Strategic Plan Chapter2.html

Achieving Distinction 2000:

A Strategic Plan For The University Of Iowa

Chapter 2: The Nature of the University

This chapter examines The University of Iowa in the broadest terms. It presents a revised statement of mission for the University, interprets that mission, states a strategy of focus, describes five areas of focus, proposes guidelines on using focus to strengthen the University, and concludes with a vision for The University of Iowa in the 21st century. The chapter offers a conceptualization of the University that sets the stage for the aspiration, goals, and strategies in subsequent chapters.

The Mission

The 1988-89 University Strategic Planning Committee began its consideration of the University's mission by examining the revised mission statement proposed by the University Self-Study Committee in Building on Strength. That proposed revision was based in part on a comparison of The University of Iowa's mission statement with those of several other major universities (e.g., UCLA, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington). The University Strategic Planning Committee proposed a revision of the one in Building on Strength which has been modified further by the Faculty Council and central administration, and approved by the Board of Regents on November 15, 1989. The resulting statement of our mission is as follows:
The primary educational mission of The University of Iowa is to serve the people of the state and nation through (a) the dissemination of knowledge, (b) the development of new knowledge, and (c) the preservation of knowledge. The dissemination of knowledge occurs through strong undergraduate, professional, graduate, and continuing education programs as well as through extension activities, scholarly exchanges, publications, practical applications, research utilization, health service, and other public services to the state of Iowa and beyond. The development of knowledge is accomplished through scholarship at the most advanced level and through doctoral education. It occurs in the diverse forms of research, critical inquiry, and artistic endeavor appropriate to a major research university which strives for educational excellence and intellectual leadership. The preservation of knowledge is closely related to its dissemination and development; it is accomplished through the University's libraries and collections, through the impact of its instructional programs on each new generation, and through the professional activities of its faculty and staff. Knowledge, thus preserved, is a critical resource for educational activity and public service. The development of knowledge, its dissemination, and its preservation are inextricably bound together. None of these can be outstanding without the others.

The educational mission of the University requires an environment that promotes free inquiry and ethical behavior, which fosters the qualities of mind that lead to mature, independent, informed, and humane judgment. The creation and maintenance of a community of women and men that is multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multinational, and respectful of the dignity of all persons is essential to this environment. Within this environment, the University will maintain strong undergraduate programs and have a special role in graduate and professional education. Academic programs of the University are based on a philosophy of liberal education and include a panoply of undergraduate, professional, and graduate programs. The University is characterized by a general orientation toward human growth, the health sciences, the fine arts, the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. Overall, the University has a broad mandate that obligates it to maintain and enhance its stature as a distinguished public university.
In fulfilling its teaching, research, and service mission, The University of Iowa will recognize its joint responsibility, along with other public institutions of Iowa, to provide a full range of high-quality educational opportunities to citizens of the state. The University will cooperate with the other public institutions in the state, coordinate educational programs in order to function with maximum efficiency, and focus on its special strengths as a major research university.

One pervasive theme of the above mission is that The University of Iowa is, and strives to remain, a major research university. Like other such universities in the United States, The University of Iowa has what Burton Clark calls "two tiers," one devoted to the general education of undergraduates and the other to specialized and graduate education. The mix of the two tiers "under one roof" sets research universities in this country apart from those in most other countries (which tend to have only one tier), integrates teaching and research functions in a unique way, and helps to account for the special strength of higher education in the United States. The two tiers also produce substantial complexity and diversity of purpose, making some tension among purposes inevitable and continual efforts to "balance" multiple activities and purposes essential.
A second theme is that The University of Iowa strives to be a comprehensive university with a focus on the arts, health sciences, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and selected professional areas (e.g., business, education, engineering, and law). "Comprehensive" in this context means that the University will offer a sufficient breadth of programs to give a complete and thorough education, but not necessarily programs in all areas. The areas of focus, suggested in the mission statement, are those to which the University has a special commitment to maintain and strengthen. Because virtually all academic areas are interrelated, it is important to recognize that too much priority to one inadvertently may affect its quality if other related areas are permitted to deteriorate. Such circumstances also could undermine the intellectual pluralism necessary for a major research university and diminish the potential for significant interdisciplinary work.

