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Dean's column: Our direction forward

Friday, November 4, 2016

Earlier this year, I shared with you the priorities that will guide the College over the next several years. To ensure our success in each of our three priorities – student-centered services and programs; diversity, equity and inclusion; and enhancing research opportunities and impact – the College is developing a new strategic plan.

You may wonder why we are undertaking strategic planning. The past few years have been hard and we all are feeling the impact. Our budget has been cut several times, we’ve lost positions, enrollment has declined and we are seeing an uptick in tension around campus climate and the coming arrival of concealed carry on campus. A lot of issues stem from decisions and trends beyond our campus. I have seen faculty and staff internalize what’s happened and blame yourselves for not trying hard enough. I want you to know the situation we’re in isn’t your fault. But it is our responsibility to work together to find solutions.

Your efforts to make the best of difficult situations and limited resources have been noticed and appreciated. Yet without a shared direction, our impact as a College is diminished. This is where pulling together as a community and being strategic is a must. Now is the time more than ever when we need to come together to be mindful about what makes KU special and what we believe it can be in the future.  Strategic planning is the only pathway to accomplish this. It will help us zero in on our vision, reaffirm our values, establish our goals, identify obstacles and strengths, and lay out a clear set of tactics and metrics that let us know how we are doing. This focus will make the work ahead feel meaningful. 

Sometimes strategic plans are top down and miss the opportunity to pull a community together with a shared vision. Keeping this in mind, I am confident that we have laid out an approach that will be transparent and will produce a strategic plan that is clear and impactful.

Our strategic planning process is incremental and responsive. We will spread the process out throughout this academic year, share our progress often, and seek your input to ensure the final plan resonates across the College. This semester, the College and all of our departments, schools, programs, and centers are developing vision statements. Next semester, we will start identifying goals and feasible implementation plans for the College and our units. These will be built on a set of shared values and the priorities laid out in the State of the College.

By sharing our ideas and incorporating your input throughout our process, we hope to build a plan that will make our direction clear and allow flexibility for units to meet College priorities and individual unit goals simultaneously. Overall, what’s most important is that your voice is heard. No plan will be successful if our faculty and staff can’t find a place in it for themselves.

I understand times are tough, but we are tougher.  If we can build our strategy around the things we care about like research impact, student support and success, and inclusive learning and working environments, we will be creating a College we can all be proud of.