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Eyes on the Prize

Eyes on the Prize
 

Summer’s over for us administrative types, with planning exercises looming over the next couple of weeks. It seemed timely to remind myself, and maybe others, of issues we are facing.

There will be lots of upcoming issues. We’ll have the confusing noises from the state as budgets are figured out and the new Higher Ed commission does its work. Maybe some of these will be important, but I’m honestly not sure. At Mason we have the truly significant task of selecting a new president. We have some interesting planning issues around our distributed campuses. And we’ll have a new basketball season with a good team and a new coach, always a desirable distraction. And we certainly have challenges in the new research funding climate.

Above all, and in a number of specific ways, we have opportunities to hone in on educational quality. This will be the first full year of our commitment to undergraduate scholarship, the Students as Scholars initiative.  We’ve been doing some of this already, but now we can expand, a tremendous opportunity for new links between research and teaching. Our Honors College is now in its third year, but always warrants attention and highlighting. We have new undertakings for graduate funding, giving several programs each year the chance to raise themselves to competitive levels and in the process, we hope, truly establish greater visibility.

In sum, we are positioned to do a lot of the right things, and we have lots of engaged faculty. We just don’t want to lose sight of the main points amid all the other noise around us. As we see lots of pressure and probably little or no money to educate more students (which I’m not opposed to necessarily), we need to make sure that we stake out both general claims and concrete means to be sure we’re delivering quality to the students we do have — and also, by example hopefully, to make sure other programs in the state and nationwide do not forget about some of the same quality goals. It’s an exciting challenge.