The Interpretation of the Mission

The maintenance of an ethical community is a foundation for the University. The statement of mission for the University contains implicit assertions or assumptions about the nature of the University. These are important to note because they are likely to reflect the most fundamental ethical commitments that guide the institution. Specifically, there are five major assumptions that, in combination, conceptualize the fundamental commitments of The University of Iowa-namely, that The University of Iowa is:
As a research university, The University of Iowa is dedicated to the creation of knowledge for its own sake. It views the unencumbered pursuit of knowledge as a condition for the betterment of humanity and seeks to weave the research part of its mission into nearly all of its programs and activities. The interconnections between teaching and research are of special importance, and The University of Iowa is similar to its competitors in that it adopts the philosophy that teaching and scholarship are bound together inseparably. The complementarity of teaching and research is expressed quite well in the Faculty Handbook:
The University expects that all faculty members will be effective teachers and productive scholars and regards the two as being inextricably intertwined. Effective teaching over a lifetime career cannot be maintained in the absence of productive scholarship. In the absence of such scholarship, the excellent classroom performance of today is likely to deteriorate with time.
Having creative scholars who teach and teachers who are creative scholars produces a special understanding of knowledge, and its creation by students, and fosters a learning atmosphere that is unique to major research universities.
As a public university, The University of Iowa is committed to providing the state of Iowa with educational programs of the highest quality, offering access and affordability to its citizens, and to providing service programs that stem from the educational mission. The University also contributes to the educational needs of the nation by, for example, attracting minorities to undergraduate and graduate programs and also by attracting women to those areas in which they are underrepresented.
As a university dedicated to undergraduate liberal education, The University of Iowa treats undergraduate education as a cornerstone of its mission, offers professional education with a liberal arts flavor, and emphasizes human growth and enrichment.
As a state university with national and international obligations, it is committed to understanding and contributing to global issues and trends, creating a diverse University community, and incorporating international content into curricula wherever appropriate. Overall, a public university dedicated to liberal education and the fulfillment of state, national, and international obligations places a premium on the education of undergraduates.
As one of only two public research universities in the state of Iowa, the University has a special role in graduate and professional education. This role is likely to become more critical in the years ahead, given the growing necessity of a college background for occupations of the future and the increasing importance of and demand for lifelong learning. In the knowledge-intensive world of the future, graduate and professional education will play a central role, and because of the relative scarcity of opportunities for such education within the state of Iowa, this part of The University of Iowa's mission will increase in importance over time.
Stemming from its teaching and research mission, the University is obligated to strengthen the well-being and welfare of Iowans through numerous service programs. These include cultural and economic development programs as well as health programs such as those conducted by The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The University Hospitals and Clinics warrant a special note because of this unit's distinctive statewide role in health care, a role nurtured and supported by the Board of Regents. In these and other fields, the University's contributions to the state are based on the quality of its teaching and research programs.

