Strategic Plan

Building the Foundation for a Great Story and a Greater Commitment at The University of Tulsa

By Gerard Clancy, M.D., 20th President of The University of Tulsa

Introduction: Jobs As Central to Life

Higher education prepares a person for a meaningful life. A point of pride for many of our faculty is that through strong connection with students and a robust curriculum, they can move well past teaching a student what to think. We focus on guiding our students on how to think, how to solve complex problems and how to communicate with others at many levels. With our blend of relatively small size but major university status, we are able to bridge the arts, humanities, social sciences and hard sciences to work together on highly complex problems. This provides a rich and real learning environment for our students, faculty and staff. At some universities, there is tension between the arts and the sciences. At The University of Tulsa, we see them as compatible and complementary, where all parts are vital in creating an innovative, just, safe, inclusive and diverse campus community. This is the strength of TU that serves as the foundation from which to build our strategic plan.

International Students with One World bannerIn these days of rising costs of college tuition, the disappearance of America’s middle class and an ever-increasing number of first generation college students from ethnically and financially diverse backgrounds, a great university must be able to provide great value to its graduates. A university experience must be worth it financially, and this translates to the central role of preparing the whole person for a pertinent job in a meaningful life. Early in my career, a wonderful short story unfolded right in front of me that has stayed with me to this day. I was an assistant professor and the medical director of a team that provided daily outreach psychiatric and rehabilitative care to a group of 100 patients with chronic and severe mental illness. Before this team was formed, this group of patients averaged 60 days per year in the psychiatric hospital. The constant flare-ups of their illness caused them to frequently lose their apartments, their jobs, any intimate relationships and ties to their families.

After a year of running an outreach program (called IMPACT), we saw dramatic improvements in symptoms and rarely were our patients hospitalized. On average, patients in the program now spent four days per year in the hospital, and overall savings per patient from reduced hospitalizations was $15,000 per patient per year. During the week of Thanksgiving, our team decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner with all 100 patients. At the start of that dinner, one of the most outspoken patients asked that before we ate, that each person in the room would give their own personal thanks. I was anticipating that the patients would be most thankful for their new health status. Secretly, I expected them to personally thank me for their improved health. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, a much different moral of the story was presented. Those in the group who had improved to the point of being able to work, probably 60 of the 100 patients, were able to secure jobs. To a person, those who were working were most thankful for their jobs. And to a person, those who were not working were most hopeful that over the next year, they would have jobs. Ever since that day, I have remembered this short story and the central role that a good job plays in the quality of one’s life.

As we look to the future of The University of Tulsa and our new Strategic Plan, among our many duties will be a commitment to prepare our staff, faculty and graduates for high-quality jobs and in doing so help them write great stories of their lives. These stories will inevitably entail jobs that serve the rapidly growing technology and knowledge economy and, just as important, jobs that forge a more just society through enhancing access to high-quality education and health care, protecting our environment and natural resources and celebrating humanity through the arts.

As we transform our curriculum, our co-curriculum and our entire university for this future workplace, we are pleased to note that the most technology-oriented CEOs are recognizing what we have known for quite some time — the central importance of well rounded employees. Our focus on jobs will also go beyond the individual. The Tulsa region must stay competitive in the “Knowledge Economy” by developing, recruiting and retaining young, creative talent. We can say the same for our country in staying competitive as other nations rapidly advance in the technological, information, digital, computer, energy and artificial intelligence sciences.

4th Industrial Revolution and Innovation in Everything We Do

We are in the midst of what some have called a 4th Industrial Revolution. The 1st Industrial Revolution, driven primarily by steam, dramatically changed our ability to travel and agriculture. The 2nd Industrial Revolution, driven primarily by electricity and gas engines, rapidly transformed personal travel, manufacturing and mass production. The 3rd Industrial Revolution, driven by computing power, changed automation of production, the flow of information, the storage of information and calculating capacities. This 4th Industrial Revolution is where technologies are fused. The lines are blurred between the physical, digital and biological sciences and artificial intelligence, big data prediction, precision medicine and even more personal choice in entertainment and shopping become a part of our daily lives.

