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University of Rochester reimagines its future

July 9, 2020
light bulb with vector pointsA new initiative asks faculty, students, staff, and alumni for ideas about how to reimagine the University. (Getty Images)

Project Imagine asks: “why not take a blank piece of paper and think about how best to conduct education?”

Should the University of Rochester dispense with its “agrarian” calendar in favor of a March to Thanksgiving academic year?

Would it make more sense to reorganize the University around interdisciplinary centers, rather than traditional departments and colleges?

Should a multimodal mix of remote and in-person learning continue even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic?

These are the kinds of “big ideas” that a University of Rochester committee is soliciting from staff, students, faculty, and alumni—and from the broader Rochester community. The deadline to submit ideas is July 31.

Called Project Imagine, the effort was established by Provost Rob Clark who has charged a 21-member committee with coming up with at least 10 “big and bold ideas that challenge our assumptions of what’s possible” by early September, along with an initial assessment of the limitations and advantages of each.

aerial of campus from the northeast

Project Imagine: Share your ‘big idea’

How would you reimagine the University? Submit your ideas at the Project Imagine website.

The committee is led by Ray Dorsey, a Medical Center neurologist and director of the Center for Health and Technology, and facilitated by Julia Maddox, director of the Barbara J. Burger iZone at the University of Rochester Libraries.

Dorsey says the current historical moment is an opportunity for the institution to go back to square one to explore whether there are better ways to operate—beyond the pandemic and financial crisis.

“The impetus is that universities are going to have change in this ‘new world,’ and so rather than being reactive, let’s be proactive in reimagining the University,” says Dorsey.

“You know, having 500 people crowded into a lecture hall probably was never a great idea anyway,” Dorsey says. “So why not take a blank piece of paper and think about how best to conduct education?”

In his charge to the committee, Clark wrote: “The University has a window of opportunity to reimagine its future post-pandemic. The shelter-at-home approach to controlling the spread of the coronavirus has forced our nation to rethink the way we work and to adapt in ways that we did not previously consider—some better and some not.

“When this pandemic has been addressed, the world will have been forever changed. We can either embrace the change and find ways to lead or react to the change and follow.”

The ideas “could serve as the seeds for strategic planning and as ways to both differentiate and ensure the future of our University,” Clark says.

‘We would love to get 10,000 ideas’

The committee is seeking ideas from the widest possible audience.

“We recognize the University does not exist in a bubble,” says Maddox. “We are influenced by, and we influence, everyone in our surrounding physical community—those who we collaborate with on purpose, and those who are impacted by us without our knowledge.”

Their ideas will be welcomed.

“One of the guiding principles of this project is to be egalitarian,” Maddox adds. “Regardless of where an idea comes from, it will be evaluated and vetted with the same care and consideration as if it came from the president of the University.”

Adds Dorsey: “We would love to get ten thousand ideas from a thousand people. And if those people are from the city of Rochester, or the ideas are from a University of Rochester alum, or anyone else intrigued with thinking about ways to reimagine the University, that’s fantastic.”

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Category: University News