The Twelve Imperatives

v2020Logo.jpgThe process of Vision 2020 produced hundreds of ideas supporting our goal. Almost all of these suggestions have merit, and most earn acknowledgment in the body of this report. The precepts, focused goals, and measures can be summarized in twelve overarching ideas. We call these the twelve imperatives.

(from the Vision 2020: Creating a Culture of Excellence Report)

 

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1. Elevate Our Faculty and Their Teaching, Research, and Scholarship

The world today is knowledge-based and constantly changing. In such a world, the quality research university is "a creator, organizer, preserver, transmitter, and applier of knowledge." The foundation of these functions is an excellent faculty in adequate numbers. We need to increase substantially the size of our faculty (perhaps by half), and we must attract and retain many more top scholars, teachers, and researchers. We will have to review and strengthen hiring and tenure policies, enhance compensation, focus our scholarship, and transform our administrative culture. We cannot achieve our goal without a nationally recognized faculty with a passion for teaching and an academic environment that values and rewards innovation, great ideas, and the search for the truth.

2.  Strengthen Our Graduate Programs

We must have a shift in our thinking about the role of graduate education to attain the level of excellence we desire. A substantially expanded graduate studies effort is critical to our academic aspirations and to our effectiveness as a great research university. Outstanding professors attract superior graduate students and, in many instances, the money to help support their research. But these professors by themselves will not be enough. We must create a dynamic, exciting, discovery-driven intellectual environment that will draw superior graduate students, comparable to those in the nation's best graduate programs.

3. Enhance the Undergraduate Academic Experience

The core of Texas A&M University must be a residential, learner-centered community that attracts excellent students and provides quality learning and mentoring experiences. We must better prepare learners for lives of discovery, innovation, leadership, and citizenship by better inculcation of writing, thinking, and self-expression skills. Texas A&M University is proud of its history of developing student leaders. Our co-curricular programs are already an area of true distinctiveness, but we must continue to strengthen their substance and reputation and extend their benefits to a greater percentage of the student body. While our retention rate is the highest in Texas, it is low relative to the best national institutions; we must make an institutional commitment to graduate those we enroll. We must emphasize education more than training and significantly improve our student-faculty ratio. We must provide more opportunity for intellectual exchange between distinguished faculty and undergraduates. Our recruiting should be more proactive and produce a more broadly representative student body. We need to expand our honors, study/live-abroad, interdisciplinary studies, and course-assistance programs.

4.  Build the Letters, Arts, and Sciences Core

Texas A&M University has historically placed less emphasis on the letters and arts. While many of our basic science disciplines are nationally acclaimed, the best public universities have stronger and deeper liberal arts programs and a fuller range of such programs with a significantly higher institutional commitment. Such strengthening is necessary for the true, enduring education of our graduates and the enrichment of their lives. It is abundantly clear that we will never be seen as a premier institution nationally without a far stronger letters, arts, and sciences program.

5.  Build on the Tradition of Professional Education

Undergraduate education in all areas, including professional education, has been our traditional strength at Texas A&M University. At the heart of Vision 2020 is a belief that we will not only sustain but also continually strengthen our professional programs at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. We expect that these programs will be the first (as some already are) to represent Texas A&M University solidly and firmly in the top ten nationally. Our professional programs must also recognize the necessity to prepare their graduates more broadly for entry into a complex, changing, and unpredictable world.

6.  Diversify and Globalize the A&M Community

The time has passed when the isolation of the Texas A&M University campus served a compelling utilitarian function. Information, communication, and travel technology have produced a highly connected global society. The ability to survive, much less succeed, is increasingly linked to the development of a more pluralistic, diverse, and globally aware populace. It is essential that the faculty, students, and larger campus community embrace this more cosmopolitan environment. The university's traditional core values will give us guidance and distinctiveness, while preparing us to interact with all people of the globe. Texas A&M University must attract and nurture a more ethnically, culturally, and geographically diverse faculty, staff, and student body.

