In order to achieve our vision, we have identified five major strategic priorities for the university. Each is aligned with our mission. The goals outlined later are based on these priorities.
We must differentiate our education from that offered at similar technology-oriented universities in order to give students a compelling reason to attend IIT. In addition to discipline-specific expertise that is equivalent to or better than that of the best private technological universities, we must add unique value for our graduates to be successful after graduation. We must include knowledge from business, psychology, design, and law in our general education. Our students must practice creative thought and learn to innovate, understand entrepreneurial activity and the development of enterprise, and become excellent communicators and leaders who are internationally sophisticated and globally aware. As a private university, our goal must be to deliver an education that prepares our graduates for a successful life—to contribute in their field the first day after graduation and 20 years later, and to obtain leadership positions.
Currently, we have a broad range of advanced professional degrees in law, psychology, business, and design. We must emphasize and build upon our strengths and develop a unique collaboration between these professional disciplines and our traditional majors. We must also capitalize on the strengths of the Center for Professional Development (CPD) as we advance our educational agenda.
Both the core and non-core aspects of each curriculum will be examined, and university-wide educational themes—for example, a redefined Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) program, a focus on leadership and entrepreneurial activity, an international minor, and/or the implementation of a program to allow “design across the curriculum”—will be developed. (Each academic unit will be required to present a convincing argument for the uniqueness of the educational requirements for its majors relative to programs at other universities.) Such an argument will also be required at the university level as co-terminal bachelor’s/master’s degrees are developed in all undergraduate majors to promote depth and breadth in education.
Our focus will be to produce graduates who have discipline-specific expertise and who are also known for their ability to create, innovate, initiate, and lead. In this strategy we will partner with the city of Chicago and become a positive influence for change by applying our innovations to the benefit of our community.
Universities are defined by research excellence. To be nationally and internationally recognized, we must choose interdisciplinary research themes that will distinctively define IIT’s research position to the world. Challenges of international importance that match the current and future strengths of our seven academic colleges will be identified as potential interdisciplinary themes and nurtured through internal investments and philanthropy.
While the primary focus of the investments will be research oriented, the themes will also provide platforms for educational innovations. The themes must be forward-looking, relate to needs of the global society, be of such importance that funding opportunities are envisioned over the next one or two decades, and lend themselves to growth and continuous evolution. They must also connect to comparative advantages we already possess and have the potential to bring positive international attention to the university.
The first two themes already exist: (1) Energy and Sustainability, and (2) Improving the Quality of Life. The first theme is anchored by two research entities: the Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research (WISER) and our Perfect Power initiative. The second theme is also supported by two major research entities: the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering and the National Center for Food Safety and Technology. At least two other themes will be identified and developed. Potential themes that were developed by the deans are Humanizing Technology, Sustainable Innovation, Healthy Environments and Urban Habitats, Computation and Decision-Making, and Policy and Technology. Again, the city of Chicago provides many opportunities for collaboration in addressing the issues raised by these themes.
The concept of a university studio, which builds on the Bauhaus tradition brought to IIT, is embodied in the Innovation Sandbox, which will be established to promote the initiation and development of new ideas. The sandbox represents a shift in culture to recognize that advancement by IIT into the status of elite private universities depends on our ability to be creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative. Resources must be dedicated to promote this cultural shift and encourage faculty and students to think “outside the box.”
A culture of innovation and excellence requires diversity of thought, derived from a community of various backgrounds. Thus the promotion of innovation and excellence across the university will require a more diverse body of faculty members, staff, and students, and a commitment on the part of the university’s leadership to achieve it.
Excellence is achieved by recruiting top-quality individuals and by raising the expectations of performance in all areas of the university. These expectations must be explicit, measurable, and rewarded. Peer influence is also very important in achieving excellence. Targets for improvement include administrative processes, student services, and campus operations, in addition to the traditional academic measures of productivity and recognition.
Our plan for innovation and excellence includes our faculty, students, and staff, but also involves our Incubator and technology park. Creative thought can lead to innovation and, eventually, enterprise, but only if an “innovation alley” exists that promotes the process. It is crucial that we promote linkages between our academic programs and the activities of our Incubator and technology park. So far, faculty members have founded five of the more than 20 companies in the technology park. Success will be measured by our ability to not only create and innovate but to also add to society by the successful development of enterprise.
Cultural change will also occur in our interactions with each other. We will develop a culture of respect and understanding among faculty, staff, and students that will encourage all to achieve at the highest level. We will develop and embrace the capabilities of the staff. Customer service and excellence will be a focus across the university.
As a technology-focused university, IIT must have programs in engineering and science that are excellent and internationally recognized. We must become recognized as an innovative and creative leader in both research and education. Research programs must be clustered around our previously discussed university themes; indeed, engineering should be the obvious leader of at least two of the interdisciplinary themes, Energy and Sustainability being one example. The efforts to substantially increase our research programs in engineering will not detract from our goals for a distinctive IIT education at the undergraduate or graduate level; in fact, growth in research will enhance our educational programs.
Our investment in engineering is justified by three factors. First, an “Institute of Technology” should be preeminent in engineering. The second factor is the reach of engineering majors throughout IIT: 46% of our undergraduate majors and 32% of our graduate students are in engineering. More than 50% of the credit hours taken by an engineering undergraduate student are in other colleges, primarily the College of Science and Letters. We must increase our undergraduate enrollment; this will happen in the next five years only if the stature of Armour College increases. Third, our goal of increased research funding can be achieved only by a larger and more research-oriented Armour College.
Elevation of engineering will require: (1) an increased faculty size with a defined focus on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, (2) dedication of the faculty to both research and education, (3) a greater partnering between engineering faculty and faculty from other parts of the university, and (4) investment in research facilities. Future hiring will be based upon our need to elevate the reputation of engineering through outstanding research and innovative education.
The financial strength of the university is directly related to stabilization followed by growth of the endowment. To stabilize and grow the endowment at this time will require aggressive development to put new money into the endowment each year, sound investment, and a reduction in our annual draw from the endowment.
Increased endowment must occur to support programs that ensure university improvement and advancement. This will require a capital campaign to be initiated with goals to: (1) increase the number and amount of funded undergraduate and graduate scholarships, (2) increase the number of endowed professorships in order to attract and retain outstanding faculty, (3) renovate existing space and build new space for programs in both research and education, and (4) initiate and nurture innovation and excellence across the university.