Strategy Overview 2014–17

We embrace the four goals outlined in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2013–16 Strategic Plan:

  • To foster scholarship, discovery, and innovation.
  • To provide transformative learning experiences.
  • To make a significant and visible societal impact.
  • To steward current resources and generate additional resources for strategic investment.

We will execute some three dozen actions organized under 10 objectives to advance these goals over the next three years.

Strengthening Research

We will strengthen our commitment to the production of transformative, breakthrough research and creative work.

Rationale

Multiple years of difficult financial conditions have limited the college's capacity to deliver its academic programs while also supporting outstanding discovery and innovation. Contact hours, course loads, and time spent advising and on service vary widely from unit to unit, often appropriately reflecting the diverse disciplinary approaches within FAA. However, a significant number of FAA faculty cite heavy teaching and service loads—the strain to meet daily academic program demands—as obstacles to pursuing quality research, raising new funding, or discovering new opportunities for collaboration across campus. Financial concerns have, in turn, created a "culture of austerity" that discourages the bold thinking necessary for Illinois to truly achieve preeminence in arts scholarship. Some units in the college lack a mission-appropriate balance in research, teaching, and service. Moreover, we are doing too little to encourage the pursuit of new ideas and foster experimentation. A weakening of our research and creative mission undercuts our teaching and engagement missions.

New Actions

  • Review and revise department and school promotion and tenure procedures for clarity and consistency.
  • Survey faculty time allocation and set target distributions.
  • Evaluate Creative Research Awards program.

Current Actions

  • Selectively hiring faculty in areas of greatest need and opportunity.
  • Developing a faculty-leave policy that balances time for research and creative work with active student contact and service.

Revising Curricula

We will revise our curricula to be more responsive to shifting student interest and learning modes and to emerging professional demands placed on our graduates.

Rationale

Revisiting and revising our curricula is challenging, time consuming, and often controversial. However, a variety of new external and internal factors require that our faculty revisit whom their curricula are serving and how. Students expect breadth in some cases and depth in others, with rising tuition, a dynamic workplace, and a growing expectation of technology integration all shaping those expectations. Rigidity of curriculum requirements across the college is often cited by faculty, students, and advisors as diminishing our ability to recruit the best students and to graduate influential, flexible leaders and thinkers. Some curricula may need to despecialize to better serve students, while others may need to offer new, demand-driven specializations. Several areas of core competency—such as writing, visual literacy, presentation skills, and entrepreneurship—are also in demand across the college yet have received little focused attention. Finally, we are hampered by barriers to non-arts students accessing arts instruction, research, and engagement experiences as well as external obstacles to our own students pursuing non-arts options.

New Actions

  • Establish new, less-specialized bachelor's degree programs.
  • Create new options in key professional skills areas.
  • Establish a two-day, cross-college interdisciplinary enrichment program.
  • Create customized learning-technology workshops for faculty.

Current Action

  • Focusing on enabling innovative, cross-unit curricular initiatives proposed by departments and schools.

Engaging Society

We will demonstrate through our scholarly practice the centrality of the arts in the university's focus on society's grand challenges.

Rationale

Current research, creative work, and public engagement in the college address every major area of focus within the campus strategic plan. Our college is a constellation of rich and diverse expertise in creativity and innovation, social equality and cultural understanding, design thinking and problem solving, and sustainability technologies and practices, areas of knowledge that are integral to the intellectual promise and fiscal health of the university. Yet a perception among some FAA faculty and staff is one of separation from the rest of campus and a sense that we are not effective advocates for university-level resources and support. We can do more to forge new campus-wide partnerships and aggressively assert the arts as essential elements in the discovery mission of the university and in the educational experience for all Illinois students. While we have good partnerships across the campus in both the humanities and sciences/engineering, we are able to collaborate with the former more readily than the latter, given our current faculty mix.

New Actions

  • Hire three new faculty who will collaborate extensively with sciences and engineering.
  • Create a post-terminal/doctoral research position supporting a sciences/engineering thrust.

Current Actions

  • Increasing general education offerings, particularly through new online courses.
  • Partnering with the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities to integrate the arts across disciplines.

Embracing Difference

We will more fully embrace difference as an essential component of excellence in research, creative work, teaching, and engagement.

Rationale

With enrollments on the rise among underrepresented groups, it is critical that our faculty, staff, and leadership reflect the backgrounds of the students we serve. Our college commitment to creativity depends on not only the presence of diverse voices but on a culture of celebrating difference. In recent years, however, the college's progress on increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff in terms of gender, ethnicity, and race has slowed. Many faculty members from underrepresented groups have left their positions or not earned tenure. There is rising concern among some faculty and staff that our collective embrace of diverse ideas and approaches is in doubt. Our lack of a clear, comprehensive strategy for building a diverse college threatens our ambition of being a preeminent center of innovation, scholarship, instruction, and engagement in the arts.

New Actions

  • Partner with campus area and ethnic studies programs on curriculum and recruitment.
  • Identify space and staff to support recruitment, acculturation, and outreach for international students and students from underrepresented groups.
  • Appoint diversity task force and develop strategy for hiring and retention.

