An Inside Look at the Process: Frequently Asked Questions

Strategic planning is an episodic undertaking by people from across the organization having  vastly different points of view, experiences and expertise. To compound the challenge, new people are brought on board as the effort expands.

In this robust, frothy environment “Frequently Asked Questions” help ‘keep everyone on the same page.’ We thought that sharing the current FAQ would be good way to put you straight into the middle of the action, too, as if you were on one of the 22 subcommittees working on the strategies.

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  1. What are the differences between the Goals, Objectives & Strategies?

Goals are “benchmarks for the future.” Attaining them usually take many academic cycles. In a perfect world you know you reached the goal when you ‘crossed’ it.  In the academic world goals may be stated more broadly and are assessed by ‘surrogate endpoints’ that stand in for the goal itself.

Objectives are near-term attainable, observable and measurable outcomes that, if achieved, contribute to reaching a goal.  They describe the areas of focus that advance the university towards the goal. As the strategic plan is implemented some objectives will be achieved, some will fail and be replaced, some new ones may be added.  Goals are seldom changed during the life of a plan while objectives may based on actual experience.

Strategies are prioritized actions assigned to objectives.  They answer the question “How, exactly, are we going to achieve the objective?”  They are the programs, projects and pilots that we undertake in that effort. They are ‘strategic’ in that they are significant investments in time, money and attention with specific, measurable milestones to track effort & progress.

  1. My college / department / unit is working on its own strategic plan. Should we hold up and wait for the committee’s work to be complete? What if we already have one in place?

Ultimately every SRSU unit – whether college, department, unit, etc. – will have its own goals, objectives and strategies. Some colleges and departments already have plans in place that were presumably reconciled with the 2014 SRSU Strategic Plan.

In all cases the ‘lower-level’ plans must be reconciled with this committee’s revised 2016-2020 plan.  In other words, every goal, objective and strategy outlined in a unit’s plan must have a parent-child relationship to the university’s plan.

If a unit’s plan calls for work that does NOT link to an element of the university’s plan, then that work should be removed from the unit’s strategic plan and find a home in the unit’s operational plan.

A lot of work underway across the campus is tactical, not strategic.  It’s the day-to-day care-and-feeding of the academic and administrative functions.  However, any effort that spans multiple academic cycles and whose purpose is to impact a strategic goal should have a home in the unit’s strategic plan.

  1. Who will draft the actual Strategic Plan document?

The steering committee’s staff advisor will draft the 2016-2020 strategic plan subject to approval by the steering committee.  The final locked document requires approval by the president of the university and regents.

  1. How will we implement the strategic plan?

The president of Sul Ross has committed to investing in an on-going implementation effort that includes installing a process for tracking, reporting & adjusting the strategic plan as needed. The intention is for this work to reside in the Institutional Effectiveness office.

  1. How will the strategic plan be updated as new programs, projects & pilots come on-line?

At least once a year the implementation team will do a formal review of progress against the plan and recommend to the Office of the President mid-course corrections.

  1. In the ideal strategic plan we studied earlier, ALL goals, objectives and strategies were measurable. It seems that academic plans only assess outcomes at the strategy level, if at all. At what level will SRSU’s strategic plan include measurable outcomes?

The president charged the steering committee with drawing up a strategic plan that measures progress.  The committee decided requiring every strategy (i.e. program, project or pilot) be assessable will meet that mandate.  Strategies are considered surrogate endpoints for the associated objectives and goals, unless those goals or objectives are themselves directly assessable.

  1. My group has important work that the steering committee chose not to endorse as part of the SRSU strategic plan. Does that jeopardize support for it?

Much of what gets done in any organization does NOT reach the level of ‘strategy’ but rather supports day-to-day work. In a case where a recommended revision of the SRSU strategy was rejected, the work might continue to be part of the unit’s business plan. Support at the unit level should be sufficient for the work to continue on its own merits.

The committee’s work papers will document its decision to keep work classed as business process improvement vs. strategic undertaking.

  1. When is our strategic plan to be submitted to the President of the University Dr. Kibler?

Our target for submitting the first draft is before Thanksgiving break. The target for the circulation draft to be approved for wide circulation and comment is at the beginning of Spring 2017.


Next Up: Strategies to Implement Objectives

Since our last entry in August the steering committee has been developing objectives that flesh out the six (6) goals previously mentioned.  Now, 22 subcommittee chairs and their teams will generate the underlying strategies. “Strategies” in the sense educators use the word for the “means, methods, activities and assessments” required to achieve the objectives.

We will keep you up-to-date on that work as it progresses. Our target is to have a first-pass strategic plan DRAFT ready for review by the entire campus and interested parties by the end of the Fall 2016 term.

Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts on the work so far by posting comments to this blog.

NOTE:  This is a work-in-progress and subject to substantial change based on recommendations of the working committees and feedback from others.

