(a) Reaffirming Furman's commitment to academic excellence. Furman will remain committed to the defining characteristics of its excellent and rigorous academic program. It will reaffirm and reinvigorate its commitment to ongoing enhancement of Furman's intellectual climate. The commitment to academic excellence will include:
- A robust commitment to deepening Furman's program of engaged learning. Engaged learning at Furman is a textured concept, with many levels of meaning. Engaged learning may mean intense engagement by an individual student in a particular field, in which the design and execution of a project are fostered by the student's own initiative and intellectual curiosity. Engaged learning may mean collaborative research side-by-side with a faculty member. Students benefit from such engagement by experiencing the challenges and the payoffs inherent in immersive, focused concentration on one signature project. Engaged learning, in this sense, fosters discipline, persistence, creativity, concentration, problem- solving, and self-reliance. Engaged learning may also carry meanings connoting connection and action. Furman encourages the expression of the ideas and ideals of its students through connection to the "real world," and through action as well as thought, Furman encourages students to translate theory and values into actual hands-on experiences, including research opportunities, internships, civic engagement and public service, creative output in music, theatre arts, and the visual arts, and study away. This translation of ideas and ideals into action recognizes that an education is incomplete if confined to the campus and the classroom alone. Finally, Engaged learning may carry a meaning relating to community-building. This relationship includes both the strengthening of our internal community and the lengthening of our community to include our neighbors in Greenville, and our shared humanity as citizens of the nation and the world.
- Reaffirmation of Furman's commitment to maintaining faculty compensation levels that are nationally competitive, as set forth in the Furman Strategic Plan adopted in 2001 and reaffirmed in 2007. Vision 2020 thus reaffirms Furman's commitment to "Provide faculty compensation that is competitive with regional peers, as specified in Furman 2001." This commitment reaffirms Furman's ongoing effort to recruit, support, and retain a diverse and highly qualified faculty committed to teaching excellence, professional engagement, and scholarship. Programs and policies to enhance the quality of the faculty shall be supported. These will include resources for improving teaching and professional development, as well as benefits that support the work experience.
- A restoration of programs and support levels that were reduced in the aftermath of the budget constraints imposed by the economic downturn of 2008 as increased resources are identified and deployed to support Furman's academic mission, as appropriate. All such restoration, however, shall be undertaken strategically and efficiently, with an ongoing eye toward deployment of resources in a manner calculated to provide the maximum positive programmatic impact for the expenditure. (See § D. 1 for discussion of faculty support resources.)
- A reaffirmation of Furman's commitment to ensuring that staff compensation is competitive with appropriate peers in recognition that all aspects of Furman's mission are dependent on attracting and retaining highly qualified staff. Additionally, Furman also reaffirms the value of staff professional development as a means of enhancing personal and institutional success, and therefore will provide for staff development programs.
- Continued emphasis on Furman's strong commitment to internationalizing its programs, including greater recruitment of international students, continued enhancement of the Asian Studies program, and the overall enhancement of Furman's unique study abroad program, which is staffed almost entirely by Furman faculty.
- Continued emphasis on small classes, and building meaningful relationships among faculty and students.
- Continued support for Furman's many programs that support high-profile speakers and panels on campus, reflecting the diversity of the marketplace of ideas and Furman's commitment to robust yet civilized discourse.
- Continued enhancement of opportunities for collaborative research between students and faculty.
- The encouragement of strong mentoring and advising relationships between students and faculty, including additional training for faculty members in the evolving nature of mentoring and advising.
(b) Encouraging ambitious and decentralized strategic planning and improvement at the academic department level. The pursuit of excellence for individual academic departments and academic centers at Furman will be decentralized. All academic departments and centers will be invited to develop their own individualized strategic plans provided they are in alignment with the core academic values that define the University's academic program as a whole. These plans will be ambitious, appropriate in scale for Furman, and presented with expected benefits and realistic projections of costs.
(c) Creating a new administrative process and financial structure for approving, prioritizing, and strategically funding academic improvements. The administrative process for prioritizing and sequencing the approval and funding of strategic plan initiatives presented though the decentralized strategic planning initiatives of individual departments will be iterative and transparent. Funding for such decentralized strategic planning initiatives will be derived primarily from the newly created Strategic Improvement Fund.