It is all very exciting, for this revolution promises the opportunity for a more tailored, longer and safer life. But the skills necessary for this new work need to be provided at this top-tier university. This includes understanding the problem, design thinking, economics and financing of new initiatives, programming and coding for these new initiatives, engineering the build and maintenance of new modalities, gaming simulation scenarios and defending these new modalities and initiatives with advanced cybersecurity.

The 4th Civil Rights Movement and Justice and Everything We Do

As described in our nation’s National Archives, the United States has experienced three periods of significant improvements in democracy; in the 1860s when slavery was abolished, in the 1920s when women gained the right to vote and in the 1960s when we saw improvements in racial equality. Yet, we are faced with many remaining injustices in our country. The middle class is disappearing. Our educational system is becoming weaker. Access and affordability of a top-tier university education is out of reach for many. Inclusion of all walks of life is questioned by some. Suicide rates and drug overdose deaths are rising. Life expectancy in the U.S. has worsened for those in the 45-54 age group. We are divided on trade and immigration policy. Our personal information is constantly under attack. And we now face the long-term reality of terrorism within the borders of the U.S. The skills necessary for the future include cultural and language competence, understanding history, entrepreneurship, economics, new education models and communications.

Questioning Our Future

As we have been interviewing students, staff, faculty, donors, board members, recent graduates and business chief executive officers as part of our strategic planning process, they voiced a surprise set of questions back to us several times: “Where will these future jobs be and in what fields?” These are questions central to the responsibilities of a top-tier university and have been part of the energy behind our strategic plan. But there are other questions that are equally important. Beyond our graduates and faculty leading these technological advances, how can we prepare our students to understand and work effectively on highly complex social, global, ethical and security issues? Who will lead improvements in our K-12 education systems? Who will guide the growing number of first generation students to go to college and help them succeed in college? Who will champion health equity? Who will assist in improving our police relations and criminal justice system? Who will lead Tulsa’s efforts to develop, recruit and retain young, creative talent? Who will link Tulsa to the global economy and those cities driving this global economy? The faculty, staff, students and graduates of The University of Tulsa will.

Our University's Greater Commitment

The University of Tulsa is among the best small universities in the world and is the highest ranked university in Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Kansas. The class average for ACT scores for the 2016 freshman class was at the 96th percentile. The University of Tulsa has done many things right over the past 20 years to achieve these rankings. Because of the strength of the academic and social conscience of TU built over these years, these questions are not too daunting for this university, but instead are seen as the next challenges for this high-powered school. TU’s future is at the heart of these questions, and TU is singularly positioned to lead these efforts for this region of the U.S. The individual stories of success, fulfillment and impact from our students, graduates, faculty and staff will be the ultimate measure of our success. This is TU’s Greater Commitment.

Realistic Predictions for Job Sectors

One of the most popular quotations from sports on how a business plans for the future is from Walter Gretzky to his son, the hockey great Wayne Gretzky. “Son, skate to where the hockey puck will be, not to where it has been.” From Steve Jobs to Warren Buffet, many new products and business plans have been launched with this quote as a lead-in. In Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late. An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration, the pace of change in our world has been amplified by high-speed calculating prowess, vast information storage capacity and instant reach through global connectivity. The speed and global connectivity of information exchange makes knowing where the “hockey puck will be” a difficult but vital exercise for a university that plans to remain top tier. As difficult as this is, there are trends and therefore opportunities that the university can pursue. These trends include: Automation, Artificial Intelligence Game Theory, Simulation and Machine Learning.

