Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Strategic Planning at Eau Claire

This morning I attended a Leaders Symposium that is part of the strategic planning process underway on campus. Attending today's meeting was a great way to spend a morning one week before classes start. It offered another opportunity to get to know people and get a feel for what the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire is all about. My sense is that people on campus are very proud of the institution but realize that the current environment calls out for change. Actually at the end of the session someone came up with the best way to frame the purpose of this planning process was more about improvement than change. Change, of course, has much more negative connotations than does improvement. That sort of thinking resonated with me and others in the room. Everyone recognized that the University has been doing great things but will need to improve on that very solid foundation in order to compete in a time of much more limited resources.

Much of the morning was devoted to the history of UWEC and the good things that should be preserved as we move towards the future. Here were some of the points that struck me as important.
  • A strong history of student focus throughout the University.
  • Close student - faculty relationships built in the classroom and through collaborative research.
  • A dedication to a "liberal education" which is not limited to the Liberal Arts and Sciences but which permeates throughout all University disciplines.
There seemed to be a recognition that some change was long overdue but also a wariness about the process. The assembly was divided into groups based on the decade in which they first came to UWEC. I was in the 2000's group and we decided that our era has been one of "energy, angst and possibilities. We have gone through a period where there have been a large number of leadership positions held by interim appointments. Now that many of these positions have been permanently filled, people seem ready to tackle problems and find solutions. But in order for people to buy into the process everyone recognized that people need to see the urgency for improvement and they need to see some actions coming out of the process. The community must see benefits from changes that are suggested.

It was stressed that we are in the beginnings of this planning process and that much more discussion would take place around campus. The need for transparency came up over and over. Throughout the morning I kept wondering what role should people from the Library play in this process. Without a doubt we all need to take a serious interest in the process and educate ourselves about what is going on. Throughout September there will be opportunities for input through a series of "Charrettes". (I had to look it up.) I hope that everyone in the Library takes part in the charrettes or the online discussions. This is an important process that will set the direction of the University for years to come. The Library is critical to the future of any high quality university that values excellence!

No comments: