Few enterprises are more vital to the viability and vitality of a college campus than the development of a strategic plan. A good plan will identify the campus' foundational tenets as well as its loftiest dreams. It communicates to the world 'who we are' as well as 'who we aspire to be' and 'how we plan to get there.' These statements provide arguably the most critical information that prospective students, as well as prospective faculty, will want to know before deciding whether a college or university is right for them. To fall short on either developing or communicating these identity markers is to risk losing the students and faculty who are most likely to thrive on our campuses. In this highly-competitive market, our campuses can't afford to get this one wrong. Chancellor Anne Ponder, from her chapter on "Strategic Planning for Branch Campuses" in S. Schuman (Ed.) (2009). Branches: Leading America's Coordinate Campuses. American Council on Education.
Refreshing our Strategic Plan: 2013-18
Two things occurred in 2013 that inspired UNC Asheville to take a fresh look at our strategic plan.
- Our existing strategic plan celebrated its 5th year of implementation, generally the lifespan of a good strategic plan.
- The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors had embarked upon on a new strategic plan for the 17-campus system, and it was important for each campus to demonstrate strong alignment with this new plan, UNC Strategic Directions: Our Time, Our Future.
In order to address both of these effectively, Chancellor Ponder lead the University Planning Council [UPC] and the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees in a review of our existing strategic plan in light of the requirements of UNC Strategic Directions. Several themes emerged from these discussions:
- We realized that, because of the economic downturn that started in 2009, we had not made as much progress toward reaching our strategic plan goals as we would have wanted by 2013.
- Both groups affirmed that the strategic plan goals that had not been fully realized were still very much the goals that were critical to serving North Carolina families and their futures.
- In reviewing the UNC Strategic Directions plan, both groups identified and affirmed the significant extent to which our current Strategic Plan already directs our energies toward the goals outlined in UNC Strategic Directions.
- In separate discussions, each group affirmed that our 2008 Strategic Plan was still the right plan for us, and that continuing to pursue this plan would align our efforts beautifully with the new UNC Strategic Directions plan.
- Once this alignment was affirmed, new dashboard benchmarks were developed for our strategic plan which focused on UNC Strategic Directions goals [academic excellence, graduation rates, student success, degree efficiency, student outcomes, engagement with the community, etc.]. These new benchmarks were approved by UPC in November 2013 and the Board of Trustees in December 2013, and will measure our progress toward UNC Strategic Directions goals.
Building the Strategic Plan: 2006-2008
In fall 2006, UNC Asheville, under the leadership of Chancellor Anne Ponder, embarked on a campus-wide strategic planning process. All members of the staff and faculty, along with students, parents, community leaders and the members of our four boards were invited to small-group discussions to offer their advice on "who we aspire to be" and "how we plan to get there." Chancellor Ponder led each session, assisted by a group of 25 faculty, staff, and students -- known as Conveners. Session participants offered ideas and insights, criticism and complaints, and thoughtful visions for a better future.
With all the collected comments in hand, a number of the Conveners began working with the Chancellor on drafting the strategic plan goals in Spring 2007. Over the next six months, the group presented a series of drafts to the campus community and external groups, collected comments, and revised the draft. In late Fall 2007, responsibility for the next steps in the strategic planning process was transferred to the University Planning Council (UPC), the multi-constituent group responsible for campus planning. In the six months that followed, the UPC created detailed implementation strategies, including establishing a timeline, assigning work groups to undertake specific actions, and identifying ways to measure progress over the next five years. The UNC Asheville Board of Trustees officially approved the Strategic Plan in June 2008.
In Fall 2008, 14 work groups responsible for specific actions during 2008-09 began their work. They will report back to UPC, the campus and the Board of Trustees on their progress at least once each year.