David K. Scott was Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1993-2001.
This is an archive of the Chancellor's Web site during his tenure.

UMass Office of the Chancellor

Ten Challenges Facing the University of Massachusetts Amherst – A Report for President Bulger and the Board of Trustees

David K. Scott, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

This report will be my last to you [President Bulger] and to the Board of Trustees. As such, it is a little different from the usual report. While there are many stellar accomplishments on the campus in recent months, I am taking the occasion to summarize some of the challenges the campus will face in the years ahead.

Therefore, I will not talk about the completion of our first comprehensive campaign a year ahead of schedule at $133M, over the goal of $125M. I feel the Advancement staff and the University as a whole have an excellent base from which to launch the next campaign. Nor will I draw attention to the national recognition of Student Affairs with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Exemplary Programs in Student Affairs Award. Nor any of the other accomplishments, which I know you and members of the Board, will already have seen. The faculty, staff, students and administrators have achieved extraordinary accomplishments, with your support, your staff’s support, and with the support of the Board.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you and your predecessors over the last eight years.

In 1998, a group of distinguished academicians and scholars met in Glion, Switzerland to identify the major challenges facing research universities at the millennium. The preamble of the resulting Glion Declaration concluded with the following statement that aptly characterizes the foremost challenge facing UMass Amherst, self-transformation:

The university is one the greatest inventions of the present millennium: although created more than nine centuries ago, it remains one of the glories of human aspiration and one of the triumphs of the power of imagination. We, as members of its community of learning, challenge it to play a transforming role in society, and thus to transform itself.
Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium, Werner Z. Hirsch and Luc Weber, 1999, page 178.

Like its peers across the globe, UMass Amherst recognizes that societal demands upon the institution will be ever increasing; traditional resources are diminishing and the accelerating rate of change in the external environment is exponential. All-encompassing, fundamental changes are required for UMass Amherst to transform itself to reach the next level of excellence. The purpose of this document is to identify some significant challenges facing UMass Amherst as we continue on our journey of transformational change.

In some instances, the campus has already begun to chart a course of action to address these challenges. In other cases, the next administration will shape the agenda in defining the action steps.

Challenge #1: Designing a Resilient and Vibrant University for the 21st Century

Building upon Strategic Action-Towards A Commonwealth of Learning, the community-based strategic planning process spanning 1994-2001, the present challenge is to formulate and implement a comprehensive, vision and data-driven strategic-planning process. The overall objective of the plan is to design a resilient and vibrant University for the 21st Century.

On March 13, 2001, I presented to the Amherst Campus a template for the next plan – Strategic Intent - An Integrative University for the 21st Century, A Commonwealth of Learning – A World of Learning. A copy of the complete presentation can be found at http://www.umass.edu/chancellor/powerpoint/. The key elements of Strategic Intent are noted below:

  • With the overarching goal of providing a quality education, the University will become a model for the “Integrative University of the 21st century." The aim is to become more holistic, connected and engaged in form and function, in teaching and learning, in discovery and research, in outreach and inreach, in life and work, in different cultures, in admissions policies, in governance and in organizational structure. Essential to a more integrative University will be a reorganization and consolidation of the Colleges and Schools.
  • A review of Ph.D. and Masters Programs with a shift to more interdisciplinary Masters degrees and Undergraduate/Masters combinations.
  • Integrating UMass Amherst and the Worcester Medical School should be fully explored.
  • Target an increase in research dollars of 6% per year, reaching a level of $150M by FY2010, a level which will be more competitive relative to peers.
  • Examine a new approach to governance; in particular, create Council of Faculty, Students, and Administrative Staff for dialogue in an integrative fashion.
  • Seek a special investment from the State and commence a second comprehensive campaign, both of which will be necessary to shape the Integrative University of the 21st Century. The State should view this investment as the equivalent of the 2nd Morrill Act for the Knowledge Age.
  • Create a more caring community for work and life.
  • Maintain the commitment to reflecting diversity of 4-year college-bound graduating seniors from high schools in Massachusetts.
  • Every student should have an internationalizing experience.
  • A significant expansion of lifelong learning and distance learning.
  • Deferred maintenance remains a major challenge; we must ensure that the Facilities Condition Index does not worsen.
  • Information Technology - Planned replacement of computer and related technology equipment is a priority for Academic Affairs. Student information systems, financial and human resource systems will be fully implemented by 2003.

