This is my first blog entry in what will become a regular habit. I wanted to start a President’s Blog as a way to share information and thoughts with the Suffolk community, but also as a means to further open the lines of communication. My hope is that some of these blog entries will spark feedback, input, and dialog and that the result will be an important two-way communications channel. I am committed to reading and considering all of your comments and from time to time may respond to some of them directly on the blog.
As I said in my opening remarks at the start of the academic year, I hope to engage the campus this fall in a conversation about an extension of our current strategic plan, so I thought I’d launch this blog by sharing a few thoughts on why I think having a strategic plan matters.
If you look at the five-year strategic plan created in 2012, it’s really quite amazing to see how many of the imperatives laid out in that plan we have accomplished. In fact, despite a period of well-documented challenges at the highest levels of the University, we have managed to move forward in critical areas that were outlined in that plan. Just a few examples:
- The plan called for us to develop an integrated undergraduate curriculum for the College and the Business School. We did it.
- It called for supporting and encouraging professional development opportunities for faculty to improve teaching and scholarship. The Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence (CTSE) has done great work in this regard, providing faculty with resources, workshops, tools, and training to enhance their teaching and scholarly work.
- It called for making things easier and more seamless for students by redesigning registration, student accounts, and financial aid processes. We did that too. It’s all right there on the sixth floor of 73 Tremont.
- It called for stronger support for student success. We built an entire division around that. In fact, we’re building a whole culture around it.
- It called for creating a more integrated and cohesive Suffolk University brand – heck, we did that twice. (I can’t remember if it called for keeping our sense of humor.)
These are just a few examples of the strategic plan goals that we have accomplished. A huge amount of the credit goes to all of you for the energy, thought, and hard work you put into helping the University achieve much of what it set out to do over a five-year period. But I have to give a bit of credit to the plan itself. To cite a paraphrased exchange from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
But we actually had a destination in mind. We wanted to become a more student-centered and cohesive institution with a commitment to a teacher-scholar model and a focus on developing experiential learning and career opportunities for our students. Because we had a plan, a roadmap, a blueprint, whatever you like to call it, we got somewhere. It is remarkable what we achieved, all moving in the same direction.
This in no way suggests we achieved everything in the plan. In fact, we have a great deal still to accomplish, and there are places where we have fallen short. But we have made important progress and changed the University for the better as a result. I want to continue to do that, even in a time of transition.
As I have mentioned to many of you at recent gatherings, we have not talked a lot about the strategic plan in the last couple of years, and I want to change that. I want to engage the campus community in a fast-moving process this fall to help us develop the next iteration of the strategic plan that can take us out about two years. The first step will be to inventory everything that we have and have not accomplished in the plan. This is information that we will need for our NEASC interim report due in just under a year from now, as well as to help us develop ideas for next steps. We’ll start with a survey of the campus community to get a better sense of what you believe we have accomplished thus far and your priorities for the next two years (again within the context of the existing plan and its seven strategic imperatives). We also have a lot of data that we can draw from, and we will ask the NEASC teams working on that report to help with the inventory and then help us develop some ideas about the next iteration of the plan, drawing on the feedback we receive from all of you in your survey responses. By the end of the fall semester, I would like to have an extension of the strategic plan that can carry us through the next 18 months to two years.
This is not intended to be a brand new plan, but rather an extension of the current plan that you all worked hard to develop. A well-informed strategic plan extension will keep us moving forward. We cannot afford to hit the pause button. To the contrary, we need to make progress on our goals and a strategic planning process will help us bring those goals into better focus. It’s also critical that our strategic plan be linked to budgeting so that we have the financial resources to accomplish our goals. This is not only best practice, it is also a priority for NEASC.
Ultimately, we can only make real progress if we are all rowing in the same direction — working in an inclusive, collaborative way toward shared goals with a shared sense of purpose. And to do that, it helps to start with a plan. So I look forward to talking with you in the coming weeks about what we can do collaboratively to move the University forward and how we can improve, tweak, and extend the strategic plan for the benefit of the University and its students over the next two years.
As mentioned at the top, I welcome your input and invite you to share any thoughts. You may email me directly. Or if you prefer, we have created a blog comment section where members of the Suffolk community may log in to respond to posts, exchange ideas, offer feedback, and join the conversation.
And in the next few weeks, watch for new blog posts on our salary plan for this fall and on the work of the diversity task force.
I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Marisa J. Kelly