Current Action

  • Targeting recruitment efforts at high schools with arts strengths and underrepresented students.

Securing External Support

We will equip our faculty and staff to pursue and secure external research support.

Rationale

As state general revenue support to the campus has decreased in recent years and tuition increases have leveled off, external funding has become increasingly essential to our creative work. The burden for procuring grants and contracts is appropriately on individual faculty members within their home departments and schools, but many units lack the expertise or resources to successfully support faculty efforts to apply for and secure external funding. The college has not built an environment conducive to the procurement of external funding, either by providing direct support or by offering regular, proactive communication about the most promising funding opportunities.

New Action

  • Cultivate and assist faculty with applications for cyclical and periodic grants and opportunities.

Current Actions

  • Establishing a research organizational umbrella to create more staff support to assist faculty with proposals and grants.
  • Renovating the former Building Research Council building to support research projects, collaborations, and seminars.
  • Co-funding, with the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and several other colleges, a grants support officer.

Collaborating in Teaching

We will facilitate faculty collaboration in teaching.

Rationale

Collaborative teaching can be difficult to achieve in FAA, yet it is important in developing experimental, relevant courses for students within and beyond the arts. Such collaborations in the classroom are also often the seed of new collaborative research. Many of our faculty wish to develop more meaningful interdisciplinary teaching collaborations but are hindered by administrative or curricular barriers among programs. This separation is amplified by dispersed FAA facilities, tightly scheduled degree programs that preclude experimentation by students, concerns about the budgetary implications of shared courses, and varying course scheduling practices across units.

New Actions

  • Create a revenue model that supports cross-unit courses and dual-degree programs.
  • Align course schedules with campus norms.

Connecting to the World

We will leverage our external relationships with professionals, industries, and institutional peers to ensure that we are training students to be agile, effective, and engaged citizens and leaders.

Rationale

The professions and industries, and especially our alumni working in them, are an extraordinary resource that are not being systematically included in our planning, promotion, and self-study. The college has too few external partnerships that align closely with our academic units and provide continuous feedback to help us educate students for a changing world and uncertain job market. We have neither fully tapped into the expertise of our current partners nor been strategic enough in forging new collaborations with professional, civic, cultural, and educational institutions and organizations.

New Action

  • Explore the formation of external curricular advisory boards to guide us on the relevancy and effectiveness of our programs.

Improving Visibility

We will increase the internal and external awareness and visibility of the college's research, teaching, and engagement efforts.

Rationale

The arts are especially powerful in promoting social understanding, advancing expanded educational access, and shining new light on pressing societal issues. Our major engagement programs—and particularly the national leadership efforts and programming of Krannert Art Museum, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and Japan House—help elevate awareness of our creative work and research locally, across Illinois, nationally, and globally. They also provide essential venues for creative collaborative work and staff who are integral contributors to the college's discovery and teaching missions. Yet our visibility to the world remains too limited, and visibility within the college remains a challenge. Many of us are unaware of our own colleagues' research, creative work, or teaching—a problem exacerbated by the dispersion of FAA units among nearly three dozen locations across the campus. Beyond the college, our communications have been sporadic, unorganized, and under-resourced and thus have failed to leverage our collective identity effectively.

New Actions

  • Create a regular, periodic event for shared intellectual exchange.
  • Identify means of capturing the unique features of artistic work and scholarship in a web-based collaboration and communications platform.

Current Actions

  • Developing a new FAA website.
  • Implementing a college communications plan.
  • Supporting the development of new department and school websites.

Clarifying Processes

We will bring greater clarity, agility, and integrity to our administrative processes, supported by sustained, engaged faculty governance and facilitated by well-trained leaders and staff.

Rationale

A responsive and engaged teaching and research environment requires an agile administrative structure. Some of our bylaws and policies are not well defined, clearly communicated, and followed consistently. Many FAA faculty and staff believe expectations are not expressed overtly or are overlooked in performance reviews. Not all of our units' faculty promotion and tenure processes offer clearly articulated standards for effectively evaluating research and creative work, and mentorship of junior faculty and emerging leaders is not fully deliberate. Communication among faculty, staff, and leadership is characterized by too little transparency, especially in areas of resource allocation.

New Actions

  • Review, compare, and revise bylaws and policy documents at the college and unit levels.
  • Appoint a mentorship and career guidance task force and develop strategy.

Current Actions

  • Adopting new department/school and college budgeting and hiring planning processes.
  • Examining current processes to facilitate introduction of experimental courses.

Creating Infrastructures

We will make better shared use of our college's infrastructure, including our facilities, technologies, and administrative support.

Rationale

Our success depends not only on the quality of our academic programs and the strength of our faculty but also on the infrastructure supporting our efforts. Well-planned spaces, strategic staff hires, and a sound infrastructure are essential to our teaching, research, and creative work. Even as the college must address significant facilities and staffing challenges on a lean budget, concerns over locus of control are discouraging creative leveraging of our collective assets by sharing infrastructure and administrative support.

New Action

  • Develop and implement an approach to space sharing.

Current Actions

  • Developing a facilities master plan with short- and long-term objectives.
  • Establishing shared business services models to assist units in the performing arts and environmental design disciplines.