(d) Ensuring continuing assessment of broader educational goals. While Furman will encourage a decentralized approach to strategic improvement among its academic departments, the University must also remain attentive to ongoing assessment of the curricular standards that have been adopted campus-wide. This responsibility rests principally within the province of the faculty, with the support of the administration. In the near-term, Furman will evaluate the success of the freshman seminar program, with an open-minded willingness to make such adjustments in the program as may seem prudent. So, too, will Furman continuously evaluate proposals for new themes to emphasize across curricular lines.
(e) Rationalizing the process for managing the growth and scale of academic programs. Furman must have a rational strategic process for making the decisions that all universities continually face in determining what programs to expand, what programs to contract, what programs to add, or even what programs to eliminate. The University cannot say "yes" to every new proposed program. Yet the University must remain nimble and adaptive, with the flexibility to add programs that are consistent with its character and values, that meet societal needs, and that provide the University with strategic advantages. When a new department or program is proposed, among the principal factors to be considered in weighing the propriety of starting such a program are:
- The extent to which the program is consistent with Furman's mission, character, and values.
- The academic rigor and quality of the proposed new program, including any relevant accreditation or regulatory standards.
- The extent to which there is a societal need and significant demand for participation in the program.
- The extent to which the program will have a positive, neutral, or dilutive impact on existing programs.
- The extent to which the new program is operationally revenue-enhancing, revenue-neutral, or an expense, and the potential that the program could attract substantial philanthropic, foundation, or other external support.
- The magnitude of initial start-up costs along with the expected impact on the annual budget after implementation.
2. The Student Experience
(a) Educating the whole student. The phrase "student experience" is not used here as something distinct from the academic experience of the student, but as including the whole of that academic experience, and then extending beyond the curriculum and classroom to the entirety of the programs and experiences that encourage positive growth in a student's intellect, character, and physical well-being. The education of the "whole student" will be an integrated effort that begins with the academic curriculum and then extends well beyond it. As a manifestation of these values, Furman will undertake a comprehensive effort to ensure that all appropriate efforts are made with regard to its academic and non-academic programs to ensure the highest possible student retention levels.
(b) The task force on the student experience. Furman will undertake a comprehensive effort to enhance the quality of the student experience. The responsibility for coordinating the drafting of a detailed plan for specific improvements to the programmatic elements of the enhanced student experience shall be the responsibility of the Task Force on the Student Experience, which was formed at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year and has now been incorporated into the strategic planning process as an integral part of that process. The Task Force on the Student Experience has divided its work into three stages, beginning with the adoption of a "Statement of Guiding Principles," moving to a comprehensive inventory of all student-experience programming at Furman, and ending with a concrete list of proposals for additional investments in student experience resources and programming. The work of the Task Force will continue throughout 2011 as an integral part of the strategic planning process. The guiding principles thus far identified by the Task Force include:
- Furman fosters growth of both mind and spirit. Furman encourages intellectual development, which includes exposure to a broad range of intellectual disciplines in the classic traditions of liberal education, and the encouragement of particularized depth and excellence in at least one specialized area of expertise. Furman also encourages its students to seek lives of moral and/or spiritual depth, recognizing that these values always remain matters grounded in individual freedom.
- Furman encourages reflective introspection. Furman students are encouraged to ask themselves such fundamental questions as: Who am I? What do I believe? What do I care about? What are my passions? What are my dreams and aspirations? What is my place in the world? In the words of Furman's Character and Values Statement: "The university seeks to nurture their development into mature, integrated persons by encouraging all students to develop a mature understanding of their own identities, to establish meaningful personal goals, and to understand their own faith and outlook."
- Furman challenges students to learn for the purpose of advancing the human condition. Furman aspires to go beyond simply educating students about the human condition. Furman encourages students to go beyond the acquisition of knowledge to the application of knowledge in the service of advancing the condition of humankind. In the words of Furman's Character and Values Statement: "The university recognizes its responsibility both inside and outside the classroom to encourage students to confront the problems of contemporary society and to exercise moral judgment in the use of knowledge. To this end, Furman fosters in its students a sense of social justice and encourages them to exercise their civic responsibility in creating a fair and equitable order. Students are educated to solve human problems rather than to use their knowledge as a means of gaining further advantage over those who are disadvantaged."
