Themes for next strategic plan in works

Themes for next strategic plan in works

CHICAGO — College affordability, diversity and inclusion. The university's role in economic development. Thinking globally. Helping the state of Illinois address workforce challenges. Collaborating among campuses and other institutions to address educational issues such as the achievement gap.

And that's just part of the list.

Gathered around several tables that formed a giant square, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and about a dozen high-ranking administrators and faculty from the campuses met Thursday to come up with a comprehensive list of themes for the university's next strategic plan.

The trustees won't write it, but they will provide some input into the themes that could be addressed in the plan, said vice chairwoman Pam Strobel.

The author of the forthcoming plan will be the university's next president.

"This is a critical time in our state and it's a critical time for the university. With all the leadership transitions that we have going on, one thing that I think we can do is talk about a strategic vision for the university that ties us even more directly into what is happening in our state," Strobel said.

Strobel is co-chairing the search for the UI's next top leader and said Tuesday's exercise, a retreat of sorts for university officials, was designed to identify key themes and issues they think should be incorporated into the next strategic plan, allowing the president to begin the formal process when he or she joins the university next year.

That search is well underway, with names of potential candidates being solicited and co-chairs Strobel and physics Professor Doug Beck meeting with leaders of national educational organizations to gather insight and advice on the search process.

Officials were asked to submit to Board Secretary Susan Kies two themes they think should be incorporated into the next strategic plan.

Thursday's brainstorming session on strategic plan themes "gives any candidate for the job a sense of the resources they will have at their disposal and they should know the sky's the limit in terms of the university having an impact on the state and the country," Board Chairman Chris Kennedy said.

The last time the university underwent a systemwide strategic planning process was during president B. Joseph White's tenure from 2005-09. More recently, Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise initiated a strategic planning process after launching her listening and learning tour and a "visioning excellence" process to gather input about challenges facing society and to set campus goals for meeting those challenges.

Also in recent years, the trustees have regularly reviewed "dashboards," which are slide presentations in which campus data on everything from admissions to donations and faculty salaries are compared to peer universities.

But those are not all brought together under one main document, Strobel said. And you can't just pick up the previous strategic plan and say that plan will now work for the university, she said.

The new plan will need to include overarching themes — not just what Urbana can do better but what UIC and Springfield can do, said Strobel, who shared portions of the University of Maryland's strategic plan with the group.

When looking at examples of other strategic plans for public higher education institutions with multiple campuses, more and more involve boards working with senior leadership on coming up with plans "that work for the entire state, for the entire university" while at the same time balancing them with goals unique and specific to that campus, she said.

The documents provide a framework that "allows people to talk about where the responsibilities reside, and how those the pieces fit together to make a whole," Strobel said.