A viable plan must be based on a mission statement, which should articulate the role and goals of UMass Amherst in providing an added-value research environment in which our students might gain the knowledge, experience and wisdom they will need to serve the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

Prudent financial projections indicate that in the future it may not be possible for UMass Amherst to continue to maintain the same array and scale of programs in the manner in which they have been traditionally delivered. All decisions related to academic program investments and dis-investments, new initiatives and administrative priorities should be grounded in the next carefully constructed strategic plan. Strategic Intent sets out various designs for restructuring such configurations of Colleges to integrate Learning, Discovery and Outreach more deeply in each School and College, and new curriculum designs which are more integrative based on 4-credit courses.

The design of the next strategic planning process will allow for expanded “stakeholder” participation, including constituencies beyond the campus. Additionally, the process should include a mechanism to ascertain and articulate UMass Amherst’s strategic role within the University of Massachusetts system.

Challenge #2: Creating a “Learning” Environment for our Students

Over the last decade, the pedagogical language in the Academy has shifted in emphasis from a traditional “teaching model”, with the transmission of knowledge primarily occurring through a lecture format to a “learning model.” The “learning model” encompasses multi-dimensional, intellectual engagement involving interaction between teacher and student, student to student and student within the larger context of community. The “learning-centered” approach to education requires an institution to create an environment that graduates students with well developed intellectual skills in their field, a foundation of broad knowledge, effective written and oral communication skills, a strong ethical base, a sense of civic responsibility, proficiency in the use of technology, a global perspective and a desire to pursue life-long learning.

Last year, I conducted a series of meetings around the country with alumni and friends of UMass Amherst. The purpose of the Commission on the Future was to gather opinions on a variety of issues related to UMass’ future. Each small group was asked to identify the characteristics and skills that our graduates should acquire and develop through their UMass experience. On this question, there was almost universal consensus among the groups and their consolidated list mirrors the attributes noted above.

There is general agreement on the desired “learning” outcomes; the challenge is to create an environment that enables students to cultivate these characteristics and skills.

The “learning environment” encompasses many elements; chief among them is the student/faculty relationship. A recent article in the New York Times, (Sunday, April 08, 2001), summarized a 10-year study, commissioned by former Harvard President and former Trustee Derek Bok. The study examined the ways in students can improve their college experience. Chief among the identified factors was the relationship between students and faculty. The most satisfied students “sought detailed feedback and asked specific questions of professors and advisors…” (Education Life, page 18)

There are supporting data from numerous other studies on the relationship between faculty contact and student satisfaction and success, they report that students tend to be happier and to do better the stronger their relationships with faculty.

The UMass Amherst Admitted Student Questionnaire (ASQ) also shows how, among other things, personal attention and access to faculty are among the most important factors influencing college choice, especially for higher-profile students.

Finally, results from UMass’ participation in the National Survey of Student Engagement echoes the call “to improve the core academic experience of undergraduates in ways that will enhance student learning.” (The University of Massachusetts Report on The National Survey of Student Engagement, April 4, 2001, page 1) We have already incorporated Community Service Learning into the curriculum, and we aim to give the opportunity for every first year student to be part of a Learning Community.

The challenge is to continue to explore ways to support faculty in enhancing all dimensions of the “learning” process with an emphasis on quality faculty/student contact. We must also address the other components of a nurturing “learning environment”, including creating a student-friendly campus, renovation of the Campus Center/Student Union Complex, construction of alternative types of on-campus residential housing, increasing extra-curricular activities, providing additional on-campus recreation, further enhancing community service learning and addressing the declining physical plant (which is expanded upon in Challenge #6).

As we look at new approaches to learning we also need to examine our philosophy of admissions. Two years ago, the Amherst Campus modified the criteria to put less emphasis on SAT, and more on holistic criteria which better measure human potential. The SAT tends to focus on cognitive intelligence but in reality we possess multiple intelligences. The Amherst Campus took a bold first step. I hope that we might set a standard of defining criteria for cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual intelligences. Currently institutions are making approximations by using criteria of demonstrated ability to overcome hardship, to work in teams which are really proxies for emotional and spiritual strength. These new approaches will eventually serve to overcome the inherent bias in SAT, where students from higher income families achieve higher scores.