Statement of Strategy of Focus

A strategy of focus is designed to concentrate resources, effort, or activity in order to achieve greater educational depth, distinctiveness, and quality. The idea of focus is fairly simple and often stated as: "Do a bit less, but do it better." However, it is important to place this notion in the context of the interpretation of the University's mission. There are limits on how narrowly a major university can channel its activities while remaining a major university with appropriate levels of intellectual diversity; similarly, there are limits on the degree that a department or college can sharpen its focus, yet still provide an education of sufficient breadth to its students. Nevertheless, a strategy of focus is important if the University is to avoid spreading its resources too thin. A strategy of focus requires the University and its constituent units regularly to pose the question: Can more quality be created if there is greater concentration of effort, time, and funds?
Taking this plan as a whole, the "strategy of focus" has two parallel and complementary facets. The first is to strengthen colleges, departments, and programs; and the second is to promote synergistic, interdisciplinary combinations. Together, these two facets have the potential to produce impressive University-level foci. Our vision is of a University where there are reciprocal relationships of mutual benefit between disciplines and specific interdisciplinary endeavors.
The major premise of this chapter is that at the University level areas of focus should be multidisciplinary. Such areas of focus should provide the opportunity for a wide variety of departments and programs to contribute, while also stimulating synergistic, cross-departmental efforts of groups of faculty, staff, and students. The active promotion of interdisciplinary teaching and research is consistent with modern intellectual trends and one way for The University of Iowa to compete with peer institutions. At the same time, it must be recognized that multidisciplinary work is not inherently superior to other work, and the first priority must be to support quality, whether it is multidisciplinary or not.

Areas of Focus

The areas of focus should be viewed in the context of the University's mission, which expresses the institution's commitment to basic, fundamental teaching and scholarship. In this context, the following principles guided our selection of University-level areas of focus: they should (1) build on strength or potential strength; (2) have substantive intellectual content; (3) take advantage of multidisciplinary approaches and, where possible, encourage intercollegiate ties; (4) suggest an agenda for teaching and research; (5) be consistent with the mission of the University and its educational role in the state of Iowa; and (6) interweave internal strengths with opportunities or challenges of the external environment. In our selection of five distinct areas of focus, we attempted to devise disciplinary groupings with minimal overlap, hoping that appropriate bridges subsequently would be built among them. Each of the five areas is elaborated below.
I. The Arts
The creation, performance, study, history, criticism, and interpretation of the arts. This emphasis draws on the historical and current strengths of the University in the arts, the close relationship of the performing arts to a liberal arts education, and the potential for developing added strengths through more ties among various programs within the arts. Special opportunities and facilities for the creation, performance, and presentation of original works are available, for example, in music composition, the visual arts, creative writing, film, dance, and theater. In addition, the academic programs can draw on excellent special resources, such as Hancher Auditorium and various museums.
This focus emphasizes the importance of an academic environment that nurtures the creativity of individual faculty, staff, and student artists; makes artistic creation as well as the history, criticism, and appreciation of the arts central to the curriculum; enhances the cultural community as a whole; and contributes to the cultural life of Iowa.
II. Basic Science and Technological Innovation
Original research in the biological, physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences. Use of basic science to foster technological innovation when opportunities for such application emerge. Many special strengths of the University are encompassed within this area, including space physics, molecular biology, biocatalysis, neuroscience, molecular genetics and biotechnology, hydraulics and hydrometeorology, and computer-aided design and simulation.
This area reflects the centrality of strong scientific disciplines in the modern undergraduate and graduate curriculum. It also reflects the growing national need for more scientists and engineers and the importance of basic scientific research to technological innovation and the quality of life.
III. Human and Environmental Health
Basic and applied health-related research and teaching. This emphasis includes teaching and research on the prevention and cure of physical disease and mental disorder, care and comfort of the sick, and structures for the delivery of health care. Also included is research on the creation and maintenance of a healthy environment, such as the study of how changes in the environment (e.g., increased air pollution) affect the welfare of humans. To support this focus, the University has a broad range of strengths in the health colleges, University Hospitals and Clinics, the biological sciences, the natural sciences, the behavioral and social sciences, and engineering.
This is a complex and diverse area presenting many special opportunities that articulate with emerging or established state and national priorities. Examples include research on cardiovascular disease, environmental contamination and global change, aging, chemical dependency, and cost containment and policy issues in health care,. The emphasis also reflects the need to educate the next generation of health professionals and scientists.
IV. Literature, Discourse, and Critical Analysis
An emphasis on language (spoken and written) and its relation to culture, and verbal analysis in all of its forms (e.g., linguistic, textual, aesthetic). This area draws on strengths from the core areas of the humanities (e.g., history, religion, languages) while stressing literature and discourse. It encompasses forms of literary interpretation and discourse analysis which have a wide range of applications in both teaching and research.
This focus reflects the critical place of writing, speaking, and analytical skills in educational programs. It is a historic focus of the University which includes newly emerging strengths in some areas, such as discourse.
V. Social Change
Basic and applied research and teaching on historical and contemporary social change in the nation and world, including changes in relationships between individuals, between individuals and their society, and between societies. This area draws on a range of existing strengths in business, education, international programs, humanities, law, and the social sciences in an effort to understand the changing social, political, and economic conditions under which people live and human communities thrive.
This focus reflects the importance of knowledge of human society, both its past and present, in preparing students to live in a period of major change. Although this area is valuable in its own right, some emerging social transformations make it quite timely, including economic and political changes in the Third World and Pacific Rim nations, various demographic changes (e.g., growing ethnic diversity, increasing proportion of women in the labor force, and aging of the population), and the growth of international interdependence in general.