- Furman encourages civility in public discourse. Furman aspires to be a model for higher education and society in demonstrating that open and passionate debate may be conducted in an atmosphere that embraces respect for the essential dignity of every person, a willingness to listen to opposing views, intellectual honesty, and the avoidance of gratuitous personal attacks.
(c) Expand and endow programs that foster character growth. Furman will seek to expand and permanently endow many of its existing programs that support students, faculty, and staff in pursuit of lives of meaning, commitment, leadership, and ethical integrity.
(d) Foster greater community spirit. Furman will adopt programs that foster additional community spirit, including events, traditions, and rituals that enhance social and community life. Attendance at performance venues, athletic events, and community-wide social events promote shared experiences and enhance the quality of community life. These shared experiences also provide a valuable opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to interact.
(e) Implement the Student Life Master Plan for facilities. The enhancement of the student experience also has a facilities and physical landscape dimension. The administration and Board of Trustees shall be guided in their decisions regarding physical improvements to the campus by the Student Life Master Plan, which will be developed and refined to be in alignment with the guiding values and programmatic initiatives that emerge from the Student Experience Task Force. The Student Life Master Plan includes the renovation and reconfiguration of residence facilities to meet the needs of modern students and provide appropriate civic space to enhance the engaged living program, as well as a plan to transform the University Center into a more vibrant social venue for students, part of a broader campus push to enhance the sense of community and spirit of the University. Among the options to be considered in the renovation of student housing is a move to a "Residential College" or "Freshman Village" design that will integrate housing with academic spaces, such as seminar rooms, and civic and recreational spaces. The Student Life Master Plan also includes formal and informal recreational venues for students outside of the residence halls.
(f) Enhancement of counseling, career mentoring, advising, and academic assistance capacities. Furman will continue to add capacity to its counseling, mentoring, advising, and academic assistance services. This includes ensuring that mental and psychological counseling services will be strongly resourced. Furman will also invest in the broader life and career mentoring and advising resources it makes available for students, and will look for ways to proactively engage students in counseling, mentoring, and advising conversations through approaches that meet the needs and generational culture of the current student body. In particular, Furman will continue to execute the Office of Career Services Strategic Plan, which emphasizes expanding employer networks, engaging faculty, alumni, and parent resources, and enhancing student readiness for employment and graduate school.
(g) Furman will remain committed to remaining 100% residential. The commitment to remain fully residential enhances the student experience by building a sense of community and shared experience, and broadly promotes the safety, security, and well-being of the student body. The housing stock that is currently dedicated principally to freshmen and sophomores in the South Housing and Lakeside areas will be renovated, beginning with the South Housing area. The renovations will adopt a "Freshman Village" or "Residential College" model in which housing will be integrated with academic teaching spaces, communal study and social spaces, and indoor and outdoor recreational spaces, so as to advance the integrated values and goals for the student experience at Furman. The Student Life Master Plan includes changes that will modernize Furman's student housing and integrate housing with civic and academic spaces.
(h) Investment in athletics and related sports and recreational programs. Furman will invest in its athletic programs, club sports, intramural sports programs, and other physical recreational programs. All of these programs contribute to the health and well-being of students, and help build community and positive relationships. Furman's Division I athletic program occupies an important place in Furman's history and will hold a special place in Furman's future. Furman has the opportunity to be a national exemplar of how a strong athletic program may be compatible with academic excellence. In 2010 the athletic program ranked #3 in the nation in overall graduation rate. Furman will strive to maintain this exclusive ranking and work to ensure that student athletes are integrated fully and meaningfully into the full student experience. Furman will aspire to be a national exemplar of "how to do athletics right," combining competitive success with the intellectual and character growth of the student athlete. Such a program brings many benefits, including building spirit and community within the student body, staff, and faculty, providing valuable connections to the surrounding Greenville community, and enhancing Furman's national recognition, thereby helping to drive admissions, providing upward mobility for many student athletes, enhancing diversity, and providing a valuable ongoing connection between the University and many of its most loyal alumni and donors.