Planning Boro’s future: More details on the strategic plan for EU

Category:  News
Friday, September 13th, 2019 at 11:00 AM
Planning Boro’s future: More details on the strategic plan for EU by Zeila Hobson
The strategic planning committee held a student-focused meeting on Feb. 25, 2019. They are in the first year of execution on the new strategic plan. | Photo: Anisa Venner-Johnston

On Feb. 21, 2019, Dr. James Fisher, co-chair of Edinboro University’s Strategic Planning Committee, stood at the head of a town hall meeting.

“We have the challenge of investing further in our academic programming and also in initiatives that benefit our students,” he began, “while at the same time trying to manage a fairly tricky financial situation within the university; we have some budget challenges.” Fisher asserted shortly after that the necessary changes could only be defined through “careful, transparent, and unsentimental strategic planning.”

Fall 2019 marks the first year of the Strategic Plan, the map of which is essentially complete, but implementation of this requires constant adaptation and the formation of action committees.

The mentioned strategic planning committee, meanwhile, consists of staff and faculty members from multiple departments and facets of campus life willing to volunteer their time. They’re well aware of the challenges facing EU as the plan kicks off.

“The fiscal issues across the [state] system and here at Edinboro are no big secret,” said Co-Chair of the committee Matt Cettin. “But what we lack in capital we can make up with in time and talent. We have incredible people here with various talents and a tremendous wealth of knowledge. They also have a love for the university and its students that you cannot put a price on. So, we are counting on this to be an ‘all hands on deck’ strategic plan.”

The released plan for 2019-2024 has several goals: address student well-being, academic achievement and student engagement, as well as enhancing institutional health, enhancing the health of auxiliary institutions, and improving campus climate. Of the plan, Fisher stated in an email interview, “There is a tremendous amount of positive momentum taking place at the university and the strategic plan is designed to build on that momentum — but also focus our efforts so that we can ensure that the university continues to evolve into the very best version of itself for our current and future students.”

Regarding student well-being and achievement, the plan proposes taking measures to simplify and clarify campus processes by auditing “resources, complexity of processes, and clarity of information that are primarily used by students/faculty from the perspective of students/faculty.” Also, this could include creating a case manager style position to help students and their parents navigate campus processes, such as financial aid. Improving the effectiveness of general communications on campus is also mentioned, with examples being keeping commuter students and freshmen better informed about campus events and resources. It also aims at improving the financial literacy of students.

In another email interview, Cettin explained revenue generation is of utmost importance, however, all aspects of the plan are closely related, and revenue generation is a product of high student satisfaction.

“It is my belief that the best recruitment tool is the satisfaction of our current students,” he said. “This is also the best remedy for retention. If we have a steady stream of new students and the current students are satisfied and staying to complete, [then] revenue is in turn generated.”
Cettin is most excited about improvements to campus processes and campus life.

“I truly believe that if you focus on providing the best experience both in and out of the classroom, recruitment and retention will take care of itself.”

Essentially, the plan illuminates the necessity of aligning campus spaces and services with the various needs and desires of the student population. “Empowerment culture… instead of a culture of strict compliance” is mentioned in the plan as an attitude to be embraced by the campus community. This is tied to fostering the notion that university rules exist to promote equity and university employees are a resource to achieve that equity. Furthering EU’s student-centered environment is emphasized throughout the plan, one remedy being the enhancement of current training programs for faculty and staff to better equip them to help students with wellness issues beyond sharpening students’ professional focus.

The need to expand student engagement and satisfaction in multiple respects is also addressed in the strategic plan. Some visible steps toward this goal are the improvements made to food service operations, the installation of the Boro Pit and the renovation of the bridge between Pogue and Mallory Lake.

According to Cettin, “Some not-so-visible changes have been and are being made to policies and procedures.” The plan also proposes the encouragement and expansion of “work-related experiential learning” and “experiential learning through collaborative scholarship with faculty and/or external organizations.”

Executing the strategic plan is not a short-term process though. This first year, the focus intends to be on needs assessment, creating a project management team, and establishing general benchmark goals. Subcommittees to carry out subsidiary master plans with “individual timelines, action items and benchmarks” regarding specific initiatives will also be created. Some subsidiary plans that already exist “include, but are not limited to, a diversity and inclusion plan, an academic affairs master plan, and [a] facilities master plan,” according to Cettin.
A list of issues with immediate remedies, referred to as the “Just Fix It” list, has already been created.

“The team felt that for some of these things, we didn’t need to design a comprehensive strategy, bring together a team, and discuss it for a year, [as] the answer was pretty straightforward: just fix it,” explained Cettin.

“This is the fourth plan I’ve worked on at my third university and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen this approach used.”

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