7.  Increase Access to Knowledge Resources

Despite recent progress, the intellectual assets represented by Texas A&M University library holdings are underdeveloped and must be increased. Coincidentally, we must recognize that the technology related to the storage, access, and distribution of knowledge resources has changed as much in the last decade as in the 550 years since the invention of movable type. Texas A&M University must invest rapidly, but wisely, to gain parity with its academic peers. It must lead, not just grow, in forcefully developing new methods and measures of success in this rapidly changing arena. The wedding of communications and computer technology will, no doubt, yield the most formidable change in academe by 2020. Texas A&M University must lead the adaptation.

8.  Enrich Our Campus

The physical environment of our campus should be conducive to scholarly work and study. Texas A&M University has an efficient and well-maintained campus. However, during our rapid growth over the past four decades, the physical unity of the campus has been diminished by the presence of Wellborn Road and the railroad tracks. Innovative planning and bold leadership are needed to redress this division for reasons of safety and convenience as well as aesthetics. West Campus has not maintained the human scale that exists on the Main Campus. Through judicious planning we need to attain the same pedestrian-friendly scale and green space that gives the Main Campus its character. The use of large areas for surface parking needs to be reconsidered so that the unity of the campus is maintained as new building occurs to accommodate growth. As more of the university's current land holdings are consumed by non-agricultural uses, acquisition of land on or near the Riverside Campus for agricultural development should be a high priority.

9.  Build Community and Metropolitan Connections

The way that we relate to the local community, Houston, and other metropolitan areas of the state will have a powerful impact on Texas A&M University and the communities supporting and supported by the university. In addition, it is critical that the community in which we live provide opportunities for families to work and grow. Spouses need high-quality employment opportunities. Faculty and researchers need private-sector sponsorships and commercialization support. As we attract a wider range of people to Texas A&M University, the enrichment provided through our connection to a large metropolitan area becomes increasingly important. Correctly choreographed, such a connection gives us the best of both worlds.

10.  Demand Enlightened Governance and Leadership

Great universities have a clearly articulated vision, a stimulating intellectual environment populated by great faculty and students, and resources adequate to support quality offerings. One other characteristic often contributes to greatness: enlightened leadership. Clear, cooperative relationships between the university and the System must be the norm. To achieve our aspirations, strong, enlightened, stable, and forward-thinking leadership focused on academic quality is essential. We have made progress, but we must guard it zealously. Regents must continue to take the policy high ground. The System administration must acknowledge and nurture Texas A&M University's role as a comprehensive research university with national peers. The university administration must be steadfast in its demand for quality in every decision. And finally, the university administration must make decisions through a process characterized by openness and appropriate faculty and staff participation. Our responsibility to the System as its flagship must be evidenced in all decision-making. Academic progress is fragile. Enlightened, shared governance and leadership are elemental to its achievement.

11. Attain Resource Parity with the Best Public Universities

The combination of rapid population growth, demand for government services and difficult economic times have placed a strain on the Texas treasury in recent years. A good and widely dispersed university system has provided access to a growing college-aged population. Access alone is no longer enough. Texas must have a few universities that offer opportunities equal to the best public universities, while taking complementary steps to maintain access. Competitive peer states have long recognized the economic necessity of comprehensive research universities in meeting the knowledge demands of an information society. States with the best universities are currently investing twice as much funding per student as at Texas A&M University.

Texas A&M University and the University of Texas are ideally positioned to achieve recognition as top national institutions because of the state's historical, constitutional financial commitment to them. Texas may also need additional institutions of this caliber. The institutions designated to fill this role must be acknowledged and supported in a way that is consistent with national competition. They must be provided the flexibility and exercise the wisdom and courage to price their offerings more in line with their value, while taking complementary steps to maintain access. Finally, they must use their historical strength to generate more private capital. Texas A&M University must attain resource parity with the best public institutions to better serve Texas.

12. Meet Our Commitment to Texas

Texas A&M University is a creation of the state and in its origin was designed to prepare educated problem-solvers to lead the state's development. This fundamental mission, born out of the land grant heritage of service, remains today. Texas A&M University's aspiration to be among the best public universities in the country resonates with this historical mandate. The diverse population of Texas should have access to the best public education in America without having to leave the state. Texas A&M University must also reach out even more to help solve the most difficult societal problems, including those related to public education, crime, and the environment, and must honor its heritage of enhancing the economic development of all regions of the state. Texas A&M University, if it aspires to national prominence, must first stay committed to Texas.