U.Va. Strategic Plan Process Builds on ‘Pillars’ of Strength for Future

August 05, 2013

Development of a new strategic plan for the University of Virginia advanced this week as the Board of Visitors reviewed segments of a draft built on five strategic “pillars” and 15 associated strategies to guide U.Va. into the future.

President Teresa A. Sullivan and members of her administrative team said the proposed plan would infuse leadership as a focus across all of the strategic pillars – leadership as an institutional objective and leadership development as a focus for students, faculty and staff.

“When fully implemented, the strategic plan will set the direction of this great institution and requires the strong collaborative commitment of faculty, staff and administrators across all schools and academic units,” Sullivan said. “Our plan will continue to be developed on the idea that it advances only those strategies that we believe will make the University distinguishable and provide us competitive advantages.”

Launched last fall by Sullivan and the Board of Visitors Special Committee on Strategic Planning, the process has involved thousands of alumni, students, donors, faculty, staff and more, all working toward identifying the strengths and opportunities that will enable the University to thrive into the future. The work is expected to culminate in November when a complete draft plan – including specific proposed strategies, milestones, metrics and cost estimates – will be presented to the board.

“Development of this plan has involved thousands of people connected to U.Va. This has been a truly inclusive process,” Rector George Keith Martin said. “I believe those involved will be pleased that the plan so far emphasizes leadership and innovation, and also considers our traditional strengths as things that can continue to set U.Va. apart from our peers and competitors. We are small enough to provide a superior residential experience, but large enough to conduct significant and focused research. It’s really a unique combination.”

The five strategic pillars of the draft outlined during the board’s retreat held Friday and Saturday call upon the University to:

  • Extend and strengthen the University’s distinctive residential culture;
  • Strengthen the capacity to advance knowledge and 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; and
  • Steward University resources to promote academic excellence and affordable access.

Each thematic pillar is supported by more targeted strategies (15 in total) that set specific goals for the University to pursue. Further iterations of the plan and its pillars and strategies will overlay even more detail about the work ahead, and the expected timeline for meeting goals.

During the retreat, members of the Board of Visitors heard detailed presentations about proposed initiatives supporting three of the 15 strategies, intended to provide perspective on how the plan may unfold once it is adopted and operational.

Among them:

  • A proposed Big Data Institute that would leverage current faculty talent and new hires across disciplines to focus on the critical global need to develop analytics, data storage and data security solutions that accompany the surge of massive data sets in today’s society. The proposed institute would support the draft plan’s focus on strategic research.
  • A plan to pioneer “total advising,” an advising approach and process that combines high-quality academic advising, career advising and coaching, includes an online portfolio and capitalizes on relationships with U.Va. alumni. The total advising proposal emerged directly as a result of student forums held during the strategic plan development process, as students identified advising as their No. 1 priority.
  • A comprehensive approach to organizational excellence designed to achieve overall objectives of affordability and streamlining. The multifaceted approach would be designed to position U.Va. to best manage its limited resources and continuously improve efficiencies while protecting and enhancing the University’s academic excellence.

Additional strategies will be presented at the September Board of Visitors meeting.

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