Goal 1:  Promote Growth in Academic and Research Excellence

  • Objective 1:  Support, improve, and recognize excellence in teaching, artistic endeavor, and research
  • Objective 2:  Develop new & update existing programs to satisfy growing industry demands and meet student needs

Goal 2:  Target Recruiting, Maximize Retention & Increase Graduation Rates

  • Objective 1: Increase new student enrollment by 5% in the next 5 years.
  • Objective 2: Increase student retention and persistence by 5% in the next 5 years.
  • Objective 3: Increase overall student graduation rates by 5% in the next 5 years.

Goal 3:  Recruit, Retain & Develop Faculty, Staff and Student Employees

  • Objective 1: Provide and cultivate adequate financial & administrative resources to support the appropriate recruitment and retention of faculty and staff.
  • Objective 2: Create an environment that promotes development, training and job satisfaction for faculty, staff and student employees.
  • Objective 3: Promote and articulate job & organizational expectations and local environmental characteristics to prospective employees.

Goal 4:  Strengthen a Sustainable & Diversified Financial Base

  • Objective 1:  Maximize, maintain and grow available operating resources
  • Objective 2: Maintain an appropriate infrastructure of personnel and facilities that can be sustained by available revenue.[1]
  • Objective 3:  Develop and maintain an infrastructure that enables the university to cultivate, expand and sustain philanthropic support.
  • Objective 4:  Improve institutional processes to strengthen the pre- and post- grant and sponsored programs support.

Goal 5:  Build and Enrich Stakeholder Relationships

  • Objective 1: Broaden and deepen constituent engagement developing more meaningful relationships with alumni, friends and students
  • Objective 2:  Enrich the university communities by sharing resources, expertise and experiences.
  • Objective 3:  Create and develop relationships with potential employers to afford academic experiences relevant to students’ professional success and [employer value]

Goal 6:  Unify and Enhance Image and Visibility of Sul Ross

  • Objective 1:  Increase awareness of and advocacy for the university by showcasing Sul Ross’s teaching, learning, research, athletics and artistic excellence.
  • Objective 2:  Maintain a visually unified, aesthetically pleasing campus that showcases our status of excellence
  • Objective 3:  Advance and provide support for sustainability initiatives throughout the university
  • Objective 4:  Develop coordinated and consistent messaging that enhance Sul Ross’s image
  • Objective 5:  Elevate the Sul Ross traditions, community and Lobo pride

[1] Affordability will be either be a strategy under this objective or or a stand-alone objective tied to this goal pending recommendation of subcommittee

Here is a link to a PDF file suitable for circulating via email Proposed Strategic Goals and Objectives (as of 26Sep16)

August Progress Report and Request for Comment

Three months ago, University President, Dr. Bill Kibler, announced the launch of a new Strategic Planning effort. I wanted to give you an update of our progress.

We are using the current 2014-2018 Strategic Plan as our starting point. Although much of that plan remains valid, we now realize we needed stronger buy-in from the SRSU community and stakeholders, should have taken more time to share the strategic plan, and added more methods to measure progress. This experience taught us that to have a successful, measurable strategic plan we will need to take more time and be more inclusive. While the new plan will take longer to build, it will be in better shape to serve as our prime means of guiding Sul Ross’ future.

In the development of the new strategic plan, the committee has drafted six goals and the objectives associated with these goals. Because the development process relies heavily on feedback from many key people who were unavailable during the summer break, this work will continue over the next few months as people return to the campus and the committee holds outreach events.

Those new strategic goals as they exist today are:

  • Promote Growth in Academic and Research Excellence
  • Target Recruiting, Maximize Retention & Increase Graduation Rates
  • Recruit, Retain & Develop Faculty, Staff and Student Employees
  • Strengthen a Sustainable & Diversified Financial Base
  • Build and Enrich Stakeholder Relationships
  • Unify and Enhance the Image and Visibility of Sul Ross

Meanwhile, I encourage you to submit comments, suggestions, and concerns about the strategic planning process and the future direction of Sul Ross State University to this blog.

Strategic Plan Steering Committee

The Strategic Plan Steering Committee is composed of the following individuals.  Please feel free to contact anyone on the list with comments and ideas in the process.

Dr. Bonnie Warnock, Professor of Natural Resource Management, CHAIR

Dr. Jeanne Qvarnstrom, Asst. Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness

Dr. Rob Kinucan, Dean, College of Agriculture & Natural Resource Sciences

Dr. Joey Velasco, Asst. Professor of Communication and President, Faculty Assembly

Dr. Gina Stocks, Asst. Professor of Education, Rio Grande College

Ms. Mary Beth Marks, Interim Vice President for Enrollment Management

Ms. Yvonne Realivasquez, Director of Administration

Ms. Gail Collier, Director of Human Resources

Ms. Kara O’Shaughnessy, Admin. Asst./Database Manager, External Affairs

Ms. Liz Pena, Director of the Small Business Development Center, Rio Grande College

Ms. April Aultman Becker, Dean of Libraries and Research Technologies

Ms. Martha Serrano, Admin. Coordinator, Physical Plant Operations

Mr. Dave Gibson, Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Technology