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Strategic Planning for HUC-JIR's Future

Rabbi Norman J. Cohen, Provost

Following a year-long strategic planning process in which students, faculty, alumni, lay leadership and outside experts participated, President Zimmerman presented a series of short- and long-term goals to the Board of Governors at its May meeting. The Board responded positively, giving the administration the go-ahead to make these goals a reality in our College-Institute over the coming years.

Much work has already gone into concretizing these goals, which include reviewing the role of our Jerusalem School and its impact on the Progressive Movement and its place in Israel; creating on-line access to our Klau Library holdings; creating an interdisciplinary cross-campus model course using videoconferencing; enhancing the religious community at HUC-JIR; and creating a movement-wide Task Force on Continuing Professional Education.

However, the main work in bringing to fruition the goals of our strategic planning process is concentrated in the area of our academic program. The first stage of our planning involves an attempt to lay out areas of educational enhancement, professional as well as possibly academic, on each of our stateside campuses. The hope is to utilize the strengths and expertise of our faculty, the resources, both institutional and human, available in each of our sites, and to respond to the changing needs of our Reform Jewish community.

The Site Focus Planning Committee, made up of the Dean and faculty representatives from each campus, along with Karen Barth, the Director of the Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education, who serves as a facilitator, is involved in a 5-month process that has involved all the faculties. The goal is to build upon existing academic program initiatives on each campus in shaping unique foci for each, while maintaining the harmony we have achieved within our institution.

This site focus planning will lead to two key strategic planning pieces which will begin in March and extend for some eight months. First, the shaping of a three-year Integrated Core Curriculum for our rabbinic students. Mary Boys, a Professor of Religious Education at Union Theological Seminary and an expert in seminary education, will serve as a consultant for this process. It will involve changing admissions requirements, creating methods of assessment, and integrating the academic, professional, and spiritual components of our program. The challenge will be to balance a prescribed curriculum with local initiative and flexibility. The goal is to train rabbis who have a clear vision for Jewish life and who have the skills and ability to convey it in an exciting manner to the communities they will be privileged to serve. A Clinical Program Planning Committee will feed into the Integrated Curriculum planning.

Simultaneously, the faculty and administration on each campus will create site specific planning groups which will work on the unique campus foci as well as all campus-specific issues, be they academic or professional in nature.

We have accomplished much in our strategic planning thus far and are dedicated to completing this multifaceted process in a timely as well as thorough manner. It is the hope of all of our administration and faculty that the results will maximize our students' academic, professional, and religious growth.