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Focusing On Our Future: President's Report to the University

December 9, 2014

I thank and congratulate University of the Pacific on completing Focusing on Our Future, a comprehensive review of our academic and administrative programs and services. Every member of our faculty and staff and many students contributed to making this tremendous accomplishment possible. Your deep engagement means that this report represents our University community’s best thinking about who we are and what we need to do to accomplish our goals. My objective in writing is to provide a context, overview and analysis of the yearlong process and outcomes from an institutional viewpoint, along with an update on progress toward implementing Focusing-related decisions.

Focusing on Our Future was an important first step toward enhancing University of the Pacific’s educational excellence and thriving in a rapidly changing higher education environment. More focused, efficient and effective, Pacific can move forward to implement our Pacific 2020 strategic plan, thus securing our place as the leading teaching-focused university in California, offering high-quality, relevant academic programs in each of our three cities.

Download a PDF of the full report

Rationale

Change in higher education is not on its way. It has arrived. Today’s landscape is dramatically different from ten, twenty and thirty years ago. Nationally, college tuition costs have outpaced families’ ability to pay. Recognizing opportunity, for-profit universities have grown and online education options have multiplied. Demographics are also shifting, meaning there are fewer high school graduates, and fewer still who are college-ready. Yet at the same time that competition for students has intensified, confidence in the value of a college degree has wavered. Surveys taken within the last couple of years indicate that fully 80% of adults in the U.S. don’t believe higher education’s value merits its cost.[1]

The federal government, the media and the public have put higher education on watch. The White House now has a higher education “report card” on its website that catalogs each institution’s cost, graduation rate, loan default rate, median borrowing and postgraduate employment. From the New York Times to Time Magazine, national media has tracked (if not fueled) a national conversation about the value of a college education.[2]  And students and families are demanding clarity in the value of their investment in a college education. They want to know that students will receive a highly reputable education from dedicated and talented faculty, and they expect evidence that graduates will benefit in tangible ways from that education.[3]

I would argue that even if we were not experiencing disruptive change – change that will mean closure for some colleges – it would be reasonable and responsible to take stock of our performance and strive to improve the education we provide. Healthy organizations must examine themselves with a critical lens to ensure they are providing the best and most relevant services possible. More importantly, given that our raison d’être is fostering growth in our students, there is every reason for us to encourage growth and excellence in ourselves. We owe it to our students to ensure that a Pacific education is and remains the very best it can be.

For both pragmatic and principled reasons, then, Pacific has needed to respond proactively to the changing higher-ed landscape. In 2013-14, under the direction of the Board of Regents, the University launched Focusing on Our Future, a comprehensive self-study of academic programs and administrative services. Focusing sought to ensure that all Pacific’s activities are high quality, have significant impact and align with the Pacific 2020 strategic plan. Following the launch, the American Council on Education recognized Pacific for proactively, and strategically, responding to the national call for heightened accountability.[4]

An Inclusive Process

Focusing on Our Future’s academic and administrative review processes were created with broad input from faculty, staff, administrators and students, with a goal of maximum transparency. I am extremely grateful to our University community for their deep engagement with the creation and implementation of the processes, especially for the thoughtful criticisms that improved both the processes and their outcomes.

Through a series of University-wide conversations, we created two review processes. The first was an administrative review that took place in summer and fall 2013. (This included a review of administrative units/services that spanned the three cities.) Academic programs were reviewed through a different process, Academic Planning and Alignment (APA), that began in late fall 2013 and concluded in May 2014. Administrative units embedded within the schools and the College of the Pacific went through the same process as the other administrative units, but followed the APA calendar.

Our processes were rooted in Robert C. Dickeson’s well-known model, but were heavily customized for University of the Pacific.[5] Pacific’s processes were initially drafted by the Cabinet: Maria Pallavicini, Patrick D. Cavanaugh, Burnie Atterbury, Elizabeth Griego, Mary Lou Lackey, Ted Leland and Richard Rojo. I extend tremendous thanks to them, especially the Provost, for the many hours spent architecting the process and revising it after conversations with the Academic Council, Staff Advisory Council, Associated Students of University of the Pacific, Council of Deans, Strategic Planning Committee, Institutional Priorities Committee, President’s Advisory Council, Provost’s Leadership Council and individual members of the University community. These conversations took place from the time the initiative was first announced, in February 2013, until the process was published in May 2013. (The Academic Planning and Alignment process continued to be tweaked through fall of 2013.) My deep thanks go to the chairs, executive boards and membership of these organizations for their partnership and their wisdom. Special thanks go to Lynn Beck, Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr., Rena Fraden, Lewis Gale, Steve Howell, Bhaskara Jasti, Jay Mootz, Giulio Ongaro, Phillip Oppenheimer, Marlin Bates, Courtney Lehmann, Kristina Juarez, Amanda Elrod, Corrie Martin, Marselus Cayton and Marquis White. I also thank the Office of Marketing and Communications for their work creating print and web materials to communicate the process within the University.

