A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
BY ALBERT SIMONE
In what follows, I shall list my top 10 – in priority order – aspirations for RIT as it moves to Category-of-One status over the next 10 years. These 10 aspirations are connected. They overlap. And this connectedness and overlapping enables them to be synergistic and mutually reinforcing.
A Category-of-One university is a university that stands alone among universities. I like to describe RIT Category-of-One in the following way: Ten years from now, the top 100 students graduating from high school in the country will all apply to MIT, Harvard and RIT. All 100 students will be admitted by all three universities. One-third of the students will chose RIT over MIT and Harvard. These students will choose RIT not because it is like MIT and Harvard but, rather, because it is different from MIT and Harvard. This differentiated RIT is what these top students value most.
Reaching any one or a few of the 10 aspirations listed below will not do the job. Rather, all 10 aspirations must be satisfied simultaneously by the end of 10 years, and each aspiration must be satisfied at a very high level. There may be some universities that may be stronger than RIT in any one or a few of the aspirations, but taken as a whole, no other university will attain the collective impact that RIT will represent.
That is my dream for RIT as a Category-of-One university. There are no guarantees, of course. However, if we truly believe and work as hard as we can, the worst that can happen is that we will be a lot better university than we would otherwise be if we had not tried. In this way, we will serve our students over these next ten years in ways that are better than we might otherwise have been able to achieve.
Let me turn now to these aspirations.
The RIT culture is one in which students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees and the community outside of RIT take great pride in RIT as an institution of higher learning. The RIT family respects and celebrates the achievements of faculty in different disciplines, the growth and development of staff throughout the university, the accomplishments of trustees in their areas of specialization, the awards our students garner, and the success of our alumni across the world.
2. Teaching and Learning
The most important activity of faculty is their teaching. The most important outcome of our students is learning. The most important activity of the staff and trustees is to facilitate the teaching/learning activities of our faculty and students. Experientially based education is the foundation of this teaching and learning.
For example, undergraduate students have the opportunity to learn not only in the classrooms and laboratories as part of formal curriculum development, but also through the opportunity to engage directly in undergraduate research, to travel and learn abroad, to engage directly in the creation of new ideas and products through involvement in the RIT incubator and start-up companies, and to integrate work experiences through our co-op and intern programs.
Some faculty bring to their teaching and students strong commitment to and accomplishment in applied research, some bring significant achievement in business and government, and some will bring both. All faculty incorporate real-world research and/or organizational decision-making into their coursework and interactions with students.
Teaching and learning is enriched by scholarship. Every faculty member exhibits scholarship in every activity in which they engage every day. Scholarship can take the form of applied (primarily) or basic research, creative works (particularly in art and design, as well as in software development), integration and application of knowledge, and pedagogical innovation. As each faculty member works every day on his/her scholarship, the teaching/learning function is enriched and students are motivated and stimulated by knowing that they are not only on the cutting edge of the disciplines they are studying but are actually participating in the extension of the frontier of knowledge.
4. Leadership Development
Outside of the classroom, students develop their leadership potential. They leave RIT with a keen sense of personal, professional, and civic responsibility. Much of this leadership, interpersonal engagement, sense of team and communication development occurs through our extensive extracurricular programs centered in the Division of Student Affairs but also nurtured in every other division at RIT.
5. Students, Faculty, Staff
By the time each student graduates, he or she has a close personal and professional relationship with at least one faculty or staff member at RIT. In effect, each student has developed a close mentoring relationship with one or more faculty or staff members, a relationship that extends beyond RIT and over a lifetime.
6. Student Success
Students who attend RIT work hard in and outside of the classroom. They come to value and appreciate the challenges and opportunities presented to them. More than 90 percent of the students who enroll at RIT graduate from RIT. Because of the successful attainment of the aspirations already described, RIT students not only graduate, but they value their RIT experience for the rest of their lives. They attribute much of their personal, professional and civic success over their lifetimes to the unforgettable and life-defining years they spent at RIT. They are loyal and dedicated alumni who serve as RIT’s strongest and most effective ambassadors over their lifetimes.
7. Shared Governance, Collegiality
Everything discussed so far is achieved because of shared governance and collegiality. People who are in decision-making modes communicate effectively with individuals and organizations within RIT who will be affected by the decision they will make, prior to their making the decision. In this way, those affected by the decision are informed beforehand and have an opportunity to provide input and to help shape the decision. The decisions made by those who are held accountable for those decisions may not always be the most popular decisions; however, because those affected by them have the opportunity to provide input and to understand the rationale, they support the decisions even though they may not fully concur with them. In this way, RIT moves forward and effectively implements change, as it must in the dynamic global environment in which it lives.
Communication, of course, is a two-way street. There are avenues for people who are not in decision-making positions to reach decision makers with ideas and concerns with full confidence that their voices are listened to and their ideas taken seriously. RIT is noted for its fairness, openness, and integrity. Always there is debate. Typically there is some disagreement. But always the individuals affected are not disagreeable.
RIT cannot become a Category-of-One university without partnering with business, government, the community-at-large outside of RIT, and other universities. RIT is a university that not only seeks partnerships in order to reach its goals, but is an institution that is sought after by others who wish to find a reliable partner to support their own goals.
The key to achieving Category-of-One status is balance. There is a balance among RIT’s Ph.D., master’s, and bachelor’s programs, so that they are mutually supportive and not competitive or in conflict. There is a balance among teaching, scholarship and service. Service is broadly defined as individual contributions to the department, college, university, profession and community. Not every faculty member provides an equal contribution in each of these functional areas, allowing faculty members to focus in their areas of greater interest or comparative advantage.
Ten years from now, the above aspirations come together in an orchestrated way, producing a magnificent symphony that is truly world-class and one-of-a-kind. The world will notice. RIT will be branded, acknowledged and recognized as a Category-of-One University in which all of the aspirations described above form a mosaic that is unmatched by any other university.