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Planning Process and Community Participation

Members of the President’s Council and leaders of campus senates met once in fall 2012 and again in spring 2013 for retreats focused on how to implement and evaluate an effective strategic plan. A national expert on strategic planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Education helped facilitate the process. The committee reviewed the history of strategic planning at UMBC and created a timeline for implementing the next plan. The timeline was designed to be shared with the wider campus community. Part of the retreat agenda was also devoted to creating a set of guiding principles for the planning process consistent with UMBC’s core values. Also in spring 2013, a survey was fielded to solicit feedback from students, faculty, staff, and alumni about their views on UMBC’s vision statement so as to evaluate whether it should be updated.

These initial steps guided establishment of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) charged to lead the planning process. The committee is co-chaired by the provost and the chair of Academic Planning and Budget Committee. Participants include five representatives from shared governance bodies (faculty senate, two staff senates, and two student senates), seven faculty members representing a diverse set of departments and programs, four vice presidents, two alumni (ex officio members), and two additional administrators. The committee is supported by 11 senior advisors and a technical assistance team.

These steps in “planning to plan” were shared with and reviewed by the campus community at the annual campus retreat held in summer 2013. Results from the spring survey were also were shared at the summer annual retreat, and led to a decision to update the vision statement as part of the strategic planning process. The annual retreat also provided an opportunity to introduce the SPSC, and its charge, to the larger campus community.

Along with introducing the campus to the new strategic planning process, a goal of the 2013 annual retreat was to evaluate how well UMBC met the goals of its previous strategic plan, “Strategic Framework for 2016.” Annual retreats are attended by approximately 200 campus leaders. A significant part of the retreat was devoted to an interactive data gallery where participants reviewed posters and provided feedback on them to data docents responsible for each poster and to scribes who took notes of comments concerning each poster. The gallery had 36 posters broken into five sections, one for each of the five supporting goals and objectives identified in the Strategic Framework: student body size and composition; faculty size and composition; program and curriculum development; management, organization, and staffing; and external relations with the Baltimore region and beyond. The gallery conveyed the data and analysis needed for an evidence-based discussion of how well UMBC did in accomplishing each goal of the framework.

Throughout the Fall 2013 semester, members of the SPSC facilitated discussions about vision, language, and planning focus areas under consideration with a variety of faculty, staff, student, and alumni groups. The provost attended nearly every session as an active listener. Discussion participants were provided advance background reading, “Vision Elements” and “Focus Areas Under Consideration,” for context. Thirty-five conversations sessions were held, involving nearly 800 members of the campus community.

Feedback from these meetings helped the SPSC develop a draft vision statement that was shared with the campus in spring 2014. The feedback also guided the committee in selecting the four areas that would constitute the focus of work for four established strategy groups. Four members of the steering committee were asked to co-chair each of these strategy groups. In addition, four more faculty members were asked to join the SPSC as co-chair for each strategy group. Charges were developed for each group. The provost and co-chairs selected members for each group. Sub-groups were formed to research particular areas and bring back recommendations. Strategy groups were charged with delivering their recommendations by April 2015.

To support these efforts the Office of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Decision Support (IRADS) coordinated the development of an environment scan that included documents and data relevant to the planning process. IRADS provided these groups additional analysis as needed.  A Foundations workgroup was also established to review five key foundational areas in order to determine how we continue to build a successful future for UMBC. The key areas are: people, resources, facilities, technology/business practices, and environmental sustainability. A review of the status of each area was conducted to assess history, strengths, “pain points,” and opportunities.

The summer 2014 campus retreat provided campus leaders the opportunity to review the progress of each strategy group and to provide feedback. An interactive gallery included posters for each of the four strategies groups that showed their goals, committee memberships, research questions, and stakeholder maps. The gallery also included a section focusing on the foundation group’s progress as well as a section devoted to continuing the dialogue on vision and values. As in previous years there were multiple means for participants to provide feedback to the co-chairs and others about what was presented. Additionally, the retreat had breakout sessions where co-chairs facilitated highly interactive sessions using active learning techniques to give participants ample opportunity to engage more intensely with the work of particular strategy groups. Post-retreat survey feedback showed the approach was very successful.

Strategy groups and subgroups met with multiple groups, campus constituents, and offices in fall 2014 to solicit feedback as well as get assistance with their research. Additional data and analysis were obtained from IRADS and the foundations group. Also, a survey was developed with questions from all four areas that was sent to students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Summarized results from those surveys were shared with the strategy groups. During the fall co-chairs met with the SPSC several times to provide progress updates.

The strategy groups delivered their recommendations to the steering committee in spring 2015. The reports included a narrative that explained how the committee came to each recommendation, including which stakeholders they engaged during the deliberation process. Each recommendation included measures of success. The strategy group reports were shared with the campus on the provost’s website.

The SPSC met twice in the spring to review the reports. During the first meeting members reviewed all four reports to parcel the recommendations into strategic goals versus supporting objectives. In the second, they worked in small groups to made make recommendations on how to best align the goals, objectives, and measures of success.

The steering committee reviewed the first draft of the plan in July 2015. Changes were made to the plan based on its feedback, and the draft plan and supporting documentation will be discussed at the campus retreat in August. Feedback from these discussions will inform the content of the final plan due by December 2015.