Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Dynamic U.Va. Strategic Plan on the Horizon

The University of Virginia’s path to continued and greater success is growing more distinct as development of a dynamic new strategic plan enters its final phase.

With the input of thousands of stakeholders – including students, faculty, staff, alumni and others – President Teresa A. Sullivan and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee have worked for more than a year to hone a diverse set of emergent ideas into a blueprint for U.Va.’s future.

The committee plans to present a final draft to U.Va.’s Board of Visitors in November.

Already, the effort has identified core “pillars” supported by strategies that embrace and build upon the University’s strengths. The draft plan also plants new flags in strategic areas that hold great promise to position U.Va. as a national and global leader, areas in which focused attention and resources could pay off by further differentiating the University from its higher education peers and competitors. 

“Our new strategic plan is designed to protect and strengthen what makes the University of Virginia unique,” Sullivan said. “It will identify promising new niches and put plans in place to help us capitalize on these opportunities.

“U.Va. is small enough to offer an unrivaled experience for students with opportunities to work closely with faculty, conduct meaningful research and study abroad. We’re also big enough to play an important role in knowledge creation that can benefit society as a whole. This is a combination few universities are fortunate to have.”

Sullivan said the draft strategic plan mirrors Thomas Jefferson’s aspiration for the University to serve as a thought leader, innovator and resource for the public.

“The entire effort builds upon our foundation and mission as a public university that serves the Commonwealth and the nation,” she said. “Every pillar, every strategy and every effort will infuse the importance of leadership development.”

Board members Frank Atkinson and Linwood Rose have played a central role in the plan-development process as co-chairs of the board’s Special Committee on Strategic Planning. In addition, a steering committee comprising the president’s leadership team, deans, student leaders and prominent alumni has coordinated plan development.

Members of U.Va.’s Faculty Senate, involved in the planning process since its inception, are placing even more emphasis on the faculty’s role as the plan nears a final draft status. The Senate recently held its first meeting of the academic year, using the full session to focus on the strategic plan draft. Each of the Senate’s six meetings this year will center on the planning process and draft, Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Christopher Holstege said.

“We feel it’s that important,” he said. “The draft plan places tremendous emphasis on the faculty’s role in future success of the University. Our members are fully engaged in the planning process.”

At this week’s Board of Visitors meeting, Sullivan’s team will provide an in-depth review of several strategies, proposed to support the guiding strategic pillars, while updating board members on the status of the overall plan development. 

The strategies that will be explored this week are:

  • Research infrastructure and services: The University will enhance institution-wide infrastructure and services, including information technology, to encourage and support individual, curiosity-driven research, scholarship, creative arts and innovation by faculty and students;
  • High-impact educational experiences: The University will enhance its ability to deliver a broad range of high-impact educational experiences for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, including meaningful research with faculty members, service learning, entrepreneurial experiences and internships;
  • Continuous active recruiting to secure leading faculty: The University will develop a continuous recruiting process to more accurately identify high-potential faculty, build stronger relationships with targeted candidates and close recruitment efforts successfully.

At its August retreat, the board heard details about the draft plan’s strategies for pursuing strategic research opportunities in “big data,” a comprehensive new approach to student career consulting called “total advising” and a major push to advance the academic mission through an institutional program of “Organizational Excellence.”

Those strategies are among 15 that support the five guiding pillars of the draft plan. The pillars are:

  • Extend and strengthen the University’s distinctive residential culture;
  • Strengthen the University’s capacity to advance knowledge and to serve the public through research, scholarship, creative arts and innovation;
  • Provide educational experiences that deliver new levels of student engagement;
  • Assemble and support a distinguished faculty;
  • Steward the University’s resources to promote academic excellence and affordable access.

“We are near the end of one phase of this process – the development of a new plan,” Sullivan said. “Approval and the implementation phase are important next steps.

“Equally important, the University of Virginia considers this a continuous process. What we put in place must be evaluated and measured. We must always be prepared to adjust our plan to reflect what’s working and what needs updating, as well as to build new strategies that focus on opportunities that emerge in the years ahead.” 

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