Luis Proenza arrived at the University of Akron in 1999. The school performed roughly $15 million a year in research. Today, the amount stands at $50 million, and on Wednesday, Proenza unveiled a strategic plan, “Vision 2020,” that calls for taking the sum to $200 million by the end of the decade, the university cutting a striking national profile. A pipe dream? The precise number matters less than the continued, and refreshing, ambition Proenza has shown as the university’s president the past decade.


Put another way, don’t bet against him. Look at the transformation of the campus, not to mention the presence of University of Akron Research Foundation and other entities that reflect a university increasingly engaged in the community. If anything, that is what is promising about the new strategic plan. It builds on what has been started. It does so in a practical way. It embraces the greater role the university plays today, economically and on many other stages.


Four pursuits deserve particular attention. How do you go from $50 million to $200 million in research money? In large part, you hire the minds who can attract the dollars, Proenza seeking to mobilize resources to add 200 faculty members.


Much of the strategic plan can be described as an effort to develop talent, a critical element in the success of a city or region in today’s economy. Faculty members are key. So are young people with college degrees. Proenza points to the ambitious (again) goal of 40,000 students, enrollment now at 29,500. Most important, and the second notable aspect, is the school’s commitment to keeping the range of students on track to reach graduation, further reshaping the experience to advance those who come to the school less prepared.


The third component builds on the Akron Model, the university through its research foundation and other avenues leveraging its talent for local companies and entrepreneurs, serving as something of a research arm or problem-solver in the regional economy. And finally, there is the commitment to the immediate surroundings, working with the University Park Alliance, to remake 50 blocks at the city’s core — once more, ambitious, yet essential if the city and the region are going to attract the necessary talent.


No wonder university officials boil down the strategic plan to three words: relevance, connectivity and productivity.


It is easy to play the doubter, and, true, the Proenza years have had their bumpy patches. More surely will surface. Amid all that, keep in mind the heartening whole, the University of Akron seeing itself as part of something larger, its plan aimed at specific problems and needs, offering a pragmatic and grounded way forward. Here is the school welcoming the opportunity to take the lead, stating plainly and confidently: Follow us.