Since formally launching our strategic plan, “A Bold Path Forward,” last winter, considerable progress has been made toward the five Outstanding Success Possibilities (OSP) that were identified to position the University for sustained progress and to prepare students to excel in careers of the future.
In January, we provided updates on several important action steps that had been taken to advance the goals of the OSPs. In the coming weeks, OSP leaders will provide updates on plan deliverables since that time. These updates will be posted to the strategic plan website later this summer.
In the meantime, I did want to update you on an all-day working retreat that University and strategic plan leaders took part in recently to review progress toward our goals, have conversations around key objectives, and identify new initiatives that will be incorporated into the plan. I’d like to highlight just a few.
We participated in a robust discussion about the potential formalization of the External Relations Council that was originally formed in 2020 to leverage key outside relationships that could benefit the University. T he Council’s goal is to identify strategic, long-term relationships with external organizations in order to advance student outcomes, scholarships, and internship opportunities as well as to support staff and faculty training and professional development.
Significantly, the Council is seen as an exciting example of how strategic information and external connections can be shared across various University departments, “fracturing silos” across campus, as one retreat participant put it.
The formalization of the External Relations Council is seen as critical to the success of both OSP 1 regarding market-responsive education, where we need to align our academic programming more with evolving market conditions and opportunities, and OSP 4, where timely, relevant, and regular data can be provided to internal stakeholders to consider for academic-to-industry alignment and the d evelopment of micro-credentialing, certification, and up-skilling opportunities.
Let me also highlight a report by Alvin Tran, assistant professor of public health and assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Jessica Holzer, assistant professor of health sciences, about an innovative DEIAB curriculum assessment launched by a team of faculty and students. The goal of this effort is to delineate current practices that instructors are using to foster an inclusive learning environment, ensure accountability and transparency, and support evidence-based decision making.
This assessment, a key deliverable in OSP 3, also aims to ensure that DEIAB topics are integrated throughout the curriculum and across each of the University’s five academic colleges and schools. Select faculty from those colleges and schools have completed the assessment, and data analysis is un derway. A final report will be shared with the University community later this summer.
Relative to the utilization of Navigate and data from Institutional Research to favorably impact retention, I also want to highlight an initiative led by Tiffany Hesser, vice provost for advising, retention, and academic support, and Ophelie Rowe-Allen, dean of students and chief student affairs officer. The goal of this effort is to provide targeted support to small populations of students. Utilizing data from Institutional Research and Navigate, the Academic Success Community Program was developed, with an initial cohort of 80 students becoming part of a new learning community that provides academic and social support for local first-year students. We are confident that this program will favorably impact their retention and foster their engagement in our community.
As part of this retention work, populations in high need of academic support across all colleges, majors, and programs can be identified, and then, working closely with college/school deans and program coordinators, faculty and staff are called upon to build targeted support for students in and out of the classroom.
In a third area of development, Navigate’s predictive analytics are being used to identify Success Marker Courses – required courses that are key to student success within a major – frequently first- and second-year courses. Success markers are entered into the Navigate platform, allowing advisers to identify and intervene when students are not progressing academically.
Finally, I would like to mention early work on a University-wide, interdisciplinary incubator-styled initiative. Working to build interdisciplinary structures in academia is not without its challenges. Meeting with fa culty this past year opened my eyes and ears to the many ways that we are already engaged in interdisciplinary work.
In the fall, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Programs and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Shaily Menon, Ph.D., will continue to build interdisciplinary programs along with her fellow academic deans. Through this incubator, we are launching digital study abroad opportunities and noncredit cannabis studies programs, and there will be more programs and initiatives to come.
In closing, I continue to be impressed with the deliberative and intentional nature of our strategic planning work, and I am grateful for the collegiality of individuals from across the spectrum of the University who are so fully committed to this important work.