Challenge #3: Faculty Renewal

It is anticipated that 500 faculty, nearly 50%, will retire from UMass Amherst in the next decade. There will be additional losses due to attrition.

As we approach the unique opportunity for hiring large numbers of faculty following the retirements of many hired in the 50's and 60s, our challenge will be to hire faculty increasing the diversity, reflecting the values of the campus, the projected profile of the campus, and possessing an understanding of the essential nature of the student/faculty experience in recruiting, retaining, and graduating our students through all the phases of the life of a student, and being integrative in the scholarship of Learning, Discovery and Outreach.

  • The plan for long-term faculty renewal will need to take the following challenges into consideration:
  • Almost every other university in the United States will be competing to hire the best faculty.
  • We should seek faculty prepared for integrative and interdisciplinary work.
  • To hire strategically, in accord with the institutional strategic plan, the authorization to refill positions will rest at the Provost’s level (currently faculty lines are held at the department, college and school levels).
  • Resources will be required to prepare laboratories for research faculty. The construction and renovation of laboratories are among the most costly facility expenses on a university campus.
  • Create a new level of diversity of faculty.

Challenge #4: Garnering Resources

Our challenge is to maintain UMass Amherst’s position as the leading public university in New England. To do so will require resources beyond those currently available.

The are three key initiatives in the plan to garner additional resources:

  • To develop the necessary “grassroots” support for a major special investment from the Commonwealth. The University of Connecticut poses the greatest competition to our position as New England’s leading public university and this special investment will be necessary for UMass to maintain its competitive position. Over a ten-year period, the state of Connecticut is investing over $1B in their University system and it also authorized UConn with the responsibility and accountability to manage its own capital projects.
  • To lay the foundation for a $250-$300M comprehensive campaign.
  • To actively solicit external support from partnerships with business and industry.

Challenge #5: A Major Emphasis on Marketing and Communications


UMass’ contributions to the Commonwealth are significant, greatly enhancing both the state’s economy and the quality of life. Yet, the citizens across the Commonwealth, legislators outside of our immediate region, other governmental agencies and the private sector do not always fully understand and appreciate the contributions, achievements and stature of UMass. The range of contributions beyond the campus is impressive and includes a cadre of 80,000 Amherst graduates currently employed in the Commonwealth, economic development initiatives such as Mass Ventures, partnerships with business and industry, annually 125,000 citizens of the Commonwealth are served by UMass Extension Services in four program areas: Agroecology, 4-H Youth and Family Development, Nutrition Education, and Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, and direct involvement with reform of the K-12 system.

The challenge is to create a comprehensive and professional marketing and public relations campaign to elevate UMass in the eyes of our multiple constituencies. Excellent groundwork for this concentrated effort has been laid over the past few years. Two components of Campaign UMass were strengthening image and engaging advocates. Both initiatives are on solid footing with the development of a new logo and engagement with nearly 3,000 advocates. Additionally, the television-advertising campaign initiated by the President’s Office has been very effective.

Studying successful statewide marketing and communications efforts undertaken by other universities will enable us to invest wisely and to quantify the anticipated “return on investment.” Developing “grassroots” support for the special investment described in the previous section will be enhanced by a high profile marketing and communications effort. Next steps will require system-wide cooperation, human and financial resources, and professional expertise.

Challenge #6: Stewardship of the Physical Environment

Addressing the deferred maintenance backlog, streamlining the design/construction process and optimizing facility use must remain a University priority. Between FY96-01, $78M was invested in capital projects. The estimated cost to rectify the remaining physical plant deficiencies is a staggering $431M.

A dilapidated infrastructure not only raises aesthetic considerations but also has ramifications for the safety, health and well being of students, faculty, staff and visitors and plays a significant role in hampering the recruitment of faculty, students and staff.

As the campus continues to manage the challenges related to maintaining the physical plant infrastructure, we need to:

  • continue on the course identified in the Facilities Planning Ten Year plan.
  • make better use of existing facilities. For example, to maximize the current inventory of fume hoods, we need to review the allocation of laboratory space.
  • plan for the full costing of the maintenance of any new or newly renovated buildings.
  • resist making further incursions into the small amount of campus operating dollars committed to addressing (deferred) maintenance issues.

