An academic plan for our future

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp

We mark a milestone today with the release of a full draft of our Strategic Academic Plan and Implementation Playbook. This vision for our future—along with a set of concrete steps to get us there—is the culmination of an exciting campuswide conversation about our strengths and about how we can further the impact of our research and teaching across the world.

I am deeply appreciative of our faculty, staff, and students who came together in this process. I sincerely thank members of the Steering and the Academic Advisory committees, both of which were integral to helping us reach this point.

I hope we will all be proud of the serious and inspiring intellectual work and insight that produced this plan, as well as of the plan itself, and that it will help UC Santa Cruz achieve even greater excellence and recognition.

Chancellor Blumenthal and I invite you to study this full draft of the plan and implementation playbook closely. Both will be reviewed by our Academic Senate this summer.

The plan includes our design principles, which are the clear, tightly defined guidelines that identify our institutional aspirations; the academic priority areas on which we will focus our efforts; and the institutional barriers to research, teaching, and learning that we have identified and outlined ways to overcome.

The playbook will help ensure that the Strategic Academic Plan is more than an aspirational document. It breaks our design principles down into goals, then provides a menu of concrete initiatives that advance us toward each goal. All of the initiatives are assigned to unit heads, and the implementation process will be tracked quarterly over the next five years.

Academic priority areas

A central aim of the our academic planning process was to identify and develop a handful of academic priority areas in which campus could invest additional resources over the next five years.

We facilitated the creation of Themed Academic Working Groups to inspire new collaborations and highlight the potential of existing collaborations across campus. Twenty-eight groups submitted written proposals and videos outlining how they aimed to advance research, teaching, and learning with the addition of resources and the elimination of internal campus barriers.

Hundreds of faculty, students and staff then provided assessments of the proposals, as did Academic Senate committees, Information and Technology Services, library officials, vice provosts, the Office of Research, and the Academic Advisory Committee (made up of faculty, students, and academic leadership). After reviewing the voluminous packet of proposals, videos, and campus feedback, the chancellor and I engaged in lengthy conversations on promising areas for investment.

The designated priority areas that follow are broader than any single proposal submitted by a working groups. In developing the three areas, we looked at the promise of the proposals, then considered how they built on existing campus strengths, advanced priorities critical to our mission, and the degree to which they represented distinctive research areas in which the campus had the potential to excel.

We are pleased to announce the designation of the following academic priority areas:

Earth Futures

This academic area considers a uniquely long view of the future of Earth and humanity—examining the question scientifically, philosophically, and practically, generating scenarios, and proposing strategic practices that will lead to particular outcomes. While this will require interplay between the temporally immediate and the distant, this positioning produces different kinds of questions and outcomes.

Justice in a Changing World

This academic area pays particular attention to the rapidly changing landscape of our world—environmentally, demographically, politically—rather than reading it as a static construct on which to apply theories or ask questions. It suggests a more nimble, critical, and interdisciplinary approach. This consciousness can provide more meaningful responses to the question, “How we can serve justice in the world?”

Digital Interventions

This academic area brings together makers, artists, inventors, and data scientists to make new creations and propose novel means of theorizing culture and the future. It is a primary realm for all those engaged in critically building or analyzing the digital world and its impact on human beings. It challenges us to imagine how advances in technology or thinking about technology can transform intellectual and material landscapes.

Later this month, Chancellor Blumenthal and I will invite a few faculty members whose Themed Academic Working Groups were integral to the priority areas we’ve established to work with other TAWGs and additional, relevant faculty across campus, to craft more detailed support proposals for consideration in the 2018-19 faculty FTE call. In so doing, we hope to both build on the inspired work of the TAWGs and further leverage faculty strengths from across campus.

This call will be the first of many steps toward realizing the future described in our Strategic Academic Plan. I ask our whole campus community to join me on this journey.