From the beginning, the Provost, working with a small group of administrators and chairs, set forth the principle that faculty representation in setting the future direction of Academic Affairs should be fundamental to the process. Faculty members who had demonstrated strong abilities to work with deadlines and who had a track record of effective service contributions from all colleges became the prime candidates. We included a special place for a Senate representative as well as a Fort Walton Beach representative. A late addition to the group was a member representing centers and institutes. The administrative side of the planning group include the VP of administration, the registrar, the admissions director, the deans, CUTLA director, and the provost’s office. Happily, every individual we asked agreed to serve.
We thought the mix of an effective chair and a productive faculty member would provide the right leadership. Mike currently chairs chemistry and also represents the College of Arts and Sciences to the Chairs group. In addition, Mike co-chairs the Facilities Planning Group and serves on the General Education Assessment Reform (GEAR) group. Stacie, a faculty member in the Education Department in COPS, has a strong record as both a teacher and researcher. We thought she could speak to the full range of academic responsibilities from the standpoint of a thriving faculty member. They also share positive energies and a reputation for good collaboration skills.
Laura serves as consultant to the group, bringing into the process her background as an industrial-organizational psychologist with expertise in strategic planning. At her former institution of University of Kentucky, she served the administration by coordinating strategic planning. Both President Bense and Provost King recognized that her expertise would be indispensable in pulling off a great process in a very short timeframe.
Although this kind of strategic planning is new for Academic Affairs, we have been engaged in broad strategic planning for the university for several years. In the wake of the “New Normal” retreats sponsored by the president, we recognized that more focused planning in setting the course for Academic Affairs is at the heart of making progress as an institution. We are all eager to get on firmer footing to help face the uncertainties of the future. Therefore, a six months’ timeframe seemed like the right way to go.
These groups are geared toward the same horizon. One primary outcome of the Strategic Planning and Budgeting group was the importance of promoting constituent understanding and “buy in.” They were very impressed by how committed the participants were in wanting to contribute to make UWF stronger and more “participatory.” Consequently, the process being enacted by the various committees of Academic Visioning will abide by those principles.
The ultimate outcome of the Academic Visioning process is the creation of a vision about the direction of Academic Affairs at UWF. This process includes an environmental scan to gather data from internal and external stakeholders and internal and external data sources. These data will be analyzed to determine the most significant themes and patterns about UWF’s identity and its prospects. We will also examine data that can help us better understand the students we serve as well as how our institution fares in the broader higher education context. The “deliverables” of this project will include predominant themes related to Academic Affairs, specific goals to help address those themes, and identification of ways to measure progress.
The SAVE subcommittees recognized that there could have been multiple strategies undertaken to gather perspectives from those who care about UWF’s future. However, those charged with looking at stakeholder perceptions believed that a richer approach would be to emphasize qualitative responses through open-ended questions. This would reduce the predetermination of priorities and issues that would result from a limited response survey. Using qualitative methods, survey responses will be analyzed to identify emerging themes. We are greatly heartened at the high participation rates from all of the groups—both internal and external.
The Academic Visioning process is using responses from the internal and external stakeholder surveys as well as archival data, national trend data (e.g., population, majors demands, demographics), comparative institutional statistics (IPEDS Data Center), occupational demand projections (Bureau of Labor Statistics), policy analyses, student profiles (e.g., national student engagement data), and our local task force reports (e.g., General Education Assessment and Reform, Emerald Coast report) among others. All data will be analyzed to determine emerging trends and findings that will lead to the identification of strategic themes for Academic Affairs at UWF. Once strategic priorities are indentified, stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide additional input resulting in an Academic Vision for UWF. Thus, the identification of strategic priorities, an academic vision, and goals related to the strategic themes will result from the data gathering process.
We knew from the outset that we would be working under a tight timeframe. We wanted to make sure that the SAVE Committee members would have direct experience with delivery of academic programming. We also thought it would be problematic to get a representation of the broad range of student experiences with only a few members on the Committee. Students have been included in the Academic Visioning process through the online stakeholder survey and town hall meetings, and they will be represented at the Visioning Conference in fall. Additionally, we have made a commitment not just to gather data from students but to keep them informed with the social media modes of communication that they prefer. We are confident that their voices will be represented well by the process we have undertaken and we are impressed already with how many students have responded to our request for information.
As things stand currently, there is much unsettled about the budget for the next academic year; this is not unusual in the Florida higher education budget process. UWF does anticipate having to make some budget reductions and the Academic Deans recently did submit tentative plans to address worst case scenario cuts that could be anticipated for this year. It is clear that academic leaders may have to make some strategic decisions before Academic Visioning can be completed. However, Academic Visioning will lead to the identification of strategic themes and an Academic Vision that will help shape the future of UWF.
We will continue to post progress reports on the 15th of the month and these can be found at the Academic Visioning website. Key dates in the remaining planning period are as follows:
No. The SAVE Committee has not been charged with identifying relative program viability.
The strategic themes, academic vision, and goals identified through the Academic Visioning process will be forwarded to the Provost, who originated the idea for Academic Visioning. These outcomes should become the landscape against which decisions can be made to carry out the proposed vision. For example, the Provost will work with the Academic Deans and others involved in the Dean’s Council to develop plans for how to implement the vision.
SAVE Committee members will be officially off duty on October 1. It will be up to the Provost and her administrative team to make certain that all of the hours of effort already invested by so many people have the appropriate influence on planning. Even those who were pessimistic about the likely impact of the SAVE work on the front end of planning are feeling more confident that their work won’t languish but will have a serious impact on the future of UWF.