Frequently asked questions

Boundless Possibility provides a roadmap for the University of Rochester into the next generation of learning, research, health care, and impact. The following questions and answers expand on general information related to the strategic plan’s creation, development, and launch.

Strategic plan overview

How does this strategic plan build on past plans?2023-09-13T17:16:01+00:00

Over many decades, the University has distinguished itself as an institution committed to rigorous basic, applied, and translational research; innovative academic and cocurricular programs; and renowned health care as well as transdisciplinary study, where science, technology, arts, humanities, and social sciences intersect to produce new knowledge and explore the human experience. This strategic plan honors and expands upon these core strengths and identifies bold and transformational areas of growth. Our past strategic plans have yielded transformative changes for our physical campuses, academic programs, and overall strategic initiatives and this plan will add to that tradition of success. Through this plan, the University may change how it works together to achieve its mission, but the path forward will be grounded in our institution’s traditions, rich history, and shared values. The plan will inform how the University and its school and business units make decisions; allocate resources; develop the roadmap for expansion and innovation; prioritize, coordinate, and collaborate; and better tell the story of the University.

What does it mean to be an R1 Research Institution, a member of the Association of American Universities, and a member of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education?2023-09-13T17:18:05+00:00

As a top research university, we are committed to educating the leaders of tomorrow and to the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Knowledge that leads to lifesaving treatments, technological advancements, and a deeper understanding of the human experience. As of 2021, only 146 universities in the US—3 percent—are designated as R1, meeting the Carnegie Foundation’s definition for the highest level of research activity.

This is not a new role for the University of Rochester. For more than six decades we have been a member of the American Association of Universities (AAU), a highly selective group of 69 public and private institutions in North America that are considered the highest echelon of universities for excellence in research production. We are also a long-standing member of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), an organization of 39 top private liberal arts colleges and universities committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of admitted students.

Our position among these institutions means that we are able to attract the best faculty, staff, and students from around the world and are highly competitive in federal and private funding for our academic research. In essence, being an R1-AAU-COFHE university strengthens our ability to have the biggest impact as we frame and solve the greatest challenges of the future.

How can we ensure that efforts are aligned across the University, for example, the Medical Center and River Campus or Eastman School of Music and the Medical Center?2023-09-13T17:17:45+00:00

There are many great examples of collaboration among students, staff, and faculty across our various campuses that speak to the “One University” approach to our work. We will continue to encourage collaboration while removing barriers that may hinder these efforts.

Why did the University choose to undergo a strategic planning process?2023-09-20T19:09:55+00:00

The University of Rochester began strategic planning in 2021 to develop a path forward for our institution. “Driven by our Meliora values and mission to Learn, Discover, Heal, Create—and Make the World Ever Better, our community has come together as one University to define what it means to be a modern global research institution. The plan provides a blueprint to retain and grow the University’s reputation and distinctiveness, to best prepare students for continued success in changing and evolving professions, to support high-impact, translational research endeavors that address the most urgent challenges facing our communities, and to ensure overall efficiency and effectiveness across the organization.

How does the strategic plan fit within President Mangelsdorf and the institution’s “One University” vision?2023-09-13T17:17:28+00:00

“One University” refers to three elements that serve as the underlying foundation on which all decisions, including the creation and launch of this strategic plan, are founded. “One University” implies a broader philosophy for a collaborative approach to how we do our work and use our collective expertise to make decisions; an expectation that we are contributing to the University in addition to a specific school or business unit; and an operational shift in how we structure budget and operational models for sustainable growth.

“One University” does not mean that the University loses the distinctive and recognized identities of its schools or units. Rather, “One University” enables schools and units to be more successful because they are associated with a strong University of Rochester vision and brand. This approach will ensure that the University continues to be successful as the complexity of higher education and health care in the 21st century continues to increase.

What is a strategic plan?2023-09-13T16:53:05+00:00

It is a strategic, directional document that helps us make choices that we believe will position us to achieve our vision. The plan is also an anchor for management, resource allocation, and investment decisions. It builds on community strengths, articulates clear goals, and addresses current, relevant, and real-world challenges. The plan will enable a diverse range of faculty, professional staff, and other constituents to follow a “north star” to achieve unified goals. Ideally, a strategic plan is a living document that can be adapted and improved upon as conditions change and as challenges and opportunities emerge.

Developing the plan

Who led the strategic planning process?2023-09-13T17:18:26+00:00

In 2021, Interim Provost Sarah Peyre, dean of the Warner School of Education and Human Development, led the initial planning process and handed the direction of the project to Provost David Figlio, who joined the University in July 2022. Working with a Steering Committee Work Group of senior leaders, Figlio continued to advance progress with the objective of introducing the strategic plan to senior leaders, the Board of Trustees, and volunteer leaders in February 2023. Throughout the planning process, the University’s leadership and Board of Trustees have provided direction and input on the development of these five goals. Input from students, faculty, and staff has been sought out and incorporated at different stages of the planning and development process.

What inputs directed the development of the strategic plan?2023-09-13T17:30:29+00:00

The University’s strategic plan has been shaped by information and direction from several sources, including focus groups, town halls, leadership retreats, website submissions, the University’s accreditation process, and insights from the Board of Trustees. The planning process continues to be inclusive, collaborative, and broadly co-constructed. Details on specific inputs can be found on the strategic plan framework page.

Who is a part of the Executive Implementation Work Group?2023-09-13T17:18:43+00:00

The work group members are University leaders who are leading units tied directly to specific goals or core beliefs. All work group members were identified based on their individual content expertise and ability to lead implementation of strategic plan activities to fulfill the University’s goals. These members will use various channels and mediums to engage various stakeholders as part of implementation.

Goals, objectives, and tactics

For any new faculty with transdisciplinary interests, how will decisions be made about their “home department” and any joint- or cross-department appointments?2023-09-13T17:24:35+00:00

As always, decisions about tenure homes and cross-departmental appointments are individual-specific and stem from a collaborative process. That said, the new academic finance model that we are developing is intended to make cross-department appointments easier to initiate and execute.

What is an academic medical center, and why is the connection between clinical care and academics important?2023-09-13T17:25:53+00:00

Our clinical services benefit greatly from being part of an academic medical center and university. Most hospitals primarily focus on patient care. An academic medical center like URMC does this and more. At an academic medical center, education, research, and clinical care integrate to provide the best possible, latest clinical care that uses cutting-edge discovery, technologies, and therapies. Clinicians, researchers, and teachers work together to provide patients with the latest medical advancements and clinical trials that aren’t available at community hospitals. As an academic medical center, URMC is able to provide cutting-edge care from every field of medicine to residents in the Finger Lakes region and beyond.

What do we mean by transdisciplinary research?2023-09-13T17:20:40+00:00

Transdisciplinary research goes beyond simply connecting different disciplines. Transdisciplinary research happens when people from different disciplines engage one another, teach one another, and learn new ideas that they would not otherwise have considered. For example, an economist who changes the way they do economics because they are exposed to the theories or methods of psychology, is carrying out transdisciplinary research. This is how we will “redefine our disciplines and create new ones” at Rochester.

How will the change in URMC leadership affect the execution of this goal?2023-09-13T17:25:42+00:00

The new leader’s orientation will include an overview of initiatives and expectations related to the strategic plan. They will have the opportunity to develop a vision for the University of Rochester Medical Center in line with the strategic plan and its priorities.

Will the student experience change as a result of the strategic plan?2023-09-13T17:25:13+00:00

This goal is a critical driver of the plan to elevate the student life experience and become a model for other research-intensive universities to benchmark against the experience we create. Evolving this experience will center wellness, well-being, and belonging with academic and student success. It will also continue our tradition of a close connection between the academic and cocurricular experiences of students.

What is a research “area of distinction,” and how were they selected?2023-09-19T19:41:52+00:00

An area of distinction is a bold and transformational academic area that will drive research excellence, enhance the delivery of education, and elevate our academic medical center—allowing us to frame and solve the greatest challenges of the future. The University will build upon strengths that represent opportunities for strategic transdisciplinary investment and growth.