Language, Religion, Political Science, Economics and International Business – The U.S. is experiencing new geopolitical relationship tensions. Official U.S. policies on climate change are shifting. Globalization of business, information connectivity across the globe and the influence of religion on international relations all point to the need for deep knowledge in international communication and culture. China, India and Indonesia are experiencing rapid population growth and will continue to exert greater influence on global policies, business and security. With many U.S. companies working at the global level, the need for employees with language and cultural skills to work effectively with foreign countries and global corporations will only grow.

Retail – It appears that retail and consumer purchasing preferences will continue to shift away from traditional retail. In energy-rich far western China, the new city of Karamay has 350,000 people and few buildings less than 10 years old. This model city for the future, built from the ground up in the past decade, has the ability to plan in absence of tradition. In doing so, the downtown area has very little retail with the exception of restaurants, barbers and nail shops. When the residents were asked where they buy most of their goods, they responded that Alibaba delivers to their homes most everything they need. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, and the development of Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go all point to a very different retail sector. Jobs in retail are shifting from staffing local shops and big box stores to worldwide internet-based home delivery.

Manufacturing – Similar to retail, automation and robotics continue to increase product quality, lower production costs and lower workforce needs. The automakers and appliance makers have seen huge drops in the number of employees per unit. Growth jobs for manufacturing include all of the engineering fields, computer sciences, information sciences and artificial intelligence.

Information Sciences and Security – Cyber defense of all information databases and flow has expanded rapidly into banking, health care, law, schools and retail. Jobs will continue to grow regarding all aspects of cyber defense. Computer coding has become an increasingly necessary basic skill and language for future employment.

Health Care – With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day across the U.S. needing more direct health care, virtually all aspects of the health care workforce will experience job growth. There is additional health care-related growth on the way as well. As mergers and acquisitions of health systems increase, health law will see growth. Assisted living centers, home care and day support programs for the elderly and Alzheimer’s Disease specialty programs will see rapid growth. Addiction treatment programs are also in great demand as the opioid and methamphetamine crisis expands. Treatment program shortages for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among our U.S. veterans will be present for quite some time to come as well.

Health Care Delivery Sciences – With U.S. health care costs reaching 20 percent of GDP, new approaches to how health care systems deliver on the health of entire populations rather than just individuals will alter care delivery and reimbursement. This new field of health care delivery sciences brings together opportunities for medical informatics, geo-mapping, the social determinants of health and design thinking.

Neuroscience – Within human biology, the brain is far and away the most complex and least understood organ. With the advent of functional MRI technology, microarray DNA analysis and standardized neuropsychological assessments, there is an opening up of the neuroscience frontier. New diagnosis and treatment options are on the way for mental illness, addictions and degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This new neuroscience will significantly add to fields in high demand right now including neuroscience-imaging specialists, clinical and neuropsychology, psychiatry, addiction treatment, counseling, speech pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, athletic training and neuro-rehabilitation.

Precision Medicine – Individual DNA mapping, nanoimaging, bioinformatics and computational biology will allow clinicians to predict disease before it occurs, prevent harmful effects of already existing diseases and cure diseases once thought to be terminal. The day-to-day clinical laboratories that carry out this work will grow exponentially in size and sophistication as will its workforce.

Energy – Although we are in a period of relative high supply of oil and gas, the next 100 years will see an exhaustion of much of the currently available supplies as China and India continue to grow in both population and economic strength. Jobs will be needed in extraction of hard to reach oil and gas, power grid and building efficiency, biofuels, solar, thermal and wind energies, cyber protection of the energy grid and energy management.

Transportation – Growth of drones and autonomous vehicles will greatly alter traditional cross-country and local shipping jobs. The preference of some millennials for mass transit and ridesharing over personal vehicles could drastically alter the U.S. auto industry and city design. With terrorists opting for vehicles as weapons, designing and redesigning public spaces for safety will be needed.

