Tight and demanding, new plan sets 10-year course for campus

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UC Berkeley’s new strategic plan will be the first guiding document for the campus since 2002.

If Chancellor Carol Christ has her way, by 2028 UC Berkeley will be much closer to its ideal self: a hub of world-changing research and innovative teaching that welcomes a diverse group of students, staff and faculty intent on solving climate change, ending inequality and strengthening democracy.

At least that’s the essence of the new 10-year campus strategic plan Christ made public this week.

The four-page plan is UC Berkeley’s first strategy document in 16 years and comes at a time when the campus is just creeping out of a $150 million budget deficit that restricted hiring, limited maintenance and crowded classrooms.

More on the plan

The complete strategic document is available online

Strategic planning at colleges and universities often involves gathering faculty, administrators, students and staff in conference rooms for dozens of day-long brainstorming sessions. Christ doubted the campus community had much patience for such activities after years of shortfall.

“Imagine that as everybody is cutting their budget, the chancellor is sitting here asking what their great new ideas are that will cost them money,” Christ said in a sit-down in her office with Berkeley News.

Instead Christ asked a small group of leaders to craft an actionable plan that was practical and possible. She also set a tight timeline: the document had to be done by the end of 2018.

“I had seen strategic planning processes that went on too long really lose energy and focus,” she said. “I also kept saying this has to be four pages; no longer than that.”

The steering group, led by former Haas School of Business Dean Rich Lyons and Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Academic Senate Division Chair Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, worked with students, staff and faculty across campus to write a vision statement and settle on three over-arching strategies:

  1. Berkeley empowers engaged thinkers and global citizens to change our world.
  2. Berkeley focuses on the good to address society’s greatest challenges.
  3. Berkeley embraces the California spirit: diverse, inclusive, entrepreneurial.

The vision statement, meanwhile, calls UC Berkeley a place that “pushes the boundaries of knowledge, challenges convention and expands opportunity to create the leaders of tomorrow.”

Separate working groups then broke down those strategies into a series of concrete and measurable 10-year recommendations, including building a sustainable revenue model, doubling the amount of student housing, growing the faculty by 100 and enrolling an undergraduate student body that is at least 25 percent Latinx, among other things.

Other suggestions were less specific: using technology to expand the reach of instructors, creating new career paths for staff, making graduates feel connected to Berkeley “for life” and improving outreach to diverse, nontraditional and first-generation college students.

christ speaking from a chair

Christ insisted the plan be done by the end of 2018. It also couldn’t be longer than four pages. (UC Berkeley photo by Stephen McNally)

But many of the details will get more concrete in the coming months and years as new groups set about trying to make the paper plan into a reality.

“We will have a group whose job it will be to monitor the implementation of the plan,” she said. “They’ll be holding us all accountable.”

It should help, too, that the plan is short and designed for action, Christ said.

“Its length is going to help us,” she said. “One of the problems with other strategic plans is that when they’re thick, maybe people read them once and then they go up on the shelf. My hope with this one will be more of a living document.”

And there should be financial support for the initiatives, Christ said. The new plan will be the basis of a new fundraising campaign being developed, meaning the campus will be “seeking a lot of money for the priorities that the plan articulates.”

And what could UC Berkeley look like if all the goals are accomplished?

“In five years my hope is that some of the ideas that plan identifies for enhancing the student experience will be in place, that the campus will be more diverse, that a new financial model will be in place,” she said.

Five years after that, Christ said, she hopes 25 percent of students will be Latinx, a diverse group of 100 new professors will be leading world-changing research projects and the amount of student housing will have doubled.

“Any institution needs a strategic plan,” she said. “It defines your goals, your ambitions.”

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu