Long Range Planning Committee Presentation by Andrew Gaspar

May 1, 2007

(then) Dean Galil

Two years ago you asked the Board of Visitors to develop a Long Range Plan for SEAS.  I had the pleasure of leading over 30 alumni, faculty, students and administrators in that effort.  Last year we gave this group an interim report and we have updated President Bollinger on our progress a couple of times since then.

Today we submit our findings and recommendations to you.  We call it a 2020 Vision for SEAS.  This is a collective vision, prepared by people with deep roots and an even greater love for Columbia.  The Plan has no agenda other than to improve the welfare of SEAS and has been totally led by the research results of our work.  There were no preconceptions.

We found SEAS to be in excellent shape:  academically, financially, scientifically and emotionally.

Zvi, your tenure here has been a superb one!

Under your guidance, SEAS has made significant, measurable progress in just about every category and has risen from number 28 in ratings to number 19.  Our current status positions us strongly for further improvement and growth.

However, as one of the few Columbia schools without a top ten ranking, there is room for improvement.  Top ten ranking has never been one of SEAS' goals.  Now it will be!

We studied in great detail the components of the USNWR ratings.  We discovered that the qualitative and quantitative measures can be directly influenced by actions that we have in our power to take.  But ratings are a measure of our progress as a great school - Being top ten is not a goal by itself.  We also examined the plans of some dozen other engineering schools, we searched the available literature and we interviewed many knowledgeable people at Columbia and elsewhere.  We assessed our own school's strengths and weaknesses.  All of this work appears on a website that is available for everyone to see.

We concluded that to improve SEAS' ranking, it must grow.  We need more professors, more students, more space, and more funding.

This is an ambitious Plan. It calls for 80% growth in faculty by 2020.  and the addition of 220,000 square feet of space.  The Plan strives for a proper balance between traditional and emerging technologies.

This Plan describes what we need to do internally in order to accomplish our goals.

Externally, we are facing a world of rapid technological and competitive changes, in an increasingly international environment.  We believe that there are great opportunities for SEAS and we are recommending that SEAS extend its brand globally.  The Plan recommends an expanded commitment to training the global citizen engineer while also providing a superior technical education for those who want to pursue a non-technical career.  We laid out some thoughts on how to do that in this Plan.

We have launched an Academic Development Team, which is actively working on the tactics and requirements of developing new curricula, promoting interdepartmental research, recruiting new faculty members, analyzing space needs, and many other vital issues.  A Globalization Development Team is identifying specific countries and foreign schools where the expansion of the Columbia brand might best be undertaken.  Both Teams will report back before yearend.

President Bollinger

We believe that the role of science and technology will increasingly change our lives in meaningful, constructive and important ways.  There is a change occurring in higher education that will transform Universities as fundamentally as did the 18th Century evolution of the Ivy League away from teaching Theology to teaching Liberal Arts.  Who can debate that in today's society, computer literacy is literacy itself.  Our leaders must increasingly exhibit a command of the technological issues of our complex time: be it energy, environment or Bio-engineering ethics.  These trends have been recognized by both Harvard and Yale Universities, both of which have announced major new programs to create or expand their teaching of engineering and technology.  

Columbia is ahead of them.  We already have a superb engineering school.  Our challenge is how to turn that strength into a core capability for Columbia University.

President Bollinger, we look forward to reviewing this Plan with you in the near future.  With Zvi's leaving, we hope that you will find a new Dean for SEAS who embraces the objectives of this Plan, puts his or her own stamp on it and who can lead SEAS to new heights, not yet attained.  We look forward to participating with you in those efforts.

Members of the Faculty

We have Plans available for each of you in the packets distributed.  We will post these plans on line and will disseminate them widely to faculty members and others who are not here today.  

The Plan only runs some 20 pages - it is easy reading.  Yet, it is packed with ideas.  It will hopefully give rise to vigorous debate and to energetic new ideas.

We thank the many of you who have already participated in the Planning process and we look forward to your continued comments and your seminal role in realizing this vision for growing SEAS to become an even better school than it is today.

Preparing this Plan has been a most interesting and intellectually satisfying experience.  We now look forward to the even more satisfying experience of implementing it.  This Plan is not a static Bible - it is intended to change as Columbia and our environment evolve.

Finally, we would like to congratulate Professor Gerry Navratil on becoming the interim Dean and we look forward to working with him in taking this Plan into its implementation phase.

Thank you all.

Andrew Gaspar 

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