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UMD's Strategic Planning Process

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Please share your thoughts, including any "big ideas," about UMD and its future.

24 Comments

I just looked at all categories and found no postings, I think there are none. I have created blogs in German Studies and usually one can see the postings from others even if one hasn't posted. Maybe that's not the case here. Anyway, I like this process. It's more open than we've had anything @ UMD in my 11 years. Of course, we @ EPC also have posted our work on line and specifically the draft policies. It's sorrowful how few colleagues actually comment. I hope we are creating an inclusive culture here with such actions ( web postings and blogs etc like this one) and that this, in the long run, will create a more open, trusting environment. The blog for the Lib Ed Guidelines was at best- acknowledged by colleagues, but not well utilized. Keep trying, it's all you can do. Once colleagues feel trusted and respected only then will they engage themselves. I want to challenge you to continue such attempts at engagement. Here's a suggestion: create a link off the UMD Homepage for this blog instead of simply having it in an email we all received while on Winter Break. Not being cynical here, just realistic.

I would like to see UMD Food Services offer more local food options. By purchasing local food, UMD would fulfill and enhance it's mission to support the local community. Locally grown food could be the focus for the Center Court Grill, for example. Food grown by UMD students, through programs such as the Edible Landscape Project through UMD Facilities Management and the UMD Sustainable Agriculture Project, coordinated by faculty in Geography and Anthropology. UMD could also help to support local farmers through the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association by purchasing food from individual farmers or through the UMD Farmers Market, or other Farmers Markets in Duluth. Local food movement is gaining momentum at UMD. By serving locally grown food through Food Services, UMD would be showing students, staff, faculty and the community that the University supports Duluth.

I'm responding to Mike's comment above about this being on the UMD home page. There is a link on the UMD home page to Strategic Planning, under Campus Initiatives. And there is a link to the blogs on the main Strategic Planning page. I hope this will suffice.

An idea that I have had for a couple years and have been testing out with the Entrepreneurship Club is to have a lunch break during the day for everyone. Student clubs could then meet at this time and provide lunch to their club members. I feel this would be a great way to enrich students lives by getting more of them involved in clubs they have interest in.

It was also brought to my attention by a colleague that if students were more involved on campus during their 4-5 years they would be more likely to donate back to the school after they graduate.

Business professionals looking to speak are more available during the work day rather then at night. Students on the other hand, don't like to come back to school at night even if free food is offered. Evident in the Entrepreneurship Club, we have had to cut our night time speakers as many students only came to our lunchtime speakers.

In the end everyone would be a winner. The student's lives would be more enriched, clubs could offer and do more with more members, and the university would see more donations coming from alumni.

A research study is being conducted on the topic by a friend of mine for a class this semester. It will look at what motivates alumni to donate back to the school, if it is a feasible idea, and what the student population thinks of it.

I think this is a good idea. At my undergraduate institution no classes were scheduled from 11-12 on Thursdays. A lot of club activities were scheduled for that time and it seemed to be popular.

A mission statement must be able to be repeated...it doesn't need to be overly simple, but it should state the GOAL... (missions are designed to achieve specific goals)

We usually invert missions. We focus on the organization, instead of the customer. Here the customers are the State of Minnesota, and the students themselves.

A revised Mission Statement (retaining most of the original wording, but focusing on the customers):

"The U of M Duluth turns students into citizens that can thrive and contribute in a global economy, using collaborative programs, balanced in research and liberal arts to promote critical thinking, creativity, and the development of new knowledge."

I have worked as a professional in Balance Scorecard Strategic Planning for many years. I know how difficult this activity is, and I applaud your efforts, wishing you all great success.

Cheers, Dale Bergeron (MN Sea Grant)

PS: Remember that planning is easy compared to creating implementation strategies (this is where most efforts fail).

Linda,

Thanks for pointing out the UMD Homepage link to our Blog-o-Sphere. It's quite convenient.

Is it possible to include a "like" function on these comments?

