One-year Strategic Plan check-in


Lou Foglia

One-year Strategic Plan check-in

By Campus Editor

Nearly one year has passed since the board of trustees approved the college’s five-year Strategic Plan during its May 12, 2015 meeting.

As such, the first year of implementing the 41-page document has introduced great change to the college community.

While progress has been made on many of the Strategic Plan’s goals, the college is lagging in some of the objectives that were scheduled to be completed by the end of the 2015–2016 academic year. 

The plan is organized into six sections, including Student Success; a 21st-Century Curriculum; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Engaging Difference; Community Engagement; Optimizing Enrollment; and Aligning Resources with Goals. Each section of the Strategic Plan lists a series of objectives related to accomplishing the goal as well as a timeline for completion. However, the plan could change as work progresses.

“[The Strategic Plan] is a living document that will grow and change, and things will be added to [the plan] over time,” said Stan Wearden, senior vice president and provost.

The work of implementing the Strategic Plan was delegated to six committees made up of part- and full-time faculty, staff and student volunteers that include Universal Learning Outcomes; Columbia Core; Integrated First-Year Experience; Registration and New Student Orientation; and Community Engagement, along with a separate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee that started convening later than the other committees.

“It is hard work; it doesn’t happen as fast as you want,” said Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost. “We are on an aggressive timeline.”

Wearden said he intends to address the college at the beginning of the Fall 2016 Semester about the plan’s progress, similar to a Town Hall meeting held in January 2016, and possibly post updates on the Strategic Plan website. 

“The operational work of implementing a strategic plan should be pretty much invisible to students,” Wearden said. “Students should see more of the fruits of the labor than the labor itself because we are doing this for the good of the students.”

Goal 1: Student Success

The Strategic Plan’s Student Success year one goals introduced major changes to the college, including the formation of the college’s new Career Center as well as the beginning plans for a student center. 

The Student Success goals for year one, which are relatively on track, included re-evaluating students’ first-year experience, restructuring the school’s advising model and developing a plan for a centralized area for student collaboration.

The Integrated First-Year Experience Committee, chaired by Blum Malley, worked closely with the Columbia Core Committee, chaired by Steven Corey, interim dean of the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, to develop recommendations to improve the freshman experience at Columbia. The committee’s proposal for the recommendations will be presented to the college by May 27, as announced at the March 7 College Assembly.

The college began revising the First-Year Experience during the Spring 2015 Semester by introducing a new required first-semester program known as “Big Chicago,” which offered major-based courses designed to engage students with the City of Chicago.

Blum Malley said based on feedback, the courses will be revised for the Fall 2016 Semester to no longer be scheduled on Fridays. The course will also be offered in three-hour blocks instead of two-hour blocks like last year.

To foster student success during and beyond freshman year, the college also completed the Strategic Plan’s objectives to revise the current advising model and internship initiatives. 

As reported Sept. 28 by The Chronicle, the college began work during the Fall 2015 Semester to modify its current advising model to distinguish the roles of professional and faculty advisers. Faculty advisers now serve as students’ mentors and professional advisers now guide students in registration and

graduation requirements. 

As outlined in year one of the plan, the college merged the Portfolio Center with the Student Employment Office and internship program to create the new Career Center. The new structure, effective June 1, will push for a centralized career development office, as reported Feb. 15 by The Chronicle.

“This is a difficult decision for the college to change culture [and] shift responsibilities, but we are doing it because we all agree [it] is a priority,” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success.

The college also continues to work on the design and construction of a new Student Center slated to be completed by the Fall 2018 Semester. In the Strategic Plan, the college aims for the center to provide easy access to student support services and collaborative learning opportunities once completed.

Goal 2: 21st-Century Curriculum

Outlined in the Strategic Plan’s year one objectives for the 21st-century curriculum was the framework for a drastic reshaping of Columbia’s curriculum. According to Wearden, this included developing Columbia’s Universal Learning Outcomes and subsequent Core Curriculum, as well as an evaluation of the college’s current curriculum.

The ULO Committee drafted the outcomes, knowledge that every student should acquire at Columbia regardless of major.

As reported March 28 by The Chronicle, a draft of the ULOs was unveiled March 16 in a collegewide email from co-chairs Wearden and Constantin Rasinariu, interim dean of the School of Media Arts. The outcomes include career engagement, creativity, critical and analytical thinking, diversity and global fluency, and ethics. Blum Malley said the ULO Committee’s next step will be integrating the ULOs into Columbia’s curriculum.  

The Columbia Core Committee was tasked with developing a framework of nonmajor requirements that every student needs to complete before graduating. A proposal of the new core curriculum will be released by May 27, as stated at the Feb. 8 College Assembly.

“The big question the Core Committee is dealing with is, ‘How do students navigate through the core?’” Corey said at the April 25 College Assembly. 

Each academic department was tasked with developing a curriculum report detailing its departmental and universal learning outcomes, relevance to the 21st-century curriculum and new proposals or adjustments. The reports will be submitted to the Provost’s Office for review by the end of the semester. 

Blum Malley said the college will begin to experience curricular changes in the Fall 2017 Semester, after they have gone through the curricular review process for tweaks and proposals during the 2016–2017 academic year. 

According to Blum Malley, the Strategic Plan’s year one objective of discussing a restructuring of the college’s schools and departments will be delayed until the next academic year. 

To improve graduate education at Columbia, the Strategic Plan called for the hiring of a Dean of Graduate Studies, a Vice Provost for Global Education and a Vice Provost for Online Education to improve Columbia’s online programs. 

Blum Malley said the college is searching for a new global leadership position and is moving forward with an internal appointment for a new dean of Graduate Studies. In April, the college appointed Robert Green as the vice provost for Digital Learning, a goal outlined in the Strategic Plan. 

