at UB, engaging with the community and communicating with our alumni and friends.”

Through NYSUNY 2020, signed into law in 2011 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, CAS is planning to invest some $10 million in faculty and staff hiring and program enhancement, as called for in the CAS@20, Pitman says. Already, the school has hired more than 20 new faculty for the fall semester. In addition, this past year with the help of the Provost’s Office, the college added 246 new sections of undergraduate courses to assist students in completing the necessary requirements for graduation through UB’s new “Finish in 4” program. 

Phase I of the plan is completed and has been shared with faculty and staff. It was developed over eight months by more than 65 members of the CAS faculty and staff, and university administrators. The plan was presented to all college faculty and staff, and to a selected group of students and the Dean’s Advisory Council. “CAS@20” refers to the 20th anniversary of the present configuration of the 100-year-old college and speaks to its correspondence to the university’s strategic plan, UB 2020.

The plan and its appendices may be viewed on the CAS website.

“The primary focus of this effort, says Pitman, “is the same as that of Realizing UB 2020: to elevate the college’s and the university’s ranking among the nation’s elite research universities by attracting the best faculty and students possible, enhancing our ability to make a significant contribution to Western New York and beyond.”

“CAS@20” establishes five strategies to achieve this objective and to help make UB and the College of Arts and Sciences a destination of choice for students and new faculty members:

  • An increase in CAS faculty of 60, or 13 percent, and a commensurate increase in the number of professional staff members. This is expected to enhance diversity, improve course offerings and improve the student-faculty ratio. Staff growth, planners say, will facilitate teaching and research productivity, improve the operations of CAS research centers and departments, and provide increased student service.
  • Improved research support for the faculty through the development of current and new research centers and scholarly groups, and by modifying policies regarding research leaves. These changes are expected to foster greater research and scholarly productivity, which in turn, they say, will result in higher research expenditures, greater success garnering prestigious fellowships and greater recognition of faculty accomplishments.
  • Enriched student experiences through changes to curricular and co-curricular offerings, and a reconsideration of general education and online courses to keep student debt low.
  • Greater support for initiatives by faculty, staff and students to engage the community by bringing expertise and energy to the challenges of Buffalo and Western New York through community engagement initiatives.
  • Improved communications with students, alumni and friends with an enhanced Web and social media presence. This is expected to help recruit high-quality students to the campus and promote the achievements of CAS faculty and current and former students, bringing more recognition to the impact of their work.

“A host of specific action items were recommended to guide our work in implementing these strategies,” Pitman says. “These we culled, categorized and summarized, and it has resulted in a number of investment areas that we believe will support plan implementation.”

These investment areas reflect the strategies. Specific methods of investment are discussed at length and in detail in the plan itself. They include, but are not limited to, such items as participating in the Global Competency Program for undergraduates, support for strategic interaction between international and domestic students, continued engagement with the community, expansion of service learning opportunities and internships, support for faculty experimentation with new technologies for course delivery and online programming. 

The plan also proposes encouragement of undergraduate learning outcomes that include critical thinking, collaboration, communication, cultural appreciation and engagement.

Pitman says the measures of success in all these areas will be an increase in extramural funding and prestigious fellowships awarded to faculty, improved SAT scores of incoming students, improved placement of graduating undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students, and increased engagement of alumni and benefactors.

“We also expect to improve our ability to attract and retain faculty members,” he says. We want to encourage faculty to develop and enhance teaching methods, to increase publication rates, to find more support for research and scholarship, and to increase the number of prestigious faculty awards. As a college, we want to increase philanthropic giving.

“Other measures are more difficult to quantify,” he says, “but we will work with departments, for instance, to benchmark best practices to measure both student experience and the satisfaction and career trajectories of faculty and staff members.”

Pitman says the faculty members who devised the plan worked in teams on such issues as changes in graduate and undergraduate education programs, investment in the community, creative activities and research, faculty development, college identity and academic support and resource management.

“I am extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work of the faculty and staff who devoted extensive time and effort to this project,” he says, “as well as to the academic and professional staff in the dean’s office who supported them in this endeavor.

“The steering committee played a very important role in its realization.”

The steering committee includes Alex Cartwright, vice president for research; Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs, Joseph Brennan, associate vice president for university communications; John Ho, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Physics and dean of the Graduate School; two CAS department chairs and many of the college’s associate deans.

“They have developed a roadmap that presents large and important goals,” Pitman says, “accompanied by specific, realistic and reliable methods with which to accomplish them.”

 “CAS@20 is the first step in making UB and the college the destination of choice for students and faculty,” say Pitman.

The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most diverse academic unit at UB, with 6,000 enrolled majors and several thousand intended majors. Its 450 faculty members teach approximately 350,000 credit hours a year, including two-thirds of all undergraduate credit hours at UB.  CAS is home to 25 academic departments; 23 research centers, such as the Humanities Institute, the Center for Geohazard Studies and the Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology; and 16 programs, among them Asian Studies, Caribbean Cultural Studies and Environmental Geosciences.