While I support the endeavors toward greater international and cultural diversity along race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality lines, I am concerned that the administration is losing sight of "class diversity" (without which the larger concepts of diversity and inclusivity remain incomplete and somewhat disingenuous). 95+% of my students (administration should have more exact statistics than my informal ones) come from the Minneapolis suburbs, most of them have parents who have gone to or graduated from college and many don't need to work their way through college. This says a thing or two about where and whom UMD is recruiting. In my almost 24 years at UMD I have seen low income students, particularly non-traditional students ( women over 30, divorced women, women on welfare etc.), as well as students from the Iron Range, all but disappear from my classrooms. Tuition has become unaffordable. Yet these were the students who also significantly contributed to the "cultural competency" and the enrichment of the learning experience of the younger generation. Especially with the recent emphasis on community engagement I would think that, as a public university, UMD would want to be representative of the very city and region that host us. Why do we no longer get students from the Iron Range, for example?

Thank you for "listening"

P.S. I like the comments re re-instituting the lunch hour. We miss it still.

Two weeks ago, I attended with great expectations the Campus Forum on Strategic Planning. And I was not disappointed. I heard many well sounding words, like “student-centered, globally competent, excellence, success, continuous improvement”. Not only we were discussing these, but we also got color crayons and worksheets to write our ideas on, and then we had an opportunity to walk around, look at other tables’ worksheets, and put positive comments there with our crayons. (I was apparently not paying attention to the instructions and put a sad face next to an idea I did not like… Only then I learned from other people that we were not supposed to do that.)

It was great! The only thing I missed was the clay.

Of course I am not serious. But I am not trying to make fun of what we did and what was achieved so far. I just want to point that we (and the whole strategic planning team) did only one part of what I think should be done. Moreover, we only did the part that should have been preceded or at least accompanied by another, equally important part. And that is what I missed, not the clay.

Yes, I missed numbers. How can we plan without numbers? I know, numbers are boring, and you may say that I miss them just because I am a mathematician. But seriously, how can we plan anything without having some quantitative ground to build on? I went through all of the documents that are available on the Strategic Planning web, and found a single number: at 2020, UMD will have 14,000 students total (10,000 undergraduate, 1,500 graduate). That is a good point to start, but how about the number of faculty, proportion between tenure and non-tenure track faculty, classroom size? Shouldn’t we know what retention rates we want to achieve? What level of students to attract? Shall we compete for students with community colleges, or should we aim at better students, who do not need to take a College Algebra course (which is not college algebra at all, but rather very simple math they should have learned by grade 8)? Students, who are ready for real college education, not just job training?

I think these are the questions that should be asked, discussed, and answered very early in the process.

And then there is an important area which was not mentioned at all. Are we happy with the administrative and governance structure of UMD? Do we want to have just committees that advise administrators, or do we want to have a bigger say? Maybe we want Faculty Senate, because we believe that a university should be run by faculty rather than administrators. Or maybe we are happy to be just told what we are supposed to do, and then help to implement it without being convinced that we really need it. One way or the other, I think we should seriously discuss this as well.

As a member of the larger community that lives around UMD, I am very disappointed to see this strategic planning process really does very little to improve the situation in the neighborhood around UMD. Housing in that area is largely student rentals, and families and older people are leaving the neighborhood. I've hung on but have about had enough, especially since UMD is content to simply keep dumping more and more students in the surrounding neighborhood, and not do anything about providing them housing.

Wouldn't it be more environmentally and community friendly if UMD would actually build some housing on campus so that there are fewer students spilling out into the surrounding neighborhood? Wouldn't that reduce the amount of driving, and wouldn't that in the end be a safer and more academically friendly environment for students (instead of being scattered around in rental housing).

There is a lot of high flown rhetoric in these planning pages, but I see very little that shows UMD really cares about being a good neighbor.

Vision Statements are very tricky things... In the planning phase we think of where we "want to be," and while this is a good beginning, the "I want" or "we will" phrase betrays a deep schism in our metaphysics (we show our metaphysical strategy and position not only by the words we use, but also by the structure we use to say it).

A powerful "Vision Statement" does not reflect what "we would like to do," it describes what HAS BEEN ACHIEVED in our ideal future world...it is a statement of a "future reality." It is a positive and energetic declaration of our future achievement that creates and sustains momentum (not just a commitment to effort..."I'll try") .

