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President Monaco sheds light on vision for Tufts

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 14:12

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Virginia Bledsoe / The Tufts Daily

University President Anthony Monaco sat down with the Daily in October to discuss his third semester at Tufts.


As University President Anthony Monaco moves through his second year at Tufts, he has become a familiar face on the Hill for students, staff and faculty. Settled into a newly renovated Gifford House and continuing to make himself accessible to the community through social media, Monaco rang in the 2012-2013 academic year with plans to resume progress on several initiatives and steer the university forward with new ones.

With his third semester in office now nearing its end, Monaco sits at the helm of various large-scale projects aimed at positioning Tufts for the future, including a university-wide strategic plan and a financial aid initiative.

He has also brought leadership in the face of many student concerns this fall, ranging from the university endowment’s investment profile to sexual assault. 

A vision and a plan

Along with Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris, who assumed his position on July 1, Monaco debuted a 10-year strategic plan to the Tufts community in early October. He and Harris have since convened working groups and committees comprised of faculty, staff and students to help shape the content of the plan. 

Monaco explained that, although specific schools within the university have independently launched strategic plans in the past, this marks the first time that the administration has spearheaded the development of a strategy for Tufts as a whole. 

“[Tufts has] never done a university-wide strategic plan where you try to think about the missions, the values, the goals and objectives of the university looking five to 10 years out, bring that vision into the present and think about the things you need to do to get there,” he said.

The plan targets areas such as teaching and learning, research, the university’s impact on society, active citizenship, public service, entrepreneurship, innovation, online technology and the student experience, Monaco said. 

“Where do we want to place Tufts in enhancing our residential teaching mission, as well as thinking about ways in which we can engage the wider world using online technology, either by joining something like Coursera or edX or some other bigger MOOC [massive open online course]?” he said. “These are questions that we’re asking our faculty and students and trying to get a perspective and a direction of travel.”

Monaco cited improving the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom as one of the biggest challenges the strategic plan will tackle, adding that he hopes to expand programming for underclassmen in particular. He referred to the Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) program, which piloted this semester and provided academic support to selected incoming freshmen in the School of Arts and Sciences, as an example of headway towards this goal. 

“I think there’s a number of areas of student development that we need to think about throughout the freshman and sophomore year, areas around diversity, sustainability, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, alcohol, research integrity, what it’s like to live in an academic residential hall,” Monaco said.

While many of these policies and issues are addressed during freshman orientation, he said that the discourse surrounding these aspects of student life should not be limited to the first week of an undergraduate’s Tufts career. 

“Maybe there’s a way we could group those students together throughout that time, have discussions focused on some of those areas and provide programming which allows them to develop their own skills and education in these important areas, which would improve the whole campus environment and the experience here at Tufts,” Monaco said.

However, he said that much of this programming would hinge on restructuring the residence halls to include more study and group meeting spaces. The university renovated dorms including South Hall and Latin Way over the summer, but those projects served to update each dorm’s facilities rather than completely redesign them, Monaco added. 

“I don’t think it’ll be solved in the strategic plan process — it’s a long-term vision — but I do think that we need to look at that whole area and decide what we want to achieve in the future for Tufts students that live here on campus,” he said.

Tackling finances

Although Monaco still enjoys engaging in activities on campus, whether by attending student performances or training with the Tufts Marathon Team, this semester he spent more time traveling off campus in an effort to boost university fundraising. 

“Last year, without David Harris here as the provost, I felt I had to spend a lot of time getting to know the Tufts community and leading the academic mission at the same time that I was doing the external work,” he said. “So, now that David is here and pushing forward things like the strategic plan, I think it will allow me to spend more time on the external side of the job in the sense of fundraising.”

This comes on the heels of the launch of a new financial aid initiative that aims to increase the total amount of financial aid available to incoming students. Monaco hopes that, in turn, the initiative will add to the socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic diversity of the student body.

Over the course of two years, the campaign aims to raise $25 million for the endowment that is designated for financial aid, according to Monaco. The university plans to match gifts of at least $100,000 contributed to the endowment’s scholarship fund. 

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