Obtaining the special investment (described in Challenge #2) and a successful comprehensive campaign are essential if UMass Amherst is to create an environment that will enable students, faculty, staff and visitors to achieve their greatest potential.

Challenge #7: Partnerships and Entrepreneurial Initiatives – Striking A Balance

Public/private partnerships to provide non-academic services, like the recent management agreement to contract the bookstore, should be examined in a responsible and caring manner. Models exist at peer institutions for contracting food services, child cares services, custodial services, constructing residence halls and building executive conference centers.

Opportunities also exist to create joint ventures between the University and other organizations. Examples of such a partnerships include Mass Ventures, the Baystate Life Sciences project, and agreements developed by the offices of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property and Strategic Technology Alliance.

As the University moves forward in exploring potential alliances, we must remain true to the values, principles and ideals that distinguish institutions of higher education from commercial enterprises.

The challenge in this arena is to strike a balance between mutually beneficial partnerships and maintaining institutional integrity.

Challenge #8: Engaging Faculty in Distance Learning

Futurists project that every worker in the workforce will need the equivalent of 30-credit hours of learning every seven years. This translates into 20 million FTE students. UMass, as a Land-Grant University must play a part in meeting this need, which will also generate new revenue.

Our greatest challenge in this arena is to engage faculty. Multiple factors play a role in this process, foremost is gaining consensus among the faculty, deans and department heads and the University administration on the necessary recalibration of the balance between teaching, research and service. This recalibration is necessary because the development of quality on-line courses is extremely time intensive. Other issues that need to be resolved include: compensation, intellectual property rights and the central coordination of UMass Amherst Online. Eventually the distinction between distance learning and traditional learning will blur. The delivery of instruction will call for new staffing configurations of faculty, teams of professional software specialists, multimedia experts and other personnel.

It should be noted that Outreach has many other components and we are witnessing a shift to a broader perspective of Outreach in service to our communities, the nation, and the world.

Challenge #9: Streamlining Administrative Processes

Considerable time and effort is wasted on this campus to comply with a myriad of administrative requirements that provide little, if any, real value. The university should take the bold step to free itself from the shackles of the state bureaucracy. A strong case can and should be made for such a move at this time as an antidote to the impact of diminishing state resources.

Coming to terms with the restrictions, codes, and compliance issues on this campus means asserting more loudly and consistently the real costs of building projects to help make the point that a less cumbersome bureaucracy saves the Commonwealth money and time and is one way of addressing the high level of campus need.

Additionally, it should be noted that higher education has been singled out for particular attention and focus by the federal government resulting in increased costs to comply with environmental regulations and tax codes.

Challenge #10: Determining the Appropriate Context for Athletics

A decision on I-A football needs to be made as part of an overall plan to bring the University to a new level of competition, intellectually and academically. This goal should be part of the special investment mentioned in Challenge #4. A move to I-A is not possible without this investment. The campus already allocates a substantial amount of institutional funds to Athletics through a student fee as well as direct subsidies. It would not be appropriate to allocate more funds to Athletics from other programs. It is also the case that only two Division I universities in our peer group have the array of sports we do and no institution has more than we do. Nevertheless, the elimination of a large number of programs to fund the move to I-A football, in my view, is not appropriate. Nor is it appropriate to impose student fees to fund I-A football. The Commonwealth should view this investment as a part of building the new public Land-Grant-Research University.


Many other challenges could be described, and a more detailed perspective is provided in Strategic Intent - An Integrative University for the 21st Century, A Commonwealth of Learning – A World of Learning. As the University strives for adequate resources, including resources from new revenue streams, the challenge will be to maintain a balance between the University as a set of entrepreneurial activities, and as a place of reflection and contemplation. I believe strongly that universities will need to become more spiritual in the approach to learning and in the culture of the workplace, in order to overcome the current extraordinary fragmentation and differentiation and to create a greater sense of wholeness. This challenge will, I believe, be the most difficult of all.

I wish you and members of the Board well as you strive to make the Amherst Campus a distinctive Integrative University for the 21st Century. In conclusion, I also wish to thank you and the Board for the support you have given me personally, and the Campus institutionally over the years. You have many difficult decisions to make, but I know the University is in good hands.

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