If our success as an institution is dependent on addressing the needs of our customers (students, and the social and economic engines of Minnesota) then in order to be successful, we must be "RECOGNIZED" as meeting our goals. Many organizations and businesses fail, not because they don't have the capacity or ability to provide quality services...but because they are not RECOGNIZED by their customer base as doing so!

A vision statement is bold and provocative...

Vision: (to be revised as desired...)

"In 2020, UMD is recognized, valued, and supported by Minnesotan's and the Nation as a leading land- and sea-grant university, distinguished by its graduate's success, and known globally for innovative research and creative collaborations."

The changes are small, but the intent and power are exponentially increased by changing "will be" to "is." All businesses live and die according to their customers recognition of value.

I think the committee is doing a great job and I respect and value your commitment to positioning UMD for continued success and a bright future.

Cheers, Dale


So we are trying to rebuild our nice house to make it even better. We all gather together to discuss what kind of house we want. And we spend hours arguing about what color we should paint it, what carpets we should buy, and how we should decorate the walls. Yet we never ask ourselves how many rooms we want to have in the house, whether it should have one or two floors, or whether we need a front porch or a large garage.

Sounds familiar? Yes, that’s exactly what happened at our second Strategic Planning Forum. We spent 90 minutes arguing whether UMD would serve “Minnesota and the world” or “Minnesota and beyond” and never touched some fundamental questions, like who our students should be, whether we are satisfied with the current structure of UMD, etc. (I mentioned a few more in my previous post.) Why was that? I asked Denny Falk after the forum and he said they were ready to mention that these topics would be addressed later, but we ran out of time. That’s too bad that we ran out of time, but that means that we will only start thinking about these questions when the Strategic Planning is finished?! Either I do not understand what strategic planning is, or we are not doing it right. (And yes, I read the documents on strategic planning that are posted here under Resources for Planning.)

I think we all attended the forum because we care about the outcome of this process. And because we care, we have read all the relevant documents that had been posted on the web. We made up our minds, and if we wanted something changed or improved in these documents, we knew what it was and were ready to say that. Why did we need the “eight minutes or so” to discuss each item in the small groups? That only killed time, and consequently we were unable to discuss all issues. Some of us raised questions or made suggestions on this blog, and were hoping (at least I was) that they would be addressed or there would be an opportunity to raise them there again. But there was no time to do that.

I was also surprised to see that after the allotted 90 minutes passed, about 70–80% of people left. I understand that some of us had other important commitments that would take higher priority. But so many? We knew about the forum for long enough to be able to arrange everything in anticipation of a longer meeting. So, do we care enough about UMD to stay longer? What is worst is that even senior administrators left, although the Chancellor had invited us to stay and continue the discussion. However, although many people stayed, hoping that a moderated discussion would continue, nothing happened. The Chancellor and the moderator were just standing there with no effort to moderate the discussion further, and so people, who stayed originally to continue the discussion, started slowly leaving as well. Of course we could speak with them individually (and I did it), but that has much smaller impact than a moderated discussion.

One thing that became apparent during the process is that the group of people who have been actively participating in the main bodies (Steering Committee, Executive Team, Vision Groups) is dominated by a “word oriented” approach as opposed to a “data oriented”. I think that these should be better balanced and wonder why they are not. That brings an interesting question: How were these groups selected? Who selected them? I think we deserve to know that. I would have expected many young people with fresh ideas or people who recently arrived from other institutions and have diverse experience and different points of view, but this does not seem to be the case.

Dalibor, I again appreciate your careful review of the planning materials and thoughtful comments on the process. I will share my personal comments on some of your ideas and would be happy to talk with you personally on others.

Using your analogy of the house (or more generally a structure), I would suggest that we are now determining the current and future purpose of the structure so we can design this structure appropriately. We are determining what we want to do in the structure (mission) and how we want to do it (core values). We are also looking to the future (vision and goals) to determine the anticipated needs of the building. If we start deciding on whether or not to put a porch on the building without knowing what it would be used for now or in five years, we make this decision without appropriate information. If we are not clear on our values, we may make choices like the amount of insulation in an uninformed manner.

