Office of the Provost


To: Faculty and Staff of Provost's Area Schools and Campuses
From: James V. Maher
Date: April 12, 2001

Progress in Planning and Developing Our Academic Programs

I am writing to give you an assessment of the state of our planning and development of our academic programs and to alert you to several other tems of general interest.

Our strategic planning efforts, which have involved faculty, staff,
students, and administrators at all levels of the University, have proven very successful in strengthening our academic programs. We are today clearly a stronger institution as well as one of higher quality that operates more efficiently. During these last several years, the majority of our academic units have succeeded in formulating well developed long-term plans. Most annual plans have included carefully drafted mission statements, well articulated goals, prioritized lists of academic programs, data demonstrating comparative benchmarking, agreed upon targets for faculty size and student enrollments, evidence of hard won internal reallocations, and the identification of new revenue streams. I have been delighted to review the dossiers of the highly impressive faculty members recruited to the broad array of our units this year as each school aligns its faculty recruiting with its program priorities.

We are well prepared at this point to elevate our strategic planning to a new level. We must now move into a culture of continuous improvement, looking to build upon the strengths of our identified priorities toward improvements beyond our realized successes. In addition, we must maintain our capacity to respond to significant internal and external changes, particularly as making appropriate responses to changes proves to be key to maintaining and strengthening our programmatic endeavors. We have also begun to incorporate information technology planning into the overall academic plans of our schools and campuses.

Along with the laudable development of the plans for the schools and campuses, the three centrally driven components of our academic planning have progressed visibly and impressively. These are:

1.) Student Initiatives. Many of the most extensive accomplishments realized as a result of our prioritization and reallocations are highlighted in the self-study document prepared for our Middle States accreditation review, which focuses on our efforts to improve the undergraduate student experience. The undergraduate student experience described in this report includes not only advances in the academic programs offered and in the instruction that characterizes our programs, but also improvements in the campus life provided to students and their impact on students' academic experience. In particular, it documents that the University has advanced by:

becoming increasingly attentive to the entire array of enrollment management issues

from communicating with high school juniors to assessing undergraduate and alumni satisfaction with student services;

significantly enhancing physical facilities that support undergraduate education;

changing recruitment strategies to move from a "selective" to a
"highly selective" institution;

developing a strategy for enhancing teaching;

enhancing customer service related to the undergraduate education mission;

moving progressively to integrate student and academic affairs,
with the intent of enhancing factors such as the quality of life in and outside the classroom, overall institutional satisfaction, retention, and graduation outcomes;

launching a major upgrade of the undergraduate curriculum, focused primarily on the general education and skills requirements; and

enhancing the advantages to the undergraduate educational experience of studying at a research university that has a medical school and state-of-the-art information technology, and is located in a major city.

I encourage you to examine this document. Copies of the Middle States self-study document are available in departmental and Deans' Offices, as well as in the Provost's Office.

2.) Facilities Plan. We will soon have completed the fourth year of implementing the University's ten year Facilities Plan. Many improvements have already been made to the facilities of all our campuses, and most of these have involved renovation of existing facilities. The largest of these renovation projects involves the recently begun refitting of the Cathedral of Learning for modern telecommunications and information technology along with the installation of air conditioning and improved heating. High priority in this project has been assigned to air conditioning the classrooms on the lower floors of the building. During the next year, several crucial Pittsburgh campus projects should be completed, and these will provide the first significant additions to this campus in many years.

The projects are:

a) the Multi-Purpose Academic Complex (MPAC) will house multiple programs across several schools and free up space throughout the campus for many more programs.

b) The Petersen Events Center will add to our student facilities many of the features whose absence from the William Pitt Union has led our undergraduates to say that we do not have a "real student center." It will also provide a first rate site for the University Commencement and a wonderful home for our basketball teams.

c) The Thomas Boulevard Building will house several library technical services currently located in the Hillman Library, along with providing high density storage for more than two million volumes. The addition of this building to the University Library System will allow significant reduction of the current crowding of the collection in Hillman while providing an accessible location for the less used parts of the collection.

d) Approximately half of the floor space in the Hillman Cancer Center near Shadyside Hospital will be used to house the research scientists in our University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

e) Complementary developments at regional campuses include the upcoming groundbreaking for the Sports Center at the Bradford campus,the construction of the plaza area on our Titusville campus, construction of the new garden apartment-style residence halls on our Greensburg campus, and the continuation of the extensive residence hall renovation program on our Johnstown campus.

3.) Technology Plan. Although this year began with some very troublesome computer network issues, I have been heartened by the tolerance demonstrated by most of our faculty as Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) methodically assessed and addressed the array of serious problems we faced. Thanks to the leadership, management, and technical skills of Jinx Walton, Director of CSSD, and the dedication and talents of her staff, we are now back on schedule for the three-year implementation of our ambitious Technology Plan. I invite you to review the University's technology website ( to keep abreast of this implementation. Recently, the University signed an agreement with Stargate Industries to provide preferred Internet service for members of the University community, which allows for an added degree of service and accessibility for faculty, staff, and students. The Gigabit upgrade to the network is moving forward on an aggressive schedule and is putting in place an infrastructure that will better support our faculty, staff, and students.

Moving beyond academic planning and program development, let me conclude by calling your attention to several items of general interest.

Campaign Chronicle. I hope you have been reading the Pitt Campaign Chronicle, the weekly publication that reports and celebrates the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, and friends. This publication provides communications support for the University's fundraising efforts during our current Capital Campaign. I encourage you to alert the Office of News and Information about accomplishments within your unit that demonstrate the University's strengths as a leader in education, a pioneer in research, and a partner in regional development so that others can be informed about the excellence for which the University is becoming recognized. I also encourage you to support our Capital Campaign by contributing to your department's or school's Campaign.

Part-Time Conversion of Tenured Faculty. The University Senate
leadership has asked me to alert all the faculty to the existence of this possibility for change of status. The University By-laws enable a dean, with the approval of the Provost, to allow a tenured faculty member to reduce the terms of the faculty member's appointment from full- to half-time. Such a change must be mutually beneficial, and the By-laws appropriately leave the conditions for such an agreement open to the judgment of the agreeing parties. We have expended so much effort to analyze the mission of each School and to deploy our resources to have the right number of tenure stream positions, that each decision to allow a faculty member to hold a tenure line with less than full commitment must be taken with great care. On the other hand, there are sometimes good reasons to allow such a change, and we do try to accommodate faculty requests to go temporarily to half-time status when we can. One commonly occurring reason advanced for a transition to part time status is a desire on the part of the faculty member to ease a transition to retirement. We respond to those requests sympathetically but decide them on a case-by-case basis, with careful attention to the needs of the School or Department during the transition. In general, such requests should not involve holding a position partially filled for more than two years. Faculty wishing to convert to part time status as a transition to retirement should understand that the University will not raise retirement as an item of discussion with them until after they have voluntarily introduced retirement into the discussion.

Technology Transfer. Our Office of Technology Management was formed five years ago to allow us to provide a wide array of services to our faculty-inventors and to partners in the economic development of Western Pennsylvania. Even though the Office is young, it has already, by several measures, moved into the top twenty-five leading programs.Technology transfer is an area of university endeavor which is under great strain nationally, and we are striving to keep improving our Office. Dr.Christopher Capelli has recently succeeded the Office's founder, Dr. Arthur Boni, as Director of the Office, and Dr. Capelli, working with faculty committees and the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence of the Katz Graduate School of Business, plans to institute several important faculty support services in the near future. I urge you to work with Dr. Capelli to help us develop our program to be one of the nation's best.

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