Use of University Areas of Focus

Overall, these areas of focus suggest that The University of Iowa strive to become distinctive for fostering artistic creativity, basic science and technological innovation in select areas, analysis and teaching of literature and discourse, research and professional education on disease and health care, and study of the changing nation and world. Many connections can be developed among the five areas.
The University-wide areas of focus, or intellectual themes, create an opportunity for departments and programs to contribute to the University's overall effort to achieve distinction and invite members of the University community-acting individually or in groups-to propose initiatives. These areas should be a part of the University's efforts to implement the strategic plan. Investment in these areas should not be so substantial, however, that the University is unable to strengthen emerging areas of promise or respond to worthy proposals falling outside these specific areas. This is important because the aspiration in Chapter 3 stresses the overall quality of the institution, not just the potential for leadership in certain areas. The main point is to crystallize strengths in the areas of focus, while retaining the flexibility to nurture other efforts.
The evaluation of specific initiatives for each area should include the following criteria: (a) Will the proposal significantly advance knowledge in the area(s)? (b) Does the proposal build on strength or potential strength? (c) Will it have a synergistic, multidisciplinary impact in the University? (d) Will it strengthen departments, programs, or colleges? (e) Will it facilitate faculty, staff, and student recruitment or retention? (f) Will the initiative help to make The University of Iowa distinctive? (g) Where appropriate for the area or field of endeavor, is there potential for external funding? These criteria should be considered further by those who evaluate proposals related to the areas of focus.
A sunset provision (perhaps five years) should apply to the particular initiatives encouraged by these areas of focus. Allowance should be made for the time it takes to develop successful multidisciplinary efforts or for departments to consider whether and how to relate themselves to such University foci. University foci do not supersede the foci of colleges, departments, and programs-where some newly available resources also should be directed to areas of strength. The aggregate multidisciplinary impact, specified by the University-level areas of focus, will be produced by a combination of disciplinary and multidisciplinary efforts of departments, programs, and colleges.

A Vision of The University of Iowa in the 21st Century

The 1989 Strategic Planning Committee concluded its review of the University's mission and areas of focus with the following vision of The University of Iowa in the next century: The University of Iowa in the 21st century should be a place where the dedication to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge is paramount, the commitment to quality is unequivocal, the respect for human dignity is unequaled, and innovation is the norm. Imbued with the values of civility and community of its Midwestern context, the University becomes a community of learners where intellectual dialogue is especially fruitful, where communication across disciplinary boundaries is a notable strength, and where individuals of diverse racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds collaborate in imaginative ways with each other and with those outside of the University. The University should have a distinctive identity as an institution, a significant number of distinguished academic departments that attract students from all over the state, nation, and world, a significant number of faculty and staff who are leaders in their fields, and graduates who are among the best in the world. The University would be known for its quality, for its innovation and creativity, for its distinguished educational programs, for the properties of its intellectual community, and for its humanity.
This vision also lays the foundation for the University's aspiration and goals presented in the next section.

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Last updated on July 17, 1995 by Campus Communications