Brandeis University is at an important crossroads in its 72-year history. Founded by the American Jewish community on the principles of academic excellence and openness in admissions and hiring practices, Brandeis has achieved an inspiring degree of success — not just as a young university committed to educating undergraduates in the liberal arts but also as a major research institution. The Framework provides a scaffolding for the university’s future. It is rooted in the institution’s history and builds upon its unique place in higher education.
The Framework is the result of more than three years of broad consultations with focus groups, including prospective students, current students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, friends, and parents. It is also based on responses from multiple alumni surveys; information gleaned from 30 "self-reflection" documents written by faculty and administrators; and the work of four task forces, composed of 11 working groups, which forwarded for consideration more than 250 recommendations.
This summary does not include many of the recommendations that came out of the task force reports. Rather, it offers some overarching themes that require attention most urgently. And while the Framework provides guideposts within which we will pursue many initiatives, its purpose is not to highlight all the university’s plans, strengths, and achievements. Instead, it outlines a series of strategic initiatives and investments that represent the foundations for the university’s future.
The Brandeis Academic Value Proposition
The mix of cutting-edge research, scholarship, and creative work on the one hand and a deep commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education on the other fosters a unique learning environment for Brandeis students. It allows for a degree of "vertical connectivity" not found at other Research-1 universities or liberal arts colleges. This vertical connectivity gives Brandeis undergraduates direct and meaningful academic relationships with doctoral candidates, postdocs, staff, and faculty across the curriculum, creating a unique learning environment that allows students to pursue their studies alongside others at varying levels of knowledge and expertise.
This collaborative ethos also extends to faculty across the university, creating an unusual degree of "horizontal connectivity." These connections allow faculty, staff, and students to transcend programmatic, departmental, and school affiliations in their academic and creative pursuits — a kind of collaboration that creates dynamic learning and research opportunities. Such connectivity has led to the introduction of innovative cross-school majors and programs, and provides institutional nimbleness as the Brandeis curriculum evolves to meet the changing needs of students.
These two types of connectivity — vertical and horizontal — define the Brandeis academic value proposition and represent a major advantage for students seeking a rigorous and innovative academic program.
Strategic Objective 1 — Fulfilling the Brandeis Academic Value Proposition
Through strategic investments in the university's faculty and researchers, student research opportunities, and physical infrastructure, Brandeis will broaden and deepen support for faculty scholarly activities. This, in turn, will increase collaborative learning opportunities for students and increase the university's commitment to cutting-edge research. Brandeis will:
- Build up its research capabilities by increasing the size of the faculty to deepen its expertise in strategic and emerging areas and provide more opportunities for faculty members to engage in research and creative work.
- Strengthen an academic ecosystem to maximize the connectivity between students and faculty and across academic departments by expanding opportunities for undergraduate research; increasing support for faculty to pursue and secure external research funding; investing in data-driven scholarship and sharing those resources across the university; expanding partnerships with external business and community organizations; and supporting more entrepreneurial activity among students and faculty.
Brandeis will create an integrated, inclusive, and vibrant student experience by balancing success in the classroom, lab, and studio with initiatives to enrich the daily lives of students. To accomplish this, Brandeis will:
- Introduce support structures that will improve mental health services; offer advising that integrates academic guidance and personal development; enhance career advising services; encourage a more robust physical health and athletics engagement; and offer an active spiritual life for all denominations on campus.
- Integrate the experience inside and outside the classroom by providing greater opportunities for faculty and staff to build communities in residential spaces.
- Expand social opportunities and foster a more engaging environment on campus by creating more shared experiences and inclusive spaces for both undergraduate and graduate students.
- Invest in graduate students by enriching their pre-professional lives through networking, internships, advising, career services, and community involvement, and providing additional opportunities for them to be mentors and advisers to undergraduates.
- Encourage greater alumni engagement by creating a wider range of opportunities through which alumni can provide career advising, internships, and mentoring to students and recent graduates.
Brandeis will invest in the campus infrastructure to support scholarly and creative work and to enhance student life. Brandeis will:
- Complete the second phase of the Science Complex to revitalize research space and expand teaching and research in applied science and emerging areas of scientific collaboration.
- Expand space for the Brandeis International Business School to facilitate dynamic teaching and learning and encourage connectivity with other related areas of study from across the university.
- Create a hub that will bring together research in the social sciences and encourage greater connectivity between students and faculty as well as departments and schools.
- Strengthen the culture of collaboration across the humanities by connecting the five buildings that make up the Mandel Quadrangle; this will facilitate collaboration and connectivity through the sharing of teaching, conference, and meeting spaces.
- Reinvest in the creative arts by building and renovating studio and performance spaces on campus to allow for greater faculty-student collaboration.
- Build and renovate residence halls so they become vibrant and more accessible centers of student life.
Strategic Objective 2 — Reengaging Brandeis' Founding Ethos
Brandeis will achieve the second strategic objective of the Framework through initiatives that will highlight and preserve the university’s founding ethos, which is based on millennia-old Jewish traditions of reverence for learning, engaging in critical analysis, a commitment to justice, and a dedication to using one's gifts to help repair the world. Brandeis will:
- Continue to cultivate a reverence for learning by strengthening its faculty and expanding opportunities for academic exploration, and encourage students and faculty to use their knowledge for the benefit of humankind.
- Be of service to the American Jewish community through sharing the research of its programs, centers, and institutes related to Judaic Studies, Jews, Israel, and the Middle East. The university will be the place where American Jews turn to gain knowledge and pose questions related to issues of greatest concern.
- Deepen its commitment to justice and to the idea that no academically qualified applicant should be denied access to higher education because of who they are. The university will work to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff experience an inclusive and supportive campus community by:
- Expanding financial support to ensure that students from all backgrounds can take full advantage of a Brandeis education.
- Creating more structured opportunities for students from disparate socioeconomic backgrounds and with differing interests, identities, politics, and beliefs to engage with and learn from one another.
- Continue encouraging its students to use the learning and insights they receive from scholarly and creative work to help better the world. We will establish a Center for Civic Engagement that will harness the thriving culture of community service at Brandeis and deepen the engagement of students, faculty, and staff, on campus, in Waltham, in Greater Boston, and beyond.