WSU’s five-year-old strategic plan was praised Tuesday as a catalyst for departments and units, which subsequently developed their own plans and implemented actions that have improved life and work at the university. But it was agreed a lack of resources sometimes hampered implementation and action.
“The implementation plans were valuable. They kept us focused on how to deal with the strategic plan at the unit level,” said Muriel Oaks, dean of the Center for Distance and Professional Education.
“I credit the plan for laying the foundation that led to creation of the Office of Equity and Diversity,” said Mike Tate, vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, Equity and Diversity.
They were among about 30 people at the WSU Pullman forum about updating the strategic plan. A forum has been held in the Tri-Cities. Spokane’s will be today (Oct. 10) and Vancouver’s on Friday. Not yet scheduled is a forum to be televised to all WSU locations statewide.
Comments from the forums, an online survey (www.provost.wsu.edu) and e-mails to strategic.plan@wsu.edu are due by Oct. 26. They will be considered by an updating committee that plans to have a draft document ready by the end of November.
Provost Robert Bates, who led the forum, said he has been pleased with responses so far, although he would like more faculty input. He said he wants to work with deans to encourage faculty participation.
The strategic plan “has been a model as we’ve asked faculty to do learning goals for their classrooms,” said Lisa Johnson-Shull, director of the writing program.
Learning goals and outcomes have become increasingly important as WSU nears its 10-year reaccreditation, said Bates.
“Reaccreditation will be one of the things considered as we refresh the strategic plan,” he said.
“The plan has become a benchmark for accountability to our students,” said Len Foster, associate dean in the College of Education. The WSU community’s continuing challenge, he said, is to become and prove that we are everything the strategic goals say we are.
But that takes money and other resources that aren’t always available.
As an example, resources often are allocated to strategic goal 1 — undergraduate education — at the expense of graduate student stipends — part of goal 2, said Greg Hooks, chair of sociology.
“We need more candor about allocating resources,” said Gary Brown, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology. “We can’t do goals 1, 2 and 3 without goal 4 (commitment to quality.)”
Bates agreed that, due to lack of resources, some area’s implementation plans lost steam part way through execution.
Perhaps WSU must become more selective, doing fewer things deeper and better, he said.
“This is something the updating committee must consider as we refresh the strategic plan,” he said.
Other aspects of the plan discussed at the forum included:
* The planning horizon. Those speaking seemed to agree that a five-year plan is good, as long as there is flexibility for departments and units to tweak it every year or two as needed.
“The risk of a long horizon is that the plan becomes dissociated from our biennial budget and planning,” said Erich Lear, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
“Five years is a good framework,” said Warwick Bayly, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “It can’t be strategic if it’s longer than that.”
In addition, a longer vision for bigger goals is important, said Hooks.
“Our goal to be an AAU university, or AAU-like, is an orienting goal,” he said, to guide or frame WSU’s strategic planning.
Perhaps the updating committee could work on a big-picture “Vision 2025” type of statement at the same time as it refreshes the strategic plan, suggested Barbara Petura, associate vice president of university relations.
* Whether the strategic plan is too much of a Pullman plan. The goals, values and mission of the plan apply well to all the campuses, said Larry James, associate executive vice president who was chancellor at the Tri-Cities when the plan was implemented.
“But the implementation steps were a disconnect,” for the urban campuses, he said, which at the time were focused on graduate and professional education.
Relevance of the goals statewide must be considered as the plan is updated, Bates said.
* Goal specificity and priority.
“We took goal 1 and did it first,” said Lear. “We need a view of accomplishing all four simultaneously.”
“How specific do we want the goals to be?” asked Bayly. “Do we want guidance or more specifics about recruitment of national merit scholars, research dollars, graduate students, for example?”
* Economic development. The updating committee must consider how the strategic goals address WSU’s efforts for economic development and engagement in the larger society, Bates said.
“I believe that WSU’s greatest contribution to economic development is degreed individuals,” he said.
“The people of the state expect WSU to be responsive to all their needs,” Foster said. “This is different from how we may see ourselves or where we may want to be. We need to look at what the public thinks it wants compared to what we think we should be doing.”