Administrative Process
The administrative and academic-administrative process began with reports written at the unit level as self-studies. These reports analyzed each unit’s performance relating to specific common criteria: relevance to Pacific’s mission and Pacific 2020; continuous improvement and outcomes; cost; and an opportunity analysis. Administrative units whose work cuts across all three campuses also wrote about their level of collaboration. I express great thanks to the departments, committees and authors who worked very hard to create these reports.

The unit-level reports were evaluated by supervisors, who submitted recommendations for action to their division’s Vice President/Provost. The Vice Presidents and Provost consulted with their teams and issued preliminary recommendations for action, which the University community was invited to critique. Broad feedback was sought at town halls, division meetings, office hours, and through online anonymous forms made available to the entire University community.

The preliminary recommendations were also evaluated holistically by the President’s Advisory Council (PAC). Additional faculty, staff and student members were added to the PAC for these reviews (PAC+). The role of PAC+ was to check the recommendations for consistency or potential conflict, and to release their findings to the University community. Thank you to everyone who participated in that group for your time, hard work and insight.

Taking all the feedback into consideration, the Provost and Vice Presidents submitted final recommendations to me. I also sought and carefully listened to University comments made anonymously and at forums on all three-campuses. After formulating my decisions, I discussed them with the Board of Regents before releasing them to the Pacific community. My final decisions on administrative services were released in October 2013 and on academic-administrative services in May 2014. 

Academic Planning and Alignment
An Academic Planning and Alignment report was written for each degree program, reviewing the program against specific common criteria. The Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) helped to refine criteria for academic program planning and alignment. These included: history, adaptation and relevance to Pacific’s mission and vision; external demand; internal demand; quality of inputs and processes; quality of outcomes; size, scope and productivity; revenue and cost; and an opportunity analysis of the department or unit.

Our faculty authors and their collaborators worked extremely hard to produce these reports while continuing to teach classes and serve students.  I thank them deeply for their time and commitment. I also salute their willingness to engage with institutional data, which was new to some departments. Thank you as well to Institutional Research, Human Resources, and the Provost’s Office for generating data for dozens of units. Michael Rogers deserves individual mention for his outstanding work. I also thank Mike, his team at IR and Cyd Jenefsky for spending time over many months visiting individual units and holding conversations to help employees understand and evaluate their data. In addition to creating a better process with more reliable results, these visits also underscored the need to increase data access, literacy and use across the University.

Once complete, the program reports were reviewed by Unit Rating Teams for quality and consistency. A Comprehensive Academic Review Team (CART) evaluated campus-wide consistency of reports. I am grateful to the dozens of individuals who participated in evaluating their colleagues’ hard work. Your participation not only enhanced the results of our process, but also ensured that the results represented the collective wisdom of our University community.

The results of the academic evaluations then went to the Deans, who worked closely with their teams and their units to form recommendations for action aligned with Pacific 2020. These recommendations were submitted to the Provost and released to the University as preliminary recommendations. Provost Pallavicini met repeatedly with the Deans and Academic Council to discuss the recommendations, and held open office hours and numerous open forums to gather faculty and staff input. Anonymous feedback was also solicited. She considered all input and then presented her final recommendations to me. I sought my own feedback from the University community and consulted with the Regents before issuing final academic program decisions in May 2014.

Strategic Investment Fund

Focusing on Our Future provided an opportunity not only to assess our quality on behalf of our students, but also to locate some of the funds we need to enhance a Pacific education without relying on large tuition increases. The Focusing administrative reviews informed but did not determine reallocations. Academic Planning and Alignment reviews played no role in reallocation decisions. The Deans met their reallocation quotas by increasing administrative efficiency and through a voluntary early retirement incentive program.

