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Milton Adams Selected To Guide U.Va.’s Strategic Planning Efforts

In a move reflecting the high priority of meeting the challenges facing all of higher education, the University of Virginia has established a new senior-level position focused on helping guide strategy for the years ahead.

President Teresa A. Sullivan and Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon announced Tuesday that J. Milton Adams will fill the new post of senior vice provost. Adams, who previously served as vice provost for academic programs, immediately begins his new role, which will focus on strategic planning.

"The purpose of this new position is to have a person in place to coordinate our strategic planning efforts at every step of the process," Sullivan said. "We want our plans to reflect specific goals and to involve as many people as possible in the process. We also must regularly assess the work to make sure we're on target and on time. Milton Adams is the perfect person to coordinate this effort."

Since taking office two years ago, Sullivan has developed multiyear institutional goals and worked with vice presidents and deans to align the University leadership with those goals. She described Adams' appointment as a part of the ongoing effort that will "ensure continuity and at the same time the ability to be agile to meet the pace of change."

Simon said the new post will help U.Va. foster a "culture of continual strategy development" during the course of Adams' five-year appointment and beyond. 

"Strategic plans that are developed and then shelved won't help us," Simon said. "Circumstances change. New opportunities and new problems arise. Milton's work will help ensure that our plans aren't left behind, ignored or outdated."

Strategic planning has gained momentum in recent months.

Rector Helen E. Dragas in July announced the creation of a Board of Visitors Special Committee on Strategic Planning. Also in July, the provost and all of the deans delivered a letter to Sullivan that advocated strategic planning that focuses on five key areas: faculty, education, global prominence and impact, research, and financial stability. The provost also recently completed a final review of the activities emerging from the University's most recent major strategic planning effort, the 2008 Commission on the Future of the University.

This week, the University also began its search for a consultant whose responsibilities will include assessing U.Va.'s strengths and conducting a competitive analysis between U.Va. and peer institutions on certain measures. The results will be used to inform the planning process.

On Monday, the co-chairs of the Special Committee on Strategic Planning recommended in a letter that Sullivan establish a steering committee as well as work groups on specific, as-yet-undetermined subject areas. The letter from co-chairs Frank B. Atkinson and Linwood Rose underscores that U.Va. remains a highly accomplished public research institution but, like other universities, faces challenges such as sustaining distinguished faculty, maintaining affordable programs and access and determining how best to use emerging technologies.

"In the spirit of leading rather than responding, the time is right to undertake a strategic plan that will examine our very purpose and reason for being, and then develop a roadmap for our future," the letter reads.

In his new role, Adams will report to the president and provost. The search for a new vice provost for academic programs position will begin soon.

Adams, who received his Ph.D. from U.Va. in 1971, is a professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. He was appointed vice provost for academic programs in 2003. In May 2011, Sullivan selected him as interim executive vice president and provost, a post he served until Simon’s arrival in September 2011.

As vice provost, he worked to sustain and advance the student academic experience by expanding undergraduate research opportunities. One example is U.Va.’s Jefferson Public Citizens program, in which teams of students work with a faculty adviser to develop, study, propose, execute and publish a research and service project.

Major responsibilities of Adams’ new role as senior vice provost include:

• Coordinating the University’s strategic planning process, including staffing for the University’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee and its associated work groups;

• Establishing measures to assess planning priorities and progress toward the University’s strategic planning goals;

• Conducting ongoing data gathering, analysis and outcome assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of the University’s plans, initiatives and policies;

• Overseeing the implementation of academic strategy recommendations and documenting progress in meeting institutional goals;

• Assisting senior leaders, schools and departments in defining strategies and developing plans to ensure continued achievement;

• Participating in presentations on planning to faculty, students, and alumni; providing written updates and presentations to the Board of Visitors, as needed, and facilitating communications among all stakeholders;

• Advising senior leadership on academic strategy and mission, and identifying areas of excellence and interdisciplinary collaboration among the schools and departments.

• Overseeing the promotion and tenure process on behalf of the executive vice president and provost.

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