This year we witnessed the meteoric rise of coach Larranaga and the men’s basketball team, from starting unranked, rising to as high as No. 2 in national polls and winning the ACC Championship. As the philosopher Aubrey Graham says, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”
This deserves celebration, but in the end, even Shane Larkin has to go to class.
On an academic scale, the ranking and reputation of the University of Miami has seen huge gains, but there is still room left for growth.
During the Shalala presidency, the university gained in rankings, including the U.S. News and World Report, where the school was once No. 67 nationally and reached No. 38 last year. UM regressed back to No. 44 this year, but expectations remain high for the latest scores to be released in August.
The same tool that helped propel the basketball team, quantitative evaluation, is also being administratively used.
Provost Thomas LeBlanc pointed to the strategic plan that is yearly accountable to the Board of Trustees and is based on data like the six-year graduation rate and incoming student SAT scores that would keep the university competitive with other premier institutions.
These goals address issues of student life, from the incoming class quality all the way through to graduation day, and include targeted and unique programs like the Singer Scholar Interview Weekend offered to incoming freshmen with SATs high enough to qualify for full tuition merit scholarships.
Because reputations develop with retrospective looks at faculty and alumni careers, decades pass before a school can be seen differently. Unlike most of its 18th and 19th century cohorts, UM is the second youngest private institution in the U.S. News top 50.
The work done today should promote positive results down the road. LeBlanc confirmed that the goal of the current strategic plan is for UM to demonstrate the characteristics of a member of the Association of American Universities, the premier consortium of 62 research-intensive institutions by 2020.
The benefits will also help students. Eddy Tsing from the Toppel Career Center noted the change even in the past year from the better exposure UM gets to employers.
According to Tsing, during the next three years the school will expand outreach to employers in national and international regions where UM hadn’t been familiar.
Because UM holds so much potential, campus leaders must do their parts to promote the best student experience, including tackling the enormous long-term issue of student debt.
As LeBlanc noted, “If you have a high quality reputation, then high quality people want to be associated with you, and in a university, people are everything.”
Patrick Quinlan is a freshman majoring in international studies and political science.