Our objective was to establish a recurring Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) that we could use to fund relevant and competitive academic programs, in addition to increasing our business capacity. The initial goal for the SIF was $15 million, or 6.5% of the University’s unrestricted base budget for FY 2014. Administrative units were to contribute 7% of their budgets, but academic units only 6%, recognizing that the University’s academic mission should receive priority. All units with the exception of the McGeorge School of Law were expected to participate. (Given the national downturn in demand for legal education and resulting loss of tuition revenue at the law school, it would have been counterproductive for McGeorge to contribute to the SIF.)[6] Cabinet, with input from IPC and the Board, made the decision during the process that the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry also would not contribute to the SIF, but rather would pay debt service on the loan the University took out to complete renovations on 155 Fifth St. while pledges to the dental school’s campaign were being realized. The amount of the debt service was roughly equal to the dental school’s planned SIF contribution (approximately $2 million). As a result, the total goal for the SIF was revised to $13 million in base funds.

As of fall 2014, all SIF contributions have been identified and the majority reallocated into the SIF (some funds from academic units will not be reallocated until FY16). Before allocations, we will have $13 million in base funds by next July 1. We currently have another $2 million in one-time funds that we’ve been saving since 2013 (an additional $1 million has already been recommended for allocation by IPC). Plus, for the short term, Powell Academic Program gift funds that haven’t yet been matched through the Powell Match campaign are being directed to SIF, adding an additional $1 million in one-time funds.

The funds have been set up in three streams: funding for new academic programs and program enhancements ($7 million), funding for capacity building ($6 million), and Strategic Educational Excellence Development (SEED) funding ($500,000). The new academic program fund works something like venture investments: programs have up to three years to become self-sufficient before their start-up support from SIF ends. Capacity funds will be used to enhance institutional capabilities, such as technology and marketing, that we need to improve in order to make our strategic efforts successful. For the SEED grants, one-time funding for up to $50,000 (or $100,000 for cross-disciplinary projects) will be available through an annual competitive RFP process. The funds can be spent over a period of two years, and any individual, group, or unit may apply, including staff and faculty.

Our robust SIF is an enormous accomplishment. Few universities have achieved this goal, and fewer still at such a significant level. It’s already begun making a difference: the SIF has been used this year to support a new doctoral program in audiology on the San Francisco campus and a strategic marketing campaign for the McGeorge School of Law. Additional proposals are in front of the Institutional Priorities Committee (IPC), President and Board of Regents for review, and the SPC will soon be reviewing SEED grant proposals from faculty and staff.

Results of the Reviews

A total of 219 reviews were conducted.  The University community evaluated 93 academic degree programs, 47 academic-administrative services and 79 administrative services on their contributions to Pacific’s mission, strategic vision and excellence. Each program and service received an action related to its mission, scope, structure and/or resources. These actions included: 

  • maintain the program/service
  • enhance the mission, scope, and/or resources of the program/service 
  • reduce the program or service’s scope or resources
  • reorganize the program/service in some manner (including consolidation with another program or unit, or closer collaboration between three-city units)
  • eliminate the program or service

Administrative Reviews (download appendix A)
As a result of the administrative reviews, the outcomes were: 

Action

# of Units

Maintain

36

Maintain/reorganize

2

Maintain separate operations but coordinate some resources (three-city)

4

Enhance

3

Enhance/reorganize

3

Reduce

12

Reorganize

11

Reduce/reorganize

5

Eliminate

2

Eliminate/reassign

1


The administrative review process was valuable for determining where we provide superior service to our students, where we have opportunities for future growth, and where we could reduce or stop doing things in order to direct energy and resources to our highest priorities.

The administrative units that were identified for enhancement include areas that are essential for Pacific 2020, especially around student services, teaching and learning, and post-graduate success. They are the Center for Teaching and Learning, Financial Aid, Student Support Services, Technology, and the Career Resource Center. The Office of Marketing and Communications also received an “enhance” action, given our need for enhanced marketing of new programs and of the entire University. This was a need we heard consistently across the academic and administrative units.

Several decisions to reduce or eliminate units were difficult to make, yet necessary from an institutional perspective. The decision to eliminate Men’s Volleyball as an NCAA Division I sport is a prime example. Eliminating one sport, rather than cutting resources to all sports, was the right decision given our goal to enhance the excellence of our overall athletics program.

We have already begun making administrative enhancements based on Focusing decisions. A portion of SIF’s capacity funds have been dedicated to marketing the McGeorge School of Law, and capacity grant applications around CTL, Technology, Student Support and the Career Center are forthcoming.

Academic Planning and Alignment
As a result of the APA reviews of degree programs (download appendix B), the outcomes were:

Action

# of Degree Programs

Maintain

55 (34/55 will have additional follow up)

Enhance

7

Reduce

0

Reorganize

24

Eliminate

7


In the academic-administrative units (download appendix C), the outcomes were: 

Action

# of Units

Maintain

17

Enhance

10

Reduce

1

Reorganize

18

Eliminate

1


Undergraduate degree programs within Physics, Psychology, and Health, Exercise and Sport Science were marked for enhancement, as were our PharmD and Speech-Language Pathology graduate programs. Engineering programs were also identified for potential enhancement pending disaggregation of workload data. The Provost’s Office and the Deans are working with the respective departments to determine how and when to enhance these programs.