The provost along with school deans and other members of the research and academic units at the University reviewed current research activities as well as market analyses on trends in research funding to identify five areas of distinction: Biomedical and Health Care Innovation, Just and Equitable Societies, Musical Excellence and Innovation, The Digital Future, and Transformational Materials and Technologies. The University will better leverage existing and new industry partnerships as well as current intellectual capital to scale the impact of research. We will also seek additional funding sources from federal and state agencies, the private sector, and foundations to support these efforts.

What sources of funding will be utilized to support the implementation of the strategic plan? Do those change based on the phase of the strategic plan?2023-09-13T17:26:20+00:00

Many aspects of the strategic plan can be implemented over time through careful management of existing University resources. However, we believe that as we implement the strategic plan, the University will begin to increase revenues through a variety of sources, and we are also counting on generous philanthropic support to accelerate the implementation of the strategic plan.

How will an updated facilities master plan affect my department? What does this mean for our curricula? What am I expected to communicate to my teaching faculty?2024-03-29T12:34:55+00:00

The University master planning process will take about 15 months to complete. University stakeholders—students, faculty, staff, Board members, community representatives, and others—will be engaged in this process. A review of classroom and instruction space will be a part of this process. More details on the planning process and opportunities for engagement will be available on the Master Plan website.

How will new transdisciplinary centers be funded, and how will the grant amount for each be determined?2023-09-13T17:23:55+00:00

We intend to establish multiple new centers and institutes with significant University funding based upon the best ideas from the faculty. The provost, the vice president for research, and school deans, together with a committee of faculty and staff, will collaboratively develop the process for soliciting and identifying these ideas over the coming year.

How soon are we intending to change the student residential experience? Will there be phases to this transition?2023-09-13T17:24:48+00:00

Work has already begun and will continue during the 2023–24 academic year. The process includes several phases. An evaluation of student housing was completed in the summer of 2023, and those insights are being incorporated into the University Master Planning process that will commence in September 2023. Our new vice president for Student Life will conduct a search for a new Residential Life leader, which will inform the future direction of the school or business unit. The University’s budget model changes will also have a positive impact on residential life as we take a more holistic approach to housing for all students.

How will decisions be made about the allocation of the 50 new faculty lines across schools and disciplines?2023-09-13T17:24:24+00:00

Allocations will be led by the provost and done in collaboration with the school deans and as part of the annual budget process, which takes place from December through March. Opportunistic hires will also be coordinated by the provost and deans. As with existing faculty budgets, school deans determine the distribution of faculty lines among disciplines within their schools.

What is the difference between a goal, an objective, and a tactic?2023-09-13T17:19:48+00:00

A goal is a distinct, high-level area of focus or target for the University. An objective is a specific activity that contributes directly to the execution and success of a particular goal. Objectives can be focused in one unit, or they can be present across several parts of the institution. A tactic is an action item that supports the execution of an objective. Tactics will form the most detailed part of the strategic plan.

What is the scope of the University facilities master plan? Are we considering space strategy at the school, department, or unit level?2023-09-13T17:26:34+00:00

This will be the first expansive master plan the University has had since 2008. The goal will be a comprehensive plan that supports the strategic plan goals and also reviews the needs of our academic, research, and health care enterprises and further supports students, faculty, staff, and clinicians. Stakeholders from across the University will be engaged as part of this process. More information will be available on the Master Plan website.

Who is responsible for fundraising for new endowed scholarships?2023-09-13T17:25:27+00:00

This work will be done by an Advancement team in collaboration with the provost’s office, enrollment management and admissions teams, and school deans.

What is the difference between a center and an institute?2023-09-13T17:24:12+00:00

Research centers designated as “institutes” will typically have significant University support with involvement from numerous departments, schools, or sites, though exceptions may be made if the organization is sufficiently large scale and/or has sufficient branding and reputational importance.

How does the new budget model affect how I should approach financial planning for my school or business unit?2023-09-13T17:26:06+00:00

Senior leadership is in the process of developing a comprehensive budget model redesign and will share the reasoning for changes, along with what inputs impacted the redesign process, and how the new model will directly relate to school and business units’ fiscal and operational needs. They intend to roll out this information in the new academic year.

