Strategic academic planning: Where we are and where we’re heading

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp

Academic priority areas

A central aim of the strategic academic planning process is the development of a small number of academic priority areas in which campus will invest additional resources over the next five years. We recently completed collecting campus feedback on 28 Themed Academic Working Group proposals, which were submitted in the hopes of being designated as priority areas. All told, 117 faculty, 118 students (70 undergraduates and 48 graduates), and 53 staff submitted assessments. Summaries of the campus survey results are available online.

It is important to note that we remain committed to our identity as a comprehensive university in the liberal arts tradition with a wide range of thriving programs. Moreover, the conversation between us all won’t end with this year or this process. A healthy academic community continues to look for ways to support its best and most promising programs. Our dialogue will sustain long beyond this single process.

The proposals are also under review by the Academic Senate, Library and ITS. The Senate will provide feedback on the research and teaching opportunities that the proposals offer, while the Library and ITS will help us better understand the resource needs of the proposals. In addition, the Academic Advisory Committee, the main Strategic Academic Plan committee charged with assessing academic content, is currently completing its proposal review. The committee will soon prepare a list of the strengths and weaknesses of the top six to eight submissions for consideration by the chancellor and me.

Barrier removal

Over the course of this academic year, we have solicited input on the institutional barriers that impede our capacity to do our best research and teaching. Faculty, students, and staff have responded with hundreds of examples—everything from the structural challenges that prevent team teaching to the lack of funding in support of graduate students to the inefficient assignment of laboratory and classroom space. The 50 most frequently mentioned barriers are currently undergoing prioritization by the Academic Senate. The Senate list will be sent to the Academic Advisory Committee for review and, ultimately, to the chancellor and me. Barriers that exist in more confined spaces—a single department, for example—will be shared with the deans.

In March, the chancellor and I formed and charged a working group with developing strategies and step-by-step guides for the reduction or elimination of the barriers we deem most critical to address. It’s our hope that the work on barrier elimination will improve the day-to-day lives of virtually everyone on campus.


The UC system, our leadership, and our students continue to lobby legislative leaders in Sacramento for adequate funding of higher education, and this year there are some encouraging signs we may receive a larger annual allocation from the state, given that tax receipts have exceeded estimates. While this is good news, we have not returned to the funding levels enjoyed by the UC system in decades past—particularly to a time when state funding supported the whole spectrum of student and faculty needs, from classrooms to labs to housing.

State funding also has been inadequate to meet the changing needs of our students and our evolving pedagogies. To continue to address the needs of our students and faculty, we can look for partners that share our values and support our unique character. Take, for example, the generous donors who endowed Rachel Carson College (formerly College Eight) or consider this same college’s mission to “(seek) out and (build) partnerships with green innovators and entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz, the Monterey Bay region and Silicon Valley.” They note that they are “open to new ideas, co-curricular partners, and volunteers.” These are strategies that have helped the college and its students to thrive and to advance our commitment to environmental sustainability.

The SAP seeks to find similar ways to fund and support our mission. We are committed to our community’s goals of raising resources in ways that keep with our values. Possible strategies may include seeking funding from like-minded philanthropic bodies, forging partnerships with organizations that advance ideals we value, creating self-sustaining programs, consulting with NGOs, or aiding faculty in winning external grants. We have asked the Senate to brainstorm ways of generating resources and remain open to community suggestions as well. If you have ideas, feel free to email us at

Undergraduate survey

We have developed a survey for undergraduate students to better understand how we can serve their academic needs. Our Institutional Research, Assessment, and Policy Studies unit, based on feedback received from our one-on-one interviews, in forums and focus groups, and from students groups, developed the survey. The survey launched this week and will close June 5. We hope that students will take the time to provide us with critical feedback and that faculty will encourage their students to do so. All undergraduates were sent individual links to the survey on May 15.

Open forums

Please register by noon Monday, May 21, to attend one of the open forums on strategic academic planning, either 9:30–11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 23, or 4–6 p.m. Thursday, May 24. At the forums, we will provide updates on the work accomplished to date, explain next steps, and take your questions.