The Columbia Chronicle

Revisualizing Columbia:  College unveils 5-year Strategic Plan

Revisualizing Columbia: College unveils 5-year Strategic Plan

April 6, 2015

The credo “Redefining Greatness” introduced by President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim in September 2013 is more than the college’s motto. It’s a call to action for Columbia’s administrators.The Office of the Provost has unveiled a first draft outlining a five-year Strategic Plan for the college. The plan suggests major changes, including establishing a campus center, major revision of the curricula, the creation of six new administrative positions and a call for a hiring and workforce reduction plan.Following seven months of discussion, analysis and writing, the draft plan was presented to the college on March 23, beginning a two-week comment period ending April 7 for students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to share feedback on the plan on the college’s Civic Commons website.“When you commit to a process that is very open and inclusive, you don’t really know what kind of feedback you’re going to get, so you don’t know what you’re going to end up with at the draft stage,” Kim said. “There are a lot of bold things in this plan. I’m hopeful because it calls out many big things that we need to do to push our college to the next level.”The 40-page document breaks the Strategic Plan’s objectives into six main goals: Student Success, A 21st-Century Curriculum, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Community Engagement, Optimizing Enrollment, and Aligning Resources with Goals.Feedback aggregated by the college during the Fall 2014 Semester was analyzed and translated into a preliminary list of objectives and action items, according to the draft. A four-person writing team then compiled the first draft, which the college’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee and Kim reviewed before its release to the college community.The first goal focuses on the college’s commitment to student success, outlining objectives that encourage student exploration, increased graduation and retention rates and career preparation. “Underlying much of what is in the plan is our desire to improve student success,” said Stan Wearden, vice president and provost, in an email. “To me, this comes down to two essentials: A successful student is one who completes a degree in as timely a manner as possible and who leaves the college prepared for a lifetime of rewarding employment.”The plan calls for the college to increase its freshman-to-sophomore retention rate from 71 to 80 percent and its six-year graduation rate from 42.9 to 50 percent. Additional objectives outlined in the Student Success section include tightening admissions selectivity, redefining the first-year experience, developing a Declaration of Major process, creating a centralized internship coordinator office and creating a campus center to house all student support services and foster student interactions.Peter Carpenter, an associate professor in the Dance Department and president of the Faculty Senate, served on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and said the call for a central location for all student support services stood out to him.“I would love that so much,” Carpenter said. “There are other institutions that do a much better job of that than we do. Even as I’m advising majors and registration advising, I think it’s sometimes hard for me to always know where to direct [students]. I’m an expert who’s been here for nine years, so if I’m struggling, then I can’t imagine what it’s like as a student trying to navigate that terrain.”The second goal is to develop curricula that align with forthcoming learning outcomes for all students. This process will entail reorganizing academic departments and schools, revising curricula, introducing new major/minor combinations and expanding graduate and online education opportunities.Suzanne Blum Malley, interim dean of the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, also served as a member of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and was a member of the plan’s four-person writing group. She was most excited about the call to develop universal learning objectives.“[It’s a way to show] what we all agree [on] across the board, [that] every student here has to leave knowing, understanding, being able to do [and being] aware of,” Blum Malley said. “It opens up the kinds of things we do in the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences [and shows] that the core curriculum doesn’t happen just here, it happens everywhere.”Wearden said it is important that every student develops strong business and technology skills, a priority Kim set for the college in his White Paper, an essay outlining Kim’s perceived institutional priorities, released May 7, 2014.The third goal is designed to strengthen the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the chief objective being the formation of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and hiring a vice president to oversee the efforts. “We have begun to define what it means to be diversity leaders,” Wearden said in the email. “That brings focus to a goal many colleges have but don’t fully understand.”This includes using trained search committees to increase the hiring of a more diverse faculty and setting standards that will embed diversity into the college’s core and major curricula.Despite the efforts to strengthen the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Brian Martin, a senior cultural studies major, said having a new vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion position is not the proper approach to fostering diversity on campus.“[Diversity and inclusion] are about non-hierarchical approaches,” Martin said. “So when they try to have this dialogue about diversity, equity and inclusion, and their solution is to pull it up higher in the administrative ladder and isolate it in one position, it doesn’t seem like an appropriate solution.”The fourth goal strives to deepen ties to Chicago and capitalize on the college’s status as an urban campus. To promote community engagement at Columbia, objectives include reviewing the Center for Community Arts Partnerships, forming an Office of Community Engagement and identifying key contacts for community engagement partnerships. A community engagement course designation will also be created to embed the practice into curricula.“One of our greatest assets is our location in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world, and we really haven’t taken advantage of that,” said Erin McCarthy, associate chair of the Humanities, History & Social Sciences Department. “There are so many cultural institutions and partners that we can tap into with that, and [I love] the idea of using the city as our campus.”The fifth goal of the Strategic Plan is optimizing enrollment, which includes increasing and stabilizing enrollment across the college through improvements in its marketing strategy, financial aid response and strengthened transfer, graduate and international student recruitment pipelines.Objectives include hiring a new associate vice president of Enrollment Services, determining the college’s optimum enrollment size, increasing admissions selectivity, hiring a vice president of Strategic Marketing and Communications and growing enrollment in terms of transfer, graduate, continuing education and international students. The plan also calls for the consideration of developing satellite campuses in other continents, such as Europe, Asia or South America.“No college today can continue to thrive without deep expertise in marketing and brand management,” Wearden said.The last goal is aligning resources with goals, which includes determining institutional priorities and ensuring the college is spending its money efficiently.Objectives outlined in the sixth goal include creating a new, responsibility-centered budget model, consolidating certain services throughout the college, generating new and diverse revenue streams, hiring a new chief information officer, creating a three- to five-year strategic hiring and workforce reduction plan and strengthening the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.Diana Vallera, an adjunct professor in the Photography Department and president of Columbia’s Part-Time Faculty Union, said she is concerned community input regarding the Strategic Plan does not matter to the administration because parts of the plan have already begun implementation despite it being a draft.“The Strategic Plan is really a smokescreen that’s presenting the illusion that faculty and students are involved in creating a vision for Columbia,” Vallera said. “The real Strategic Plan is already being implemented. It’s being unfolded in front of us. We see this happening with the firing of the faculty in the First-Year Seminar program, the complete elimination of the First-Year Seminar, departments that have collapsed and increasing class sizes.”According to Wearden, parts of the plan that have already been implemented are those that are most urgent, and community feedback will still be taken into account when developing the final draft of the plan.“Things we have already begun to act on are issues that have urgently needed to be addressed for the good of the college and issues, I believe, that most people have recognized as needing to be addressed,” Wearden said. “The actions we have taken will put us in a far better position next year to begin implementation of the Strategic Action Plan. We cannot remain inactive on the most urgent issues while we discuss future action.”Feedback on the first draft of the Strategic Plan closes April 7. Feedback gathered from the Civic Commons website regarding the draft will be incorporated into the plan to be presented to Kim and his cabinet before the plan is finalized and sent to the Board of Trustees at the end of April.“I’m enthusiastic that the college has embraced the process,” Kim said. “I understand we’re moving fast, but my sense is that people get why. Even if we’re moving fast, we’re not going to abandon the idea that we’ve got to maintain an open dialogue about what we’re doing.”

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