This semester, we began implementing our strategic plan, “Building on Excellence.” Given the importance of broad involvement in the plan’s implementation, I have spent much of the semester discussing the plan with groups of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters. One of the most common questions I receive is “Why have a plan?” or, alternately, “What is the purpose of the strategic plan?”
One answer is a general rationale for strategic planning at a large university, and the second is more specific to contemporary challenges that are restructuring higher education.
Universities are large and complex. There are academic departments, student groups, mechanisms for shared governance, administrative departments, co-curricular programs, auxiliary organizations, alumni organizations, and community supporters, among other groups. A strategic plan enables us to bring all of these resources together, both to capitalize on the opportunities available and to meet the challenges we face. It allows us to identify priorities and to work collectively to accomplish them. In short, it allows us to focus our resources – both human and financial – for results.
In “Building on Excellence,” we identified our central priorities as enhancing student success, research and creative endeavors, and community and communication. For each priority, the plan has identified a set of initiatives to advance the area, as well as relevant measures of progress. Working groups have been formed to help implement the specific initiatives. Moreover, the plan set out revenue initiatives with specific metrics to ensure that we will have the financial resources necessary to invest in our initiatives. The plan’s implementation is off to a good start, and our initial set of investments are described on the strategic planning website.
The rationale for our plan, however, goes well beyond simply enhancing focus and achieving priorities in today’s environment. Public higher education, as an entity, is being restructured. This restructuring is occurring because states have dramatically reduced their investments in higher education and many families face significant financial challenges due to the extended recession and uneven economic recovery. These resource limitations are dramatically enhancing competition between universities and, in some cases, will threaten the very form and existence of individual colleges and universities. Our goal in this highly competitive environment is not just to survive, but to thrive. By providing a roadmap to maintain and enhance the quality of our programs, our new strategic plan ensures that San Diego State will continue to advance in this challenging time.
While our challenges are significant, the communal discussions we have undertaken this fall have sharpened our focus and enhanced our capacity for collective action. This collective action will allow us to advance our initiatives, to accomplish our priorities and, ultimately, to serve our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader community. I look forward to reporting on this year’s accomplishments related to the strategic plan, as well as plans for the succeeding year, at the conclusion of the spring semester.