The “eliminate” decision on two degree programs came directly from the faculty (BS in Chemistry-Biology and BS in Computing and Applied Economics). Five other degree programs will be eliminated as stand-alone majors, but their disciplines will be consolidated into new interdisciplinary umbrella programs (BA and BS in Geology, BFA in Studio Art, BA in Film Studies, and BA in Theatre Arts). One degree program was given three years to reorganize and increase enrollments in order to avoid elimination (BA in Religious Studies). Faculty Handbook processes will be closely followed throughout any degree program elimination. I thank the Provost’s Office, particularly Berit Gundersen, for her work with the units to implement APA actions. I also thank Victoria Oliva for providing exceptional assistance to the Provost’s Office throughout the APA process.

The Academic Planning and Alignment (APA) process yielded important information. It set the foundation for robust conversations about academic quality, student success and meaningful metrics – conversations we are following up on this year through the development of our academic plan, and through our Student Success Initiative. APA also clarified what information we have and what we still need to know about our effectiveness, paving the way for increased data-informed decision making in the future. The process illuminated Pacific’s strengths and areas for improvement. We were able to see where we successfully retain students, and where not. It identified potential cross-disciplinary synergies for teaching, research, program invigoration and new programs. And though the process was not about resources, it nonetheless found efficiencies within and across units.

Several themes emerged from the academic reviews as critical priorities and/or opportunities for the future. In addition to increasing program quality, enhancing student success and ensuring that we have meaningful metrics, we also saw a need to leverage our existing strengths to benefit more students, enhance resources for high demand programs, expand our three-city presence, increase support for research and experiential learning, maximize cross-disciplinary collaborations and build enrollment for financial sustainability.

Reflections

A university-wide, yearlong quality and efficiency review is a huge undertaking for everyone involved: faculty, staff and administration. Ours was certainly not without its bumps, and we heard several valid criticisms along the way.

One area of concern was our decision to review administrative quality at the same time we identified funds for reallocation. Some members of the University community thought Focusing should either be about assessing quality or about finding dollars, but not both. This concern is understandable, but reviewing all current administrative activities and deciding what to continue, what to enhance, what to change and what to reduce or stop doing in order to direct energy to our highest priorities also naturally helped identify where reallocation of resources should occur. Ultimately, final decisions around administrative actions informed but did not determine reallocation decisions, while decisions about academic programs were kept entirely separate from reallocations, as the deans and faculty requested.

A criticism voiced by some faculty was that the process was too fluid. While a flexible framework allowed us to adapt as needs were identified and the process unfolded, it also created an atmosphere of uncertainty. In retrospect, University leadership should have more clearly communicated that the process would shift and change if needs emerged during implementation, so the expectations were clear to all involved. University leadership was also criticized for changing the process too dramatically and too often in response to feedback. In the end, however, I believe our obligation was to be responsive: it was more important for the process to be participatory and to yield the most reliable and useful information than for it to be stable. Given the pace of change in higher ed, it was also better to have started the process when we did rather than have waited until it was perfected. Regardless, I am extremely appreciative of the patience our University community has demonstrated over the last year.

We heard the most concern about the decision to establish the Strategic Investment Fund goal at $15 million when we had not clearly identified $15 million worth of potential investments. It’s true – I was asking you to take a leap of faith and cease worthy activities to save resources for an unknown. I understand why that was difficult. But the result was a resource few other universities have been able to build that’s ready to deploy now, at the same time exciting ideas are bubbling up from our units. We don’t have to delay opening our audiology clinics until we’ve reallocated resources; they are ready and opening their doors soon. We are not waiting another year in an uncertain legal market to highlight McGeorge; www.mcgeorgetruth.com is up and running. Not only do we have money to get these initiatives off the ground, we also have funds to enhance the business capacities we need to support them. And our SEED fund is inspiring faculty and staff to propose ideas they can implement now, without waiting for our annual budget cycle.

Our process was not perfect, I readily agree, but it yielded powerful outcomes. I am confident that Pacific is in a far better position now because of these efforts.

Outcomes

The work done last year is having a powerful impact at University of the Pacific. Insights and decisions that resulted from the process are shaping the academic planning process that is now underway. They are also critical for decisions about new programs, particularly on our urban campuses.