We will need to determine how big we want the house to be, and developing an enrollment plan will be an early action step, but it is outside of the scope of the present process. The planning process that sets parameters this year will be followed by an implementation phase that will be at least as important in subsequent years.

I would be happy to talk with you about the other important points you raise in your comment.

I have reviewed the draft of the UMD Strategic Plan April 12, 2011.

I do have one question. In the "Introducing a New Vision" it is stated: We serve the educational needs of indigenous
people, their economic growth, their culture, and the sovereignty of the tribal governments of the region, the state, and North America.

While I certainly don't oppose that statement, I wonder why it is necessary, since the document speaks of those issues (educational needs, economic growth, culture, etc.) for ALL people. Why are we calling attention to one group of people and not other groups which could be listed?

Just a thought...

I think it's very helpful to have all the different sections of the strategic plan put together in one document (as is the case with the April 12 draft). However, conspicuous for their absence are the action items associated with the Campus Goals.

As I read through the mission statement, the core values, the vision statement, etc. I got the idea. Certain adjectives kept reappearing, and there is nothing wrong with any of them (inclusive, learning, excellence, etc.) However, I also found myself growing a little impatient, more or less saying to myself "well, these are all good things, but how does this all happen?"

And that's where the Campus Goals fell a little short I think. They repeat the sentiments of the vision statement, mission statement, etc. without adding much too them. At some point there needs to be a move from strategy to tactics. I would suggest the Goals are the place to start making that move, and then the action items (ie activities associated with Campus goals) should be clear and specific steps (ie tactics) that lead to achieving some of the overall goals reflected in the Strategic plan (ie strategy).

There is also now some hedging with the campus goals, saying that some of them are short term, while others are longer term. I think it should be made clear which are which, and how are those goals reached (giving specific steps to do so). This is perhaps the hardest part of the process, because not everyone's immediate objectives can be included and met in the near term. But, setting priorities should be one of the end results of this process.

I usually don't like relying on pithy quotes to make points, but there's one attributed to Sun Tzu that seems apt:

==
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
==

What I take from this is that strategy must come first, and I think that's what is happening here. But, what I also take from this is that strategy must be backed up by tactics, and in our case the tactics are defined so far by a set of overly generic goals, and action items/activities that are not yet defined or have not yet been revealed. That part is troublesome.

In the end I think it's impossible to evaluate the strategic plan (April 12 version) until the action items/activities associated with campus goals are also presented.

I think that the latest version of the strategic plan reads like someone's view of heaven. It sounds great, but how do we get there?
Undergraduate education? Let's do it better. Graduate education? Let's do that better too. Research? Let's do more of it.

I know that our plans are supposed to be aspirational, but if we take a glance at reality, then our plans seem to expecting more and more from less and less. This is not very realistic.

The imagined world of the strategic plan is attractive, but I think that we have recently taken steps in the wrong direction. One such step was adopting a resolution saying that 5000-level courses "should not" be required for undergraduate programs. Having separate courses for graduates and undergraduates would be fine if we had the resources to offer both, but we do not have the resources. Another step in the wrong direction was cutting funds for MPIRG. The strategic plan mentions a concern for social justice, but the funding decision suggests that our concern must remain purely academic because we cannot afford to support action.

I think that UMD and many other universities are torn between the needs of undergraduate and graduate education. The strategic plan does not choose. It says, "Go both ways."

As we move forward in conversations about strategies and actions toward reaching these strategic goals and vision, let's integrate them with conversations that are happening around liberal education, centers and models of teaching and learning, and strategies toward campus climate change. Let's look at ways that we can integrate these efforts at UMD.

Below is a statement from a private liberal arts college in Virginia.

"Randolph College has a longstanding commitment to cultivating a global environment in a liberal arts setting. Our Quality Enhancement Plan affords the institution an opportunity to move beyond the College’s traditional commitment to a global education and work to promote intercultural competence, a more comprehensive and significant goal. Globalizing and internationalizing were popular concepts in the 20th century; the new imperative of liberal learning in the 21st century is intercultural competence, and this imperative forms the conceptual foundation of the Randolph College QEP."

