Thursday, October 16, 2003

Diverse group to guide UC future

Cross section to form master plan

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

For the first time in University of Cincinnati history, a cross section from the university community will develop an academic master plan that will guide the school's decisions for the next five to 10 years.

On Nancy Zimpher's 11th day as president, she announced at an all-university faculty meeting Wednesday that she'll convene 30 to 50 faculty, students, deans and cabinet members to develop a plan that she hopes will be finished by next spring.

"You will note that I am not placing a plan before you," she said to the crowd of more than 250 faculty members. "I am asking you to join me as we define our future. I have heard this need from many."

While the university has seen curriculum changes over the years - from the types of classes in a degree program to UC's co-operative education - never before has one document linked research, undergraduate and graduate studies as well as community outreach in a single set of principles.

The master plan will help the city's largest employer - with more than 14,000 employees - prioritize academic programs, set plans for how much the university's enrollment should grow, develop strategies to increase research funding, boost retention, and ultimately define the institution's involvement in Greater Cincinnati's economic, social and cultural future.

"First of all, we must identify what we can accomplish that is useful and reasonable and in a realistic timeframe," Zimpher said.

The new president, who arrived in Cincinnati after a five-year stint as chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is modeling her effort after the campus master plan that is former President Joseph Steger's legacy. His goal was to transform the school's crumbling buildings and disjointed facilities into a dynamic 24-hour campus. Pieces of that plan are still being implemented, including both the Main Street and Varsity Village projects.

The six-year, $185 million Main Street project is a plan to improve and consolidate student services in a central area on campus. The $109 million Lindner Varsity Village project will renovate UC's athletic fields and sports facilities and is scheduled to be complete in December 2005.

All of those decisions stemmed from a specific set of principles, Zimpher said. The goal is to put academic programs in a position to drive future campus development.

Some faculty criticized Steger during his 19-year tenure for paying too much attention to facilities and not enough to academics. Richard Karp, chairman of UC's faculty senate, said the former president was subtle about what he did for academics

"But research growth didn't happen in a vacuum," he said.

Nevertheless, Zimpher's message was one that professors have been waiting to hear. "An academic master plan is what I've fought for, for years," Karp said. "The worst cynics I have dealt with are absolutely excited about (Zimpher) being here.


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