Members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee will meet with students to update them on their plan for the university’s future.
There will be an open forum from 1-2:30 p.m. Monday in the Great Hall in Tom and Brenda McDaniel University Center.
Strategic planning is a process that university officials go through to plan the priorities for the next three years.
“It’s a group that looks forward and envisions where we need to be for the future,” Provost Kent Buchanan said.
The strategic planning process involves meeting with university officials and students to determine the main areas of concern at the university. The steering committee reviews these concerns and settles on focus areas.
The committee is partnering with Huron Consulting Group and is made up of staff, faculty, alumni, deans, and students.
They have met for eight months and decided on four focus areas based on student feedback and meetings with the board of trustees.
After the forum, officials will take plans to the deans and ask for them to comply with the plans set in place.
The first of these focus areas is student success.
“It’s very important to us that we provide an environment where our students can be not just successful in the classroom and academically but also in getting jobs and moving forward in their careers,” Buchanan said.
The second area is infrastructure, which would involve improving facilities.
The third is faculty, administration and staff cultivation. The fourth is community service, which deals with involving the campus with the outside community by collaborating with the mayor and organizing community events.
These focus areas are subject to change, depending on student feedback at the forum.
The committee uses a grassroots approach in which they analyze input from students and create a plan based on that.
“The whole process can be done by five people in a room coming up with their own thing,” Buchanan said. “We didn’t want to do it that way.”
Students have had opportunities to give feedback. The committee also is looking at student concerns like bills introduced in Student Senate.
Based on student feedback, officials decided to release their contact with Sodexo, the university’s food service provider, and make the switch to Chartwells. They also decided to replace Alvin’s Café with a Chick-fil-A.
Buchanan sat in on a committee of trustees responsible for making that change, and he said the committee focused on student opinions to make their decisions.
“I heard one of the trustees say ‘what do the students want to do?’ The answer was, ‘the students are ready for a change.’ And he said, ‘well that’s simple. That’s what we’ll do,’” Buchanan said. “The trustees have students’ feelings at heart and a fiduciary responsibility to the university that they take very seriously.”
Buchanan said he’s interested in focusing on improving facilities during the next three years.
“It’s important for students to know that these things don’t fall on deaf ears,” Buchanan said. “Our ears are open. We’re listening.”
Occasionally, the plans set in place by the steering committee cannot be accomplished because of unwillingness from officials or budgeting issues.
“You don’t always get what you hope to get out of it, but the idea is to set goals that are attainable and are worthy of doing, and it will push us forward and make us a better university in the future,” Buchanan said.
The committee has experienced issues because of the recent prioritization process. Prioritization showed university officials where money was spent in each department, which led to university budget cuts. The committee had a plan in place, but it was put on hold throughout prioritization.
“There became this situation where the university may have been a little fatigued,” Buchanan said.
But, plans are still in place to bring the final plan to the board of trustees by April 26.
“I think we’ve gotten to the point where people on campus are ready for this, and I’m very excited for what we come up with,” Buchanan said.
Nic Rhodes, economics/finance senior, is the only student who signed up to be on the steering committee and assisted in the planning. He represents the voice of the students, Buchanan said.
Rhodes is establishing a priority in student technology and will meet with SGA President-elect Randy Gipson-Black to speak to the trustees.
“Technology should be implemented in the classroom as much as possible,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said he urges students to be involved in the process by closely reading their emails and expressing their concerns.
“The more students are involved, the more they’re going to get out of it,” Rhodes said.
Students can email concerns to email@example.com.
For more information, students can contact Catherine Maninger, chief financial officer and co-chairwoman of the strategic planning steering committee, at 405-208-5498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buchanan can be reached at 405-208-5287 or email@example.com.