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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame unveils framework for next decade to compete in the AAU

Notre Dame published its strategic framework for the next ten years Wednesday, highlighting the major goals and challenges facing the University. The framework orients the University as an institution committed to both its Catholic identity and a high standard of academic research as a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

The task of the framework, according to the introduction, is for the University to achieve its four goals of leading with its Catholic character, offering a complete undergraduate education, providing multifaceted graduate and professional programs and advancing research by “thinking as an institution,” despite the proliferation of centers and institutions across Notre Dame. 

“More than any previous planning effort at Notre Dame, this strategic framework identifies areas where colleges, schools and divisions working together will allow Notre Dame to make meaningful contributions to questions of national and international concern,” the framework reads.

The framework outlines three main directions for “where ND should go” — strengthening foundations, moving toward a global vision of Catholicism and promoting science and engineering for a world in need.

To improve the international rankings of Notre Dame and the academic prestige of Notre Dame faculty, the University plans to authorize and reallocate faculty positions with the “strategic plan in mind.” 

“Only a few departments and programs can plausibly claim to be undersized,” according to the framework. “The challenge is to identify where the addition of a select group of faculty can catapult an already good program to excellence.”

The framework communicated that Notre Dame also aims to raise graduate student stipends to attract the most talented students.

With regard to student investment, the framework highlighted a growth of financial aid, multidimensional advising and a reconstruction of Moreau freshman programming, as well as a continued commitment to on-campus housing.

“Deepening that commitment — when off-campus alternatives possess considerable attraction,” the framework read, “requires continuing renovation of older residence halls and construction of new residence halls when renovation is impractical.”

The framework also said the University remains committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, despite the overturning of affirmative action this summer.

“Becoming more diverse and strengthening the University’s Catholic mission is a single project, not two parallel tasks,” it said. “This summer’s Supreme Court decisions will complicate, but not deter, our efforts to enroll a student body that reflects the diversity of experiences and gifts of the human family.”

According to the report, efforts to “diversify” the faculty and senior staff have faced continued challenges.

“Undergraduate students from underrepresented groups routinely attend classes for four years at Notre Dame without enrolling in a course taught by someone who looks like them,” the framework read. “Aspirations for faculty and staff hiring and retention need to be articulated and programs to ensure an inclusive campus expanded.”

To promote their science and engineering goals, the report conveyed that the University plans to expand facilities.

“In an era when team science involving many collaborators is increasingly the norm, these older facilities need considerable renovation, occasionally demolition, to advance research,” the framework read. “The costs of these projects, cumulatively, will be as significant as any academic capital projects in the University’s history.”

Specifically, Notre Dame plans to build a mental health facility in South Bend focused on suicide prevention, trauma and substance use.

The report compared the University's percentage of international students to Notre Dame's AAU peers. The average percentage of international students in the AAU is 12.2. At Notre Dame, it's 7%.

To improve this number in alignment with the model of global Catholicism, the framework said Notre Dame aims to improve international rankings and admissions outreach. Though admissions for international students is not currently need-blind, the framework said that step is one made by “distinguished company.”

The 2033 framework is also the first University 10-year framework to use the words “South” and “Bend,” as well as “Indiana,” and it said that connection to the region remains a challenge.

“It is now clearer than ever before that for Notre Dame to thrive, the South Bend region must also prosper,” the framework read.

University President John Jenkins, Provost John McGreevy and executive vice president Shannon Cullinan will host two student town halls for undergraduate and graduate students to respond to the framework.