SMU’s Financial Investments in the University’s Academic Quality and Stature

By  R. Gerald Turner, President

Steven C. Currall, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

In making financial allocations for the fiscal year 2019 (1 June 2018-31 May 2019), the University’s leadership has made a number of new allotments that expand upon previous financial commitments to enhance the academic quality and stature of SMU.

The purpose of this memo is to inform the SMU community that, in terms of sources of funds for this round of new allocations, nearly $5,100,000 have come from financial savings that were previously captured through SMU’s Operational Excellence (OE) initiative (formerly “OE2C”), with an additional $200,000 for fiscal year 2019 funded from other resources.

As the strategic basis for our new fiscal year 2019 allocations, in 2015 the University issued, “Launching SMU’s Second Century, Shaping Leaders for a Changing World, 2016-2025 Strategic Plan.”  The plan’s Goal Number One is: “To enhance the academic quality and stature of the University.”

Informed by the Second Century strategic plan, and through an extensive campus-wide dialogue about academic quality that began in early 2017 and concluded in mid-January 2018, the University is coalescing around a shared understanding of the academic priorities that will enable us to fulfill Goal One of the strategic plan.  Those priorities will further elevate SMU as a premier research and teaching university with global impact.

Based on extensive consultations with Vice Presidents, Deans, the Faculty Senate, and open meetings with faculty and staff, the entire SMU community has contributed to the dialogue about academic quality. Key to the consultation process, several faculty-led task forces were commissioned by the Provost to provide extensive thinking and direction on the following core topics: (1) Scholarly Research and Creative Impact, (2) Creative and Interactive Technology, (3) Data Science and Analytics, (4) Future of SMU Libraries, and (5) General Education Review (core undergraduate curriculum).

The fiscal year 2019 budget allocations were reviewed and approved during the University’s annual budgeting process and the OE allocations were reviewed by the Executive Committee of the OE initiative. This aligns with the process of utilizing the OE funds, as described on the OE web site:

Examples of new fiscal year 2019 financial allocations from OE funds that advance the University’s academic mission are:

  • Central University Libraries: 15% increase to collections budget
  • Central University Libraries: Digital preservation software and long-term data storage
  • Central University Libraries: New Head of Library Systems staff member
  • Undergraduate Teaching Equalization Fund: Support for Dedman College’s University Curriculum required courses
  • Office of Research: New Research Grant Management Specialist staff member
  • Office of Research: New Research Grant Compliance Coordinator staff member
  • Office of Graduate Studies: New Director of Doctoral Student Enrollment staff member
  • Office of Graduate Studies: Nearly 100% increase in funding for graduate student academic fellowships
  • University Research Council Grant Funds: Nearly 30% funding increase
  • Innovation Seed Fund: Phase I investment of $2,000,000 to elevate SMU’s intellectual footprint and attract sustainable philanthropic and/or grant revenue (more information on the Seed Fund will be released later this spring)
  • Academic Information Technology: Provide greater technology support to faculty with three new positions for high performance computing, data science, and internet of things (e.g., research equipment) software developer
  • Campus Classroom Technology: Nearly 30% increase for classroom technology upgrades

Thank you for your vital and ongoing input on how SMU can continue to become ever stronger with respect to academic quality. We are excited to reinforce the University’s positive momentum and to demonstrate our institutional commitment toward further strengthening academic quality with these recurring and one-time investments in fiscal year 2019. Because OE funds are to be reinvested in academic programs and activities, the University is planning for a multi-year strategy for optimal allocation of those funds.  Further investments in academic quality will be made in subsequent years.  We will inform the faculty and staff throughout the process.

As per the process outlined in the October 2017 discussion draft paper entitled, “Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of SMU,” and reinforced throughout the campus dialogue period, the University’s leadership team is currently working to complete a summary paper that describes our future plans in more detail. Later this spring, we will share a copy with the University community.

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