We are building on last year’s University-wide conversations about the meaning of metrics within and across units, and about the importance of good assessment data. These conversations informed last year’s revision of the academic program review guidelines (now approved by Academic Affairs and Academic Council) and were instrumental in drafting a new annual reporting template. Another example of how data is being used more robustly at the University is the Student Success Initiative.  Building on hard work done last year, members of the Student Success Committee are pouring over data that will tell the story of which students succeed and which students need more support in order to graduate. They are also examining qualitative data from a variety of student surveys. Understanding the data and responding to them will be critical in improving the educational experience for all students.

The entire University is working to implement the decisions reached last year. The Provost’s Office is working closely with the Deans and Academic Council to implement Academic Planning and Alignment decisions, following Faculty Handbook guidelines. The Provost and Vice Presidents are also working with the Associate Vice President for Planning, Linda Buckley, to track the many administrative decisions that have already been implemented along with a timeline for the remaining changes to occur.

As a result of last year’s work, we are also enhancing assessment at Pacific to ensure we are striving to continually improve. A revised annual reporting template for administrative reviews has been developed, and a new cycle of administrative annual reporting will begin in the spring. A revised academic program review schedule has been built. The newly established University Assessment Committee is overseeing University-wide assessment of Pacific’s institutional learning outcomes, including the five core competencies WASC expects of all undergraduate students. Since last year, the working sub-committees of the WASC Interim Report Task Force have been reviewing University-wide data on assessment, program review and student success as part of preparing the interim report due to WASC on March 1, 2015.

Focusing on Our Future also produced high-level outcomes. It allowed us to align with our roadmap, Pacific 2020, to clearly demonstrate the value of a Pacific education across our academic portfolio, and to enhance our culture of excellence. What’s more, as an organization our collective comfort level with change has increased. While sometimes unsettling, change can lead to new opportunities and positive outcomes for students and employees. After a year of review to make sure we are the best we can be for our students, we are seeing a greater emphasis on student service and on helping one another. These changes are good for our students and will help Pacific thrive into the future.

Focusing on Our Future heightened our self-understanding and highlighted the interconnectivity of the University as a whole. Through information sharing, we learned about other units, sparking potential collaborations and increasing interdisciplinarity throughout divisions and schools. Exciting ideas for cross-disciplinary programs emerged: arts and new media; business, health and law; and environmental studies and sciences. These are currently being developed in the Academic Plan. What’s more, the process enabled cohesion within many units – our offices and departments have a better understanding of themselves, and also of the other entities within their unit.

Focusing set us squarely on the path to the future.  It strengthened our sense of ourselves as a three-city University and showed us how powerful leveraging these locations will be. In addition to highlighting exceptional opportunities for new programs, the process also revealed where better administrative collaboration across our campuses could help create a seamless student experience. In August 2014, we used Focusing work to kick-off a retreat that helped us capture three-city administrative challenges. We are now working to overcome these challenges so we can fulfill a key goal of Pacific 2020: bringing the Pacific experience to students across three of Northern California’s most important cities.

Most of all, Focusing on Our Future served our students. All of us come to work every day intent on helping students achieve their dreams. In a million different ways, each of us plays a role in their success. Thank you for giving time and energy to ensure we are offering the programs students want and need, striving to stay worthy of their trust and resources, and helping them shape their characters and futures. Thank you for your dedication to our students: past, present and future.


[1] TIME/Carnegie Corporation of New York poll, conducted online Oct. 1-8, 2012, by GfK Custom Research North America; results published by Josh Sanburn, “Higher-Education Poll,” TIME Magazine, October 18, 2012, http://nation.time.com/2012/10/18/higher-education-poll/.

[2] See, for example, Reinventing Higher Education, TIME Magazine, Oct. 18, 2012, http://nation.time.com/reinventing-college/ and Thomas L. Friedman, “Revolution Hits the Universities,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/friedman-revolution-hits-the-universities.html. Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower, broadcast on CNN November 20, 2014, is a recent instance of the intense debate in the national media over the value of higher education.

[3] For a thorough analysis of the changing landscape in higher education from within the academy, see Unsettling Times: Higher Education in an Era of Change, Report of the University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on Higher Education, September 2014, http://www.du.edu/issues.  

[4] See Kristina Cowan, “Higher Education’s Higher Accountability,” The Presidency, Dec. 15, 2013, http://www.acenet.edu/the-presidency/columns-and-features/Pages/Higher-Education%27s-Higher-Accountability.aspx

[5] See Robert C. Dickeson, Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Provide Strategic Balance (San Francisco, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010).

[6] Note that the law school is eligible to apply for SIF funding.