Goal 3: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Because of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee’s late start after the Strategic Plan Implementation Committees, many DEI objectives outlined in year one will be completed during year two, said Onye Ozuzu, chair of the DEI Committee and dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts. 

The DEI Committee, formed Jan. 8—six months after the implementation committees—is charged with drafting the college’s diversity statement and engaging with the Strategic Plan implementation committees to consider how diversity relates to each committee’s particular charge.

“There is something about the complexity of the idea of diversity that can leave people in a state of nonaction,” Ozuzu said. “By going to the Strategic Plan implementation committees, we were able to get specific in terms of what [diversity] means [in relation to the committees].”

Ozuzu said her committee will have the college’s diversity statement ready by the end of the semester, as outlined in the Strategic Plan. During the summer, the committee will discuss, revise and gather feedback about the statement to be presented in the Fall 2016 Semester. 

The Strategic Plan’s objective to hire a vice president of DEI has yet to be initiated because the DEI Committee is discussing whether the position is necessary, as reported April 11 by The Chronicle. Kim said he is waiting for the committee’s recommendations before hiring to fill the position.

Kim said at the April 26 Student Government Association forum that the college community originally resisted the idea of hiring a vice president of DEI, which is why the DEI committee was initially formed.

Ozuzu said the committee is still working on developing a strategic hiring policy and process to reflect the college’s new diversity statement.

Going into year two, Ozuzu said many of goals of the committee will need to be re-evaluated.

“There is a list of year one tasks to check off, and [they] will be a little off-cycle since we weren’t convened until a few weeks into the spring semester,” Ozuzu said. “You have to rework that calendar and move it a semester-and-a-

half forward.”

Goal 4: Community Engagement

The year one goals for community engagement at Columbia included identifying pre-existing community engagement activities at the college and establishing a database to keep track of those opportunities. 

The Community Engagement Committee, chaired by Pegeen Quinn, associate provost of Academy Personnel, divided into two sub-committees. The first sub-committee conducted a collegewide survey about community engagement at Columbia, and the second developed a definition of what qualifies as community engagement in higher education. 

The collegewide survey, distributed to faculty, staff and students, was conducted from February 16 to March 4 to identify and categorize Columbia’s community engagement practices. According to Quinn, the survey received approximately 700 responses, and the information will be presented to the college at the end of May. 

“[The committee started] by defining what we agree is community engagement, which sets the stage for determining what activities are happening right now and seeing what could be developed in the future,” Quinn said.

Goal 5: Optimizing Enrollment

The Registration and New Student Orientation Committee, co-chaired by Keri Walters, college registrar, and Jeff Meece, associate vice president of Enrollment Management, played a large role in implementing objectives for optimizing enrollment in year one.

Year one goals included evaluating the college’s recruitment process, finding an “optimal enrollment” size and determining a brand to help define the college.

Meece said his office has been reassessing how to best recruit undergraduate, graduate, transfer and international students. 

He added that his team is in the middle of determining the “optimal” enrollment size based on projected student enrollment, the college’s budget and campus resources, and plans to determine an exact figure during the summer. 

The college is also moving toward a more selective admissions process, Meece said.

 “We may not be offering as many  [students as] in the past, but we still need to stay true to our mission,” Meece said.

The college changed its scholarship-awarding process by offering scholarships to students who are most likely to enroll based on the scholarship money, Meece said. 

Deborah Maue, vice president of Strategic Marketing & Communications, said this was the first year her office worked closely with the Enrollment Management Office in developing a consistent recruitment plan and materials. 

“We are a tuition-driven institution,” Maue said. “We need to make sure the way we talk about ourselves is compelling to prospective students so we can attract them.”

Columbia’s new brand, which will be launched in the Fall 2016 Semester, is focused on helping creative students learn business and communication skills to enhance their career paths. 

The launch will include changing the branding language on the website, new logos and brand colors, and with advertising throughout Chicago to create a consistent message, Maue said.

Goal 6: Aligning Resources with Goals

After CFO Michelle Gates left the college in February, the college continued its year one plan of Aligning Resources with Goals by developing a budget model to support the Strategic Plan that would include investments in capital infrastructure and initiatives developed by the Strategic Plan implementation committees.

Many departments adjusted their budgets this academic year so the college could accomplish its year one goals, said college spokeswoman Cara Birch.

Some of the initiatives funded include the Career Center; the Internship Scholarship Fund, which helped more students receive access to internships; network upgrades to improve collegewide WiFi; the hiring of a new vice provost of Digital Learning and the new assistant provost of Continuing and Community Education; and the development of a new college brand. 

Jonathan Stern, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, said his department hired new staff, most notably Miriam Smith, executive director of Alumni Relations. With the extra staffing, Stern said his office  developed an alumni relations platform, including more events locally and nationally and partnering with academic departments to bring more alumni back to campus. 

“This is a building process over time, and we keep building,” Stern said. “It doesn’t stop at the end of five years.”

He added that this fiscal year has been relatively “flat” for donations, but the number of alumni donors has increased. He declined to share details about the college’s 2016–2017 donation goal. 

Byron Nash, chief information officer and associate vice president of Technology Services, said during year one, his office focused on improving the IT infrastructure, which includes the college’s network, servers, telephones, wireless access points and security.

The office is working to replace all the network switches and double the amount of wireless access points by the Fall 2016 Semester.

“The fact we are having to replace the network [shows] we have a lot of work to do,” Nash said. “Some parts are great, and some parts are old and need to be replaced.”

As outlined in the Strategic Plan, a technology master plan to improve Columbia’s technology efficiency has been presented, but Nash said he could not share when it will be released or implemented.