Core beliefs

How will this plan strengthen the University’s reputation as a global research university?2023-09-13T17:01:58+00:00

The University of Rochester is at the cutting edge of critical research, discovery, learning, scholarship, and creative work. Looking ahead, the University aims to make a powerful impact on local and global communities by investing in the areas of basic, applied, and translational research and creative work to ensure the University is best positioned to contribute to society in meaningful ways. The plan’s areas of distinction were selected based on analysis of those areas most likely to extend Rochester’s strengths, differentiation, and overall distinction as a university. Critically, the University will also invest in effectively telling the story of the impact we make on higher education, research, and health care. Each goal has associated tactics that will strengthen our reputation in these areas.

What are we doing to build better relations with the Rochester community? How is the community involved in the plan?2023-09-13T17:02:36+00:00

The University is committed to continued economic, educational, social, and cultural partnerships with the greater Rochester community. We continue to emphasize and maximize opportunities to collaborate with and participate in developing a vibrant city of Rochester, including the strategic development or redevelopment of partnerships with community agencies, educational institutions, private and public companies, workforce development organizations, and other key contributors to the Rochester community. Each of the goals contains tactics that are associated with this core belief area with the aim of advancing the relationship between the University and city and region.

How does the University plan to become a more diverse and just organization?2023-09-13T17:02:53+00:00

All five goals have embedded principles of DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice) throughout their objectives and tactics to cultivate a rich, diverse, and welcoming culture where everyone can achieve their full potential, feel a sense of belonging, and contribute to the University of Rochester’s mission and vision. For the 2023–24 academic year, we have identified several actionable tactics that will help make progress toward a stronger, more inclusive organization.

Communicating the plan

How will updates and changes regarding the plan be communicated to the University community?2023-09-15T14:05:06+00:00

Frequent, broad, and open communication is vital to the success of the implementation efforts. This website, which will be updated regularly, is part of that process. Updates will also be communicated to members of the University community through communications from University leaders, newsletters, social media, and other print and digital channels. We will also share insights and data on our implementation progress. In addition to consulting with direct supervisors, members of the University community are encouraged to make comments and ask questions by submitting feedback.

Implementation roles and responsibilities

How should I prioritize my work?2023-09-13T17:06:27+00:00

Your manager will continue to be your primary supervisor for all work responsibilities. They will ensure that you have a clear sense of which work aligning with the plan will be prioritized and which current activities may be deprioritized during certain implementation phases.

Who is responsible for the execution of the strategic plan?2023-09-20T19:01:05+00:00

As University president, Sarah C. Mangelsdorf is the Executive Sponsor of the strategic plan and is responsible for its overall execution, resource allocation, and defining measurements of success. Provost David Figlio is the Executive Implementation Lead, responsible for the implementation and coordination of senior leaders working to advance each of the strategic goals.

Joe Testani, deputy to the president, is the plan’s Implementation Leader and will work with colleagues across the University to ensure that the broader University community understands their roles in executing the strategic plan. This Executive Implementation Work Group will regularly convene for progress reporting and problem solving as well as to share relevant updates from the president.

In addition, the provost will coordinate with school deans to begin the process for investing in our areas of distinction. They will codesign a process for faculty appointments, creating and funding transdisciplinary centers, and supporting departments that align and contribute to addressing our areas of distinction. More details for the support of the areas of distinction will be available during the 2023–24 academic year.

Each goal, objective, and tactic in the strategic plan has an assigned lead or leaders who will meet regularly with their work groups to coordinate activities, remove obstacles, reduce organizational silos, and align outcomes. These teams will also work with school and business unit leaders to keep them updated on implementation progress.

How will my implementation involvement be captured?2023-09-13T17:07:15+00:00

Executive leaders have begun to socialize accountability metrics, clearly identifying leader and school and business unit expectations, measures of success, how success is defined, and necessary changes that will be enacted should schools or units not succeed in their objectives. The University also has already begun to expand its data and decision support infrastructure to better support analytics, tracking, and synthesis of plan progress.

