University Strategic Plan moves toward end date

The administration at John Brown University is making progress on strategic planning for the University’s next five-year plan.

Strategic planning is a method of setting long-term goals. The current plan, for 2010 through 2015, had 92 goals, two-thirds of which have been completed or are seeing progress, said Robert Norwood, dean of undergraduate studies and a member of the assessment committee for strategic planning.

The other third have been deemed unfit for the University, or are seeing less progress than the administration would like.

“There could be some of those that carry over into the next strategic plan,” said Norwood.

As for the strategic plan for 2015 through 2020, the strategic planning committee, a group of approximately 30 people representing groups from all over the school, has moved into “stage 2.” In “stage 1,” administrators spent several months interviewing staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, parents and the Presidential Cabinet in order to gather ideas for the next five years.

Ideas vary from adding or deleting entire departments to getting a campus ice cream truck.

The next step is sending ideas from group to group, seeing where the main areas of interest lie and taking opinions on the ideas already gathered. Additionally, each vice president is meeting with members of their staff units individually.

Administrators are determining what questions should take priority. They hope to tackle issues at the University which affect universities all over the nation, given the changing face of education.

These issues include the increasing number of students who, for a variety of reasons, don’t pay full price for their education, as well as the increasing availability of online education and the real and perceived “value gap” of the worth of education versus its price.

“Are you getting a degree or are you getting an experience?” said Ed Ericson, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “Is that all this is, knowledge? Or is there something more? Does the internet and computers make things different? We’ve been responding to and addressing these [questions] over the years.”

Financial concerns are among the biggest issues to consider. As always, the strategic planning committee is looking for more ways to keep tuition down and quality up, while alumni giving is down and the cost of utilities continues to go up.

“If college is about the interaction with people, that cannot be made more efficient,” Ericson said. “This is why the cost of high-end social services always goes up.”

Despite this, Ericson called the University a “healthy institution,” especially compared to other universities.

“There are a lot of changes going on in the world, but we seem to be handling them pretty well,” he said.

The strategic planning committee will meet for the second time this month, and increasingly more often in the days to come. The new five-year plan will go into effect in the spring of 2015.