Like Randolph College, I see intercultural proficiency as the connecting point for all of these efforts at UMD (liberal education, internationalizing, equity, inclusion and social justice, campus climate change). How/where are these conversations/initiatives connecting as we move forward with this strategic plan?

"Like" :) I echo Tineke's concerns. Thanks Tineke!

I am so pleased at the initiatives that have taken place at UMD this year. I think that Paula's call to make sure that we ensure that intercultural proficiency be a connecting point is SO important. Thanks Paula!

It's nice to see the action items, and I think some of them will provide a very focused and constructive basis for moving forward. I do think the timing of their release is unfortunate however - we got to see these early in the last week of the semester (May 2?), after the strategic plan had already been approved, or perhaps on the same day. I think the action items are the most important part of this plan, and yet they seem to be the part that isn't going to be discussed at all.

The action items for Goal 3 (concerning graduate education) generally seem to represent modest yet attainable steps forward that will be helpful. More fellowships, having an active graduate student organization, clarity and consistency in the definition of the role of Directors of Graduate study, etc. all seem like important and worthwhile action items that deserve some focus.

My only complaint I suppose is that I would have liked to see an action item relating to encouraging and supporting more faculty/graduate student publications and conference presentations. While publications don't guarantee excellence in graduate studies, graduate programs that don't result in any/many publications don't tend to be taken too seriously.

However, in other cases the action items really seem to simply represent plans to plan. I guess I'm especially disappointed with the action items for goal 1 (undergraduate education) - it's hard to see anything too concrete coming from any of those, except (maybe) more plans. Many of the action items for Goal 1 could be considered successful if they result in a plan or even a discussion. While plans and discussions are important, they don't really tend to move things forward, and they don't really answer the question of "how do we make undergraduate education better at UMD". I think the problem here lies with Goal 1, which was just too broad to begin with.

In the end I think we could have really benefited from some campus wide action items that really focused on our educational mission in a specific way like "reduce the percentage of students that drop out of remedial classes" or even "reduce the percentage of students that take remedial classes". Those are goals that can be measured, and if we met them would demonstrably improve the quality of education available at UMD.

"Promote the UMD definition of research that includes traditional research, creative accomplishment, scholarship of teaching and learning, and scholarship of engagement (December 2011)."

This new sentence in the strategic plan is disconcerting for me. The original version was better. Why are we promoting "UMD's definition of research" instead of adopting the research and creative works standards of our peers and fields? Also high quality research and creative scholarship is dependent on the approach, rather than on a specific content area. Why are we specifying certain topics as if outside the domain of "traditional" [added to the strategic goals as in the quote above] research and creative scholarship? After all, there is quite a bit of high quality educational research on teaching, learning and engagement. Listing them as a specific category, especially after adding the odd phrase "UMD's definition of research" and the qualifier "traditional research" somehow implies that these latter topics do not have to follow the accepted standards of our fields or peers.

This is not just a wording issue, it indicates a certain misperception of research. My suggestion is that it will be better not to reflect this misperception in the strategic plan.

I'm new to this blog and have read many interesting comments thus far. I think it's great to have a venue like this to share thoughts. Specifically, I agree with Aydin's comment that the sentence "promote the UMD definition of research that includes traditional research, creative accomplishment, scholarship of teaching and learning, and scholarship of engagement" (Dec 2011) is unnecessarily unwieldy. The term "UMD's definition of research" makes us sound like we're substandard or idiosyncratic or maybe even narcissistic. And what exactly is meant by "traditional research" (research that is printed? experimental research? etc.). I would suggest "Promote research and creative accomplishment" -- this is a big enough umbrella to cover just about anything -- just my two cents.

Regarding the Campus Forum held on Nov. 7:

It was a very positive forum. What I thought started out seeming like the daunting task of implementing the many aspects of the Strategic Plan seemed so much more doable by the end of the forum.

This was the point where everyone attending could participate and contribute. I really felt a part of the process when I was able to contribute in the area where I felt the most invested and had the most contact.

With this approach, I believe the Strategic Plan will develop and represent our campus well.


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