President Dean on the future of UNH

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Strategic Priorities

Embrace New Hampshire: UNH will make everyone in New Hampshire incredibly proud of their public flagship university. Students will grow up wanting to come to UNH, and it will be the first choice for the best and brightest students from New Hampshire and around the world. We will build collaborations that support New Hampshire’s economy and quality of life, and will be a trusted, valuable and consistent partner.

Enhance Student Success and Well-Being: Ensure that students graduate on time and are engaged and ethical global citizens, prepared to thrive in their first jobs and throughout their careers.

Expand Academic Excellence: Focus on attracting increasingly strong and diverse students and faculty from across the country and abroad. We will achieve this by being known and respected for the high caliber of teaching, research and advising across all our academic programs, as well as our distinguished research, scholarship and doctoral education worldwide.

Build Financial Strength: UNH will be a national leader in cost management and aligning its budget and resources with its strategic priorities. UNH will become more accessible and affordable for students by diversifying revenue sources and managing expenses. UNH will meet the full range of student needs by providing world-class faculty, facilities and organization.

There are some 500 public universities in the United States. In January 2019, President Jim Dean announced his aspiration for UNH to be among the top 5 percent of them — a top-25 public university — on nine key measures of academic success, from graduation rate for undergraduate students to research funding per faculty member. On Feb. 4, speaking to a full house of faculty, students and staff at the Hamel Recreation Center, Dean presented an update on the state of the university, UNH’s progress toward those specific metrics and the four university wide strategic priorities supporting that aspiration.

“Even just stating these goals has already inspired people to think about UNH differently, and to raise our own sights higher,” Dean noted. The good news? On a number of the nine measures identified in 2019, UNH’s performance has improved. The challenge, however, is that many peer institutions have made improvements, as well.

Dean pointed to UNH’s graduation rate for Pell grant students — those who qualify for the highest levels of state and federal aid — as one place where this dynamic has played out. While the university’s graduation rate for these students has risen slightly, from 71.8 percent to 72.6 percent, its ranking on this measure relative to other institutions fell four places. On a different measure — student participation in high-impact educational practices (such as research, internships and service-learning projects), UNH’s ranking rose, even though student participation rate stayed steady at 81 percent. Across all nine metrics, year-over-year results support a common theme: to achieve a goal as ambitious as ranking among the country’s top 25 public universities, it’s not enough for UNH to simply continue business as usual. That, Dean noted, is where the four strategic priorities come in.

In a departure from previous years’ state of the university addresses, the president was joined by several colleagues and a student, who elaborated on elements of the strategic priorities, and the afternoon’s presentation was followed by a series of informal conversations on each priority led by faculty members and administrators.

Dean spoke about the first priority, “Embrace New Hampshire,” reporting that progress to date in this area has included building relationships with elected officials and business leaders, as well as the state’s high schools. History professor Nicky Gullace and first-year student Jake Moniz ’23 spoke to the second priority, “Enhance Student Success and Well-Being.” Gullace discussed several initiatives related to student retention and graduation, and Moniz shared his own story of struggling to adjust to the rigors of college and the support he’d been able to tap into to get himself on track. Provost Wayne Jones spoke about the third priority, “Expand Academic Excellence,” describing preliminary plans to create an honors college as well as several initiatives related to faculty development and support. Dean presented the final priority, “Build Financial Strength,” noting that it is the one that makes the others possible.

“This is why it is so crucial for the university to focus intensively on our financial condition,” Dean said, explaining that, from the beginning of the strategic planning process, leadership had envisioned a deep dive into UNH’s financial structure to determine where and how resources could be freed up to support priorities. To that end, he spoke about the university’s recently completed engagement with Huron Consulting Group, which is projected to yield at least $12 million that will be invested into the university’s core mission and strategic priorities.

Dean closed his Feb. 4 remarks with the observation that UNH is well positioned to build on recent accomplishments and to excel in ways that will make the institution even better, more robust and prepared to excel in a rapidly changing world. “I believe that the best days for the University of New Hampshire are ahead of us.”

Want to know more about the university’s strategic priorities or to hear President Dean’s February state of the university address for yourself? Visit

Jeremy Gasowski | Communication and Public Affairs