Strategic planning committee holds open forum

Category:  News
Thursday, February 28th, 2019 at 9:57 AM
Strategic planning committee holds open forum by Anisa Venner-Johnston
Photo: Anisa Venner-Johnston

Edinboro University discussed its next five-year strategic plan on Feb. 25, in the shape of a student-focused, open forum. The forum, held in Pogue Student Center’s multipurpose room, allowed students to ask questions about the upcoming process.

The hope for the plan is that it will be used to guide Edinboro’s yet-to-be-named next president for the next five years. The search for that next president is currently ongoing, with a hiring date intended as approximately July 1.

Traditionally, Edinboro has a new strategic plan set in place every five years. These plans often focus on ways to improve certain aspects of the school — as will the new document. Under the leadership of former university president Julie Wollman, Edinboro’s last plan ran from 2013-2018. 

Before abruptly leaving office, the most recent former Edinboro president, Dr. H. Fred Walker, had introduced and detailed a new strategic plan in fall 2017. Walker’s longer, 10-year plan, titled “Our Path Forward,” focused on student success,  attempting to reinstate EUP’s values and vision for the future, adjusting current programs, rebranding Porreco College (Edinboro’s Erie branch campus) and improving student satisfaction rates. 

The construction of that plan featured working groups and focus groups, along with the bringing in of an outside consulting firm. 

“[Our Path Forward] was never full implemented,” Provost and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs James Fisher said, when asked about Walker’s plan. “We want to honor the work put into that plan and draw as much as we can out of it.”

The new plan is focused on four aspects of student success — academic achievement (graduation and retention rates), student well-being (student satisfaction and services), and financial health and experiential opportunities — and additional aspects of the university’s success — institutional health, financial health and campus climate (employee morale). 

“We face some very real challenges,” said Fisher. “We have the challenge of investing further in our academic programming and also an initiative to benefit our students, while at the same time trying to manage a fairly tricky financial situation at the university. We have some budget challenges.”

The strategic plan committee views these problems as aspects of the university that affect one another. If student satisfaction levels are high, retention rates will be high; low satisfaction levels, low retention rates. 

The committee is also looking at demographic trends. According to a graphic supplied by the committee, the U.S. public and private high school graduates began to dip after the 2012-13 academic year, while it is expected to fully rebound by 2024-25. From 2024-25, it then dips again, moving toward 2031. One can expect they are taking this pattern into account as they begin to build the plan. 

“We are in a bit of a demographic trough right now. In about six years, we are going to hit another demographic trough,” said Fisher. “We can’t control that. What we can control is how we react to that. Where we recruit students, [and] how we recruit students.”

Currently, there are about 22 members on the committee who are working on the plan, including: Fisher, Monica Clem, executive director of career development and experiential learning, Jim Wertz, associate dean for the college of arts, humanities and social sciences and Philomena Gill, assistant vice president for academic success.  

Besides Fisher, there are no other senior faculty on the planning committee. This was done purposefully by Interim President Michael Hannan to ensure that there was a set of faculty members that would be at Edinboro for years to come and who could see the plan grow from “the ground up.”  

“What President Hannan wanted to avoid was the appearance, or the reality that senior leadership would sit in a room and determine what the plan should be...The committee, by design, is meant to be more of a grassroots committee. We are trying to develop the plan from the ground up,” Fisher said.

The committee has until Friday, April 19, to give Interim President Michael Hannan a draft explaining goals and how they plan to reach them. 

Despite a time of transition, Fisher is confident in Edinboro’s future. 

“We have a really strong foundation at the university. We have a proud history at the university. We have a lot of success we can we proud of. We have a strong identity.”

The Spectator will continue to offer updates on the strategic plan, as it moves from the planning stage.

Anisa Venner-Johnston |

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