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Princeton trustees update strategic framework, identify additional priorities for future

by Emily Aronson, University Communications
June 7, 2023

The Board of Trustees has reaffirmed the strategic planning framework guiding Princeton’s core commitments in teaching and research, while also identifying additional priorities to inform University decision-making in the years ahead. The updated framework is available on the strategic planning webpage.

At its recent meeting, the board adopted a June 2023 update to the strategic framework following a review of University initiatives and goals over the past year. The strategic plan was originally adopted in 2016 and last updated in June 2019.

Trustees reaffirmed the plan’s core principles of affordability, diversity, inclusivity and service, and noted achievements in these areas, such as:

  • The increasing socioeconomic diversity of undergraduates, particularly lower-income students.
  • Major improvements to Princeton’s already nation-leading undergraduate financial aid program as well as increases to its graduate stipend program.
  • The ongoing expansion of the undergraduate student body – including an expansion of Princeton’s transfer admission program – to ensure that more talented students from all backgrounds can benefit from a Princeton education and go on to make a difference in the world.

The board wrote that it remains convinced that “Princeton University’s long-standing mission — as a residential research university committed to an expansive vision of the liberal arts that encompasses engineering — is robust, valuable, and important to the world.”

Looking ahead, the trustees noted that “[t]he world’s future will depend upon the ability to integrate new technologies with cultural norms and social practices well suited to support human flourishing.” At Princeton, that project of integration will require strong continued investment in the humanities and social sciences, the trustees said, as well as encouraging new modes of interdisciplinary coordination with engineering and the natural sciences “in lively connection to the world beyond.”

To support these goals and more, the trustees outlined future University priorities:

  • Sustaining a campus culture that supports free speech, mutual respect and interactions across multiple perspectives.
  • Emphasizing well-being as integral to the University’s mission so that all members of the campus community can flourish and grow.
  • Making historic investments in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and supporting new research in fields such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, including establishing a new institute for quantum science and engineering.
  • Experimenting with new research models, including investing in early-stage ideas and shared computing infrastructure across the academic disciplines.
  • Renovating existing housing to better support the needs and well-being of students today, as well as planning for new forms of housing as part of a broader, long-term commitment to educate more students on campus.
  • Exploring new teaching models designed to reach different populations of students both on and beyond Princeton’s campus.

The Board of Trustees has committed to reviewing and providing updates to the framework every few years. The strategic plan does not specify all of the University’s future initiatives, but outlines a planning framework for determining them.

Supporting free speech and mutual respect

The trustees noted Princeton’s commitment to “welcome, support, and engage students, faculty and staff with a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, and to encourage all members of the University community to learn from the robust expression of diverse perspectives.”

Noting that commitments to free speech, respectful debate and diversity of viewpoints are “under threat within American society,” the board said Princeton has a responsibility not only to sustain a culture of learning, openness and mutual respect on campus, but also to lead on these issues within the higher education community.

“To do so, the University must cultivate norms of courageous inquiry, thoughtful discussion, engaged debate, and an appreciation for the importance of hearing differing views in scholarly and other arguments,” the board wrote. “Princeton must also be genuinely diverse and inclusive, so that people of widely varying backgrounds, identities and perspectives can feel fully welcome and able to express themselves on our campus.”

Well-being as critical to the University’s mission

The board also noted that society at large and student-aged populations in particular are experiencing a mental health crisis. Given this, the board felt it important to add to the University mission statement a provision explicitly affirming Princeton’s “commitment to support and promote the mental and physical well-being of its students, staff, and faculty so that they have a genuine opportunity to thrive and engage fully with the University’s mission of research, teaching and service.”

The University is already actively engaged in a range of initiatives to promote the well-being of the entire campus community, including through the redesign and enhancement of the University’s health center and recreational facilities, the addition of positions and programs in the residential colleges and in University Health Services, improvements to the University’s health plan, and the establishment of the TigerWell initiative.

In addition, trustees encouraged University leaders to continue to work with higher education peers to support mental well-being among college students, share best practices and research, and generate further attention to the issue in the public sphere.

Historic investment in engineering and research innovations

Princeton Engineering is notable for its interdisciplinary character and commitment to a liberal arts education. The University is in the midst of construction on a new complex for the School of Engineering and Applied Science and environmental studies.

To sustain excellence and inspire future innovation, the trustees said the University will need to “invest aggressively” to support the engineering school’s existing programs and new initiatives in evolving fields. As part of this historic investment, the board endorsed proposals for “game-changing” investments in the University’s engineering departments and interdisciplinary units related to bioengineering, quantum science and artificial intelligence. Planning is now underway for a new institute for quantum science and engineering, and a facility to house it.

The board also supported multi-disciplinary proposals, including “venture-style” support for early-stage ideas, that would “leverage Princeton’s strengths in the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences to address technology’s impact on culture, ethics and society.”

Residential life and expansion

A major priority of the 2016 strategic framework was to expand the undergraduate student body by 500 additional students (125 students per year from 2022-25). This expansion is in full swing, with the opening of Yeh College and New College West last fall and construction underway on Hobson College.

The opening of the new residential colleges has emphasized the need to renovate existing undergraduate housing to better suit the needs of students today, the board said, noting that renovating the University’s older residential colleges “would have significant benefits to inclusivity and belonging.”

While prioritizing the renovation of existing housing, the University should plan for additional student housing in future years so that more talented undergraduate and graduate students from all backgrounds can benefit from a Princeton education. The board said any future plans should retain Princeton’s on-campus living and learning educational model.

The board hoped such work could occur over the next 10 years.

Innovating beyond Princeton’s core teaching model

The board also supported new teaching initiatives aimed at reaching students who do not have access to Princeton’s traditional, on-campus undergraduate or graduate programs. The University has already expanded its transfer admission program and has steadily increased the number of undergraduates from military, veteran and community college backgrounds.

The University will launch two pilot programs this summer designed to help promising community college students make a successful transition to four-year degree programs at colleges and universities in New Jersey and across the country. Both pilots will permit participating students to earn Princeton course credits. In its report, the board also noted the long-running Princeton Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) as a possible model for future pilot programs aimed at supporting non-traditional students.