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President's Fall 2003 Report to the Regents

October 10, 2003

The Board of Regents, at its October 11, 2002 meeting, reaffirmed its commitment to the mission and vision statements which have guided Pacific for the past several years. You also endorsed a set of 22 planning priorities that guide the strategic thinking and resource allocation for the University and its three campuses. These priorities were adjusted to reflect progress made from 1996 to 2001 and to serve as guideposts for the next several years. They were developed with broad faculty, staff and student participation and then brought to the Board for its approval.

While the priorities continue to serve Pacific well, in my estimation, it is time to narrow our focus a bit and set priorities among the priorities. All 22 priorities are relevant but some of them require more immediate attention. Also a focus such as this will help set priorities for budget and planning as we move forward. In a recent retreat with the cabinet, the following eight priorities were selected from the 22 for special attention. They are:

  • Identify and promote hallmarks of teaching, scholarship and learning excellence in the College of the Pacific and in each professional school;
  • Expand the commitment to diversifying students, faculty, and staff;
  • Develop and implement marketing plans to emphasize national and international student recruitment and to elevate institutional visibility;
  • Advance the integration of information technology into curricular, co-curricular and administrative programs;
  • Refine and implement a comprehensive facilities and maintenance plan, with special attention to academic buildings, residence halls, and recreation space;
  • Implement a cost-effective enrollment plan that emphasizes selectivity and improved retention;
  • Increase financial support for endowments and facilities; and
  • Improve alumni and annual giving.

The full list of priorities is attached to this report.

Resources are the underlying theme of each of these eight priorities. For all the progress that has been made with the comprehensive campaign, Pacific remains a tuition sensitive institution and a very large percentage of its annual operating budget is derived from student tuition and housing.

The diversity of academic programs is one of our great strengths. Not unlike an investment portfolio, Pacific spreads the risks of enrollment over several areas, which mitigates fluctuations in student interest in specific areas. For example, we can look back to when strong law school enrollments helped buoy the University when undergraduate numbers were not strong. On the Stockton campus, periodic shifts in undergraduate interest have resulted in swings in enrollment, currently engineering is in ascendancy while education is struggling for undergraduate enrollment. The Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is highly selective for pharmacy students and works hard to fill its programs in physical therapy and dental hygiene. Many of you will recall that it was declines in enrollment that challenged this University just 12 years ago.

As we have learned from the most successful institutions and our own dental school, Pacific can best insure against fluctuations in enrollment by becoming increasingly attractive in the market place. Because California has the nation's finest public system of higher education, we know that we can compete best when we compete with a targeted focus and a commitment to distinctive programs of exceptional quality.

The Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a great example. Those of you who heard Dean Oppenheimer's presentation at the last board meeting now understand that Pacific has one of the nation's leading pharmacy programs and growing success in the allied health sciences. While we have certainly benefited from market conditions, our success is a direct result of investments in optimistic leadership, facilities and faculty. We funded these investments through a combination of gifts and scarce institutional funds. Indeed, I remember that one of Provost Gilbertson's most difficult tasks soon after he arrived in 1996 was finding resources to improve the student-faculty ratio in the School of Pharmacy . This was a time when we were facing budget challenges and those dollars were very precious. But look at where we are today in Pharmacy. We are rapidly becoming one of the most attractive programs to prospective students and lead the nation in applications. This is just what each of our academic units must achieve.

Earlier I explained that our academic diversity is a strength. However, as was also expressed, this diversity causes a management challenge to maintain robust enrollments that support a diverse curriculum, appropriate facilities, and an increasing dependence on technology. Our recent successes stem from working at a broad or macro level to address systems: the admissions/financial aid system, the budget system, academic technology, etc. As systems have been improved on the Stockton campus, as an example, we are now looking to gain greater efficiencies on our three campuses by sharing these systems and procedures. An important attendant benefit of this initiative is to provide greater control and accountability across the University.

However, we must now become more focused at the detail or micro level. Enhanced selectivity at Pacific is more than a marketing issue and it is more than developing a perception of quality. I will report at the board meeting that enrollment on the Stockton campus is at record levels, both in terms of numbers and the academic qualifications of our incoming freshmen. In accomplishing this feat well-qualified pre-pharmacy majors were rejected because we lacked facilities and faculty in the sciences and lesser qualified students in some other majors were accepted because we had capacity in those areas. There are many factors that influence this outcome, some are beyond our control, but others, such as the quality and distinctiveness of the program, are within our control.

The next steps in our continued progress to advance Pacific - to achieve a higher level of excellence - requires care and patience. The dental school is frequently cited as a model because it reflects important standards of excellence: student-centeredness, well-qualified students, talented faculty, high selectivity, technologically advanced, excellent facilities, nationally recognized leadership. That leadership and the leadership of its alumni are now the driving force to achieve a goal of $50 million in the Campaign for Pacific. Investing in Excellence preserves and advances these standards.

Each academic unit of the University is now poised to address issues of academic excellence. Deans and their faculties must now identify and nurture programs that separate a particular Pacific program from all others. Such programs will ensure our future as a leading national university. Alumni and friends of the University will respond to this success by making greater investments of their time, talent and treasure in Pacific. And as we look to Pacific's future, supporting these pillars of excellence today has the potential for being the most important work that we do for future generations of students and alumni.