Two task forces work to better U

Jerret Raffety

Students, staff and faculty members got an opportunity to make suggestions Tuesday on how to make the University one of the top three research facilities in the world.

Two task forces, appointed by University President Bob Bruininks, listened to and fielded comments and questions from the University community in the Science Classroom Building. One task force has been looking at ways to improve University academics; the other is looking at improving administrative services.

The strategic-positioning process aims to decide the University’s academic priorities to improve its research programs, said E. Thomas Sullivan, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. The process also aims to create a budget that will make those priorities feasible.

This was the fifth and final open forum for the information-gathering portion of the strategic-positioning process, Sullivan said.

The committees heard questions and comments on several topics, including the University admissions process, advising, interdisciplinary research and learning outside of classrooms.

Some at the forum said they were concerned the committees were overemphasizing research rankings and not focusing enough on other issues affecting the University community.

“A key purpose of undergraduate programs in research universities should be preparing as diverse a group as possible to be the next knowledge-makers,” said Patrick Bruch, a General College professor.

The committees also fielded questions concerning the future of the General College. Some said they were concerned about rumors the University wants to get rid of the college.

“There have been no decisions to dissolve the General College that I have heard of,” Sullivan said.

The academic committee’s tasks include articulating the University’s academic focus, identifying trends in higher education and developing proposals for improving the University as a research facility, Sullivan said.

The administrative committee seeks to align administrative support with the University’s academic goals and examine short- and long-term opportunities to increase efficiency, among other goals, said Kathleen O’Brien, vice president for University Services.

“We want to accumulate savings that we can reinvest back into academics,” O’Brien said.

Being among the top three research facilities in the world would improve the lives of people in Minnesota and the world, Sullivan said.

This mission originated from the Board of Regents in 1994 and is being readopted now, he said.

The strategic-positioning process began in July, when the strategic-positioning committee began working to create a plan, Sullivan said. The plan was presented for approval to the regents Thursday, he said.

The plan included a goal, criteria for measuring the success of that goal and considerations for future trends that might affect these goals, Sullivan said.

People can still submit comments and suggestions online, Sullivan said.