What tools will be available to help support my work?2023-09-13T17:06:59+00:00

The Implementation Leader is currently developing a manager toolkit that provides comprehensive materials for Cabinet, school and business unit leaders, middle managers, and stakeholders alike. Key documents that will be included in the Toolkit include the following:

  1. Implementation slide deck with overview of strategic plan;
  2. Framework for aligning planning activities with strategic plan;
  3. FAQs; and
  4. User Guide for Toolkit.
How will my work change or evolve as a result of this strategic plan?2023-09-13T17:06:07+00:00

The strategic plan was not created to disrupt the current work of our University community but rather to enhance the good work that we are already doing. By focusing the strategic plan on five key goals of excellence and aligning current activities with those goals, the University can better support its community and the broader Rochester community at large.

How will performance be tracked?2023-09-13T17:07:45+00:00

The University intends to expand its use of additional data collection, tracking, and analysis in implementation activities, ensuring that how we track progress directly aligns with established accountability metrics.

How will activities be reported?2023-09-13T17:07:29+00:00

The University intends to expand its direct reporting infrastructure to ensure accountability metrics are not only followed but are reported to immediate owners of tactics, objectives, and goals. The University also will host a public, institutional dashboard for all stakeholders to track progress of implementation.

How will I know if I am charged with a specific implementation role?2023-09-13T17:05:02+00:00

Executive and senior leadership are currently in the process of delegating oversight of specific objectives and tactics tied to plan goals to either Cabinet, school or business unit leaders, or upper-middle managers for all objectives identified in the plan. These University leaders will then strategize and supervise work activities that align with their assigned implementation objective. Leaders may create working groups, task forces, or committees as necessary, particularly for complex objectives or tasks. Additional details around expectations, roles, and responsibilities will be distributed directly to goal, objective, and tactic leads.

How can other University stakeholders, who have not been assigned a formal role in the implementation, get involved in a specific tactic or activity?2023-09-13T17:05:35+00:00

Tactic and Objective Leads are invited to collaborate with any member of the University community who they believe has a certain area of expertise or interest in a particular activity in the plan. Likewise, members of the University community are encouraged to contact Leads if they wish to become more involved or have expertise they feel may help with progress toward goals or objectives. A web form is being developed as part of our new website for members of our University community to volunteer.

How will I know when I should execute certain tactics or activities?2023-09-13T17:05:19+00:00

The Executive Implementation Lead, Implementation Leader, and Goal Leads are currently developing expectations around the sequencing of plan-related activities, identifying which activities will happen immediately, in the near-term, and ongoing or long-term. Additionally, school or business unit leaders will inform stakeholders of detailed strategic plan implementation progress specific to their school or unit and associated responsibilities. Updates will include current tasks and their status, any upcoming work activities that should be prioritized, and expected outcomes that will occur as a result of achieving these activities.

What should I expect from my school or business unit leader?2023-09-13T17:05:52+00:00

School and business unit leaders will communicate with teams on anticipated changes to their work priorities and connection to their job so that they are aware of what an objective means to them in terms of their day-to-day responsibilities. These updates may be shared in different ways through school- or unit-based channels, forums, individual conversations, or task forces.

Resourcing the plan

How long will these resources support my activities?2023-09-13T17:08:14+00:00

The University has prepared a resource plan specifically for the first phase of the implementation, which is the 2024 academic year. Resource allocation will be based on prioritized objectives and tactics, implementation readiness of those objectives and tactics, and their potential impact on plan goals. Tactics have been developed to be implemented or started within the 2024 fiscal year. Each year, we will review our tactics progress and measures of success to determine common barriers, successes, and resources that may be needed to advance the objective or tactic. Additional details will be communicated once the resource plan is finalized.

Where can I find resources to implement tactics?2023-09-13T17:08:02+00:00

University leadership is in the process of linking sources of funding and nonfinancial resources with strategic planning priorities. Additional details will be communicated as decisions are made. Contact us via email at boundless@rochester.edu with questions and/or requests.

How does the broader “One University” mindset extend to how resources are being allocated?2023-09-13T17:08:28+00:00

The University’s goal is to strengthen not just individual schools but also the University as a whole. Financial and operational support will be allocated based on the areas of top priority for the University more broadly, while also recognizing the unique opportunities that are present across the community.

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