K-12 Education – Public K-12 education in Oklahoma suffers from years of woefully inadequate funding from the legislature. Looking forward, the students and their families that public school teachers are trying to serve are increasingly complex in their health, mental health, language and economic needs. Oklahoma suffers from chronic shortages of teachers due to low pay and burn out in this highly complex teaching environment. To promote teachers staying on the job, student teachers need to understand not only how to teach but also how to do this work surrounded by high poverty, crime, drug addiction, mental illness and family chaos. Models such as Teach For America, that provide student loan payback opportunities, poverty training and ongoing guidance in these additional areas need to be incorporated alongside traditional teaching curriculum.

Criminal Justice and Community Policing – The outcomes of our existing criminal justice system point to failure on many levels. Oklahoma leads the nation in the incarceration of women. Oklahoma’s prison system is at capacity. The passage of State Questions 780 and 781 indicates a strong desire from the voters for reform in Oklahoma. New models of community policing, evaluation and referral for treatment for those with mental illness in the criminal justice system, immigration reform and new models of treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration for nonviolent offenders all show promise but need to be fully implemented and scaled-up to demonstrate significant impact. Several University of Tulsa programs including law, sociology and organizational psychology are a few examples of those that could have an impact on these issues.

The Triumph of the City – Great cities have great universities. Even in Oklahoma, 75 percent of the population live in the urban centers. Looking to the future, the strength of cities will depend on their ability to develop, recruit and retain young, creative talent. And creative talent development, recruitment and retention starts with universities. When universities can develop deep relationships with the business and entrepreneurial communities of a city with an eye toward global reach in particular business segments of strength, great benefit is realized by all. City to city partnership opportunities with enthusiastic TU alumni are already being developed with Seattle (Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks,) Houston, Denver and Dallas (energy companies), St. Louis (Ascension Health), Kansas City (Cerner) and Beijing and Karamay, China (Joint Center for Culture and Science). The sectors of opportunity where we can build toward global strength include cybersecurity, data analytics, energy, neuroscience, simulation, gaming and artificial intelligence, health information and precision medicine.

A Rapidly Changing World with Great Opportunities – As Matt Ridley describes in his book The Rational Optimist, despite what the pessimists say, life on planet Earth is getting better. Food availability, lifespan and income are all up worldwide; disease, child mortality and violence are down around the globe. And there is much more that can be done to keep the momentum of these positive outcomes. The TU Commitment — described in-depth in the following strategic plan — reflects that our students, faculty and staff are ready to write the rest of the story of their lives at The University of Tulsa and beyond. A story with meaning and fulfillment. A story of a job and a career that promotes innovation, justice, access to education, better health, inclusion, diversity and the building of a great city that participates in these endeavors at the global level.

Building Up the TU Commitment

As we move forward, the TU Commitment will be supported and grown through the building of five initiatives:

  1. An Accessible and Affordable TU – We will strive to make TU accessible and affordable to all who qualify. This includes growing our endowed scholarships, support of our students through employer and Tribal Nation grants and scholarships and expanded federal and state support including the Veterans Administration Yellow Ribbon Program, Pell Grants and Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology internships. We also will provide salaries, benefits and support for our faculty and staff that are competitive and enable TU to recruit and retain staff and faculty of great passion and talent.
  2. An Inclusive and Diverse TU Community – We will maintain a community where all are accepted and appreciated for their contributions – a community that thrives culturally, economically and in learning because of its broad diversity.
  3. A Culture of Innovation across TU – We will create new knowledge, new ways of using knowledge and new ways of combining knowledge across all programs and initiatives at TU.
  4. A Culture of Justice across TU – We will seek out complex problems and injustices in our society and engage in work that promotes justice which, in turn, improves the human condition.
  5. TU as an Economic Engine for Tulsa; Connecting Tulsa to the Global Economy – We will help drive Tulsa’s knowledge economy through the development, retention and recruitment of young, motivated, creative talent. We will connect TU and Tulsa to the global economy through our work in Tulsa and our partnerships with key corporations in key knowledge and energy economy cities.