Declaring that the status quo is no longer acceptable, President James J. Duderstadt called on faculty last week to accept a new vision for the University and to join in efforts to provide the U-M with the capacity to change itself as it faces the challenges of the rapidly approaching 21st century.
Duderstadt addressed Senate Assembly at its first meeting of the year and as the inaugural speaker in a fall series titled Changing in a World of Change: The University and Its Publics.
In setting the context for his remarks, the president noted that while change may be the watch-word of the day, he chooses other words for the U-M: opportunity, excitement, leadership.
Higher education faces a litany of concerns, the president noted, including rapidly escalating costs in a time of constrained resources, erosion of the public trust and deterioration of relationships with important constituencies.
However, I believe our institutions will be affected even more profoundly, Duderstadt said, by the powerful changes driving transformations in our society, including the ethnic and cultural diversity of the citizenry, increased global interdependence and the importance of knowledge as a determinant of economic prosperity, national security and social well-being.
Citing the many elements of the Universitys mission that have made it a very complex institutionhe described the modern university as a loosely-coupled adaptive system the president noted that we have developed a transactional culture, in which everything is up for negotiation.
Indeed, the real driving force behind the evolution of the modern university is provided by the entrepreneurial faculty, seeking to achieve their goals and their dreams.
The modern university, however, faces quite serious challenges:
To respond to the challenges and opportunities of the future, Iand most university leadersbelieve that the modern university must engage in a far more strategic process of change, Duderstadt said.
A decade ago, the University began to engage in a strategic process of change that led to the development of a compelling mission and vision.
Key to the accomplishment of that, the president noted, was implementation of a planning process that was not only capable of adapting to changing conditions, but to some degree also capable of modifying the environment in which the University would find itself in the decades ahead.
During that time, the president explained, the University adopted Vision 2000: The University of Michigan should position itself to become the leading university of the 21st century, through the quality and leadership of its programs and the achievements of its students, faculty and staff.
That vision determined the Universitys agenda for the past several years, one that included:
As a result, the president said, the
U-M today is better, stronger, more diverse and more exciting than ever. One could argue, he said, that the U-M is not only the leading public university in America, but that it is challenged by only a handful of distinguished private universities in the quality, breadth, capacity and impact of its many programs and activities.
However, that very success, Duderstadt feels, is now the Universitys greatest challenge. We have built a university for the 20th century, but that century is rapidly coming to an end.
It is now time for the University to consider a bolder visiona strategic intentaimed at achieving excellence and leadership during a period of great change.
Vision 2017, which references the
U-Ms 200th anniversary, is aimed at providing Michigan with the capacity to re-invent the very nature of the university, to transform itself into an institution better capable of serving a new world in a new century, the president said.
The new approach, he said, seeks to move us from a positioning strategy to one of transforming.
It seeks to build the capacity, the energy, the excitement and the commitment necessary for the University to explore entirely new paradigms of teaching, research and service. It seeks to remove the constraints that prevent the University from responding to the needs of a rapidly changing society, to remove the unnecessary processes and administrative structures, to question existing premises and arrangements, and to challenge, excite and embolden members of the University community to embark on a great adventure.
The goals to move the University to that vision are simple:
Achieving the goals will be effected through organization of a series of strategic initiatives, some already in place and each designed as a self-contained effort with a clearly defined rationale and specific objectives.
Duderstadt said that there is a sense among leaders of higher education that the 1990s are a time of very significant change to which the University must respond. The status quo is no longer an option, he said.
We cannot rest on our laurels, but instead must re-invent the University to serve a new world in a new century.
Our challenge, he said is to work together to provide an environment in which such change is regarded not as threatening, but rather as an exhilarating opportunity to engage in the primary activity of a universitylearningin all its many forms, to better serve our world.