Comments on Strategic Plan draft, Oct. 30
These comments refer to the second draft of the Strategic Plan for 2005-2010. The plan was released Oct. 11.
Stronger learning assessments should be emphasized
I agree that the second draft is much improved!
I have voiced this concern before, but will try again. I strongly feel that we need to include a goal that will extend and sustain the important work that has been done on our campus in relation to outcomes assessment. It should come under Priority one. This is a quote from the Higher Learning Commission: "An organization's commitment to and capacity for effective assessment of student learning will figure more prominently than ever in the accreditation relationship established between the Commission and that organization. An organization committed to understanding and improving the learning opportunities and environments it provides students will be able to document the relationship between assessment of and improvement in student learning.
These are some of my suggestions for a goal under priority one after re-reading the HLC Criteria for Accreditation:
strengthen the assessment and development of student learning outcomes.
develop and maintain effective systems for collecting, analyzing and documenting achieved student learning.
develop appropriate assessment and feedback loops to support continuous improvement of student learning.
Due to my recent increased involvement with Instructional Technologies and Distance Education, I would also like to suggest that e-learning be more clearly addressed in relation to student success and student learning. It seems to me that with the recent appointment of a CIO and major restructuring of IT services at ISU, the Strategic Plan should reflect and support this.
My last point! I am deeply concerned that by using" Average faculty salary by rank" as a measure of only the second priority (research), we are sending a clear message that teaching is not as valued. If it is to be included as a measure (and I understand that this is a presidential priority), I strongly feel it must also be a measure under priority one. There are no measures listed for the goal "develop, recognize, and reward excellent teaching".
Thanks again for all of your dedicated work.
Suggestions to help ISU
I received your alumni EMAIL, inviting my attention to the recent Strategic Plan, and your request for comments. This letter is in response to your request.
I compliment you on your efforts to develop a Strategic Plan. While some of my comments may be outside the scope of the Strategic Plan, or may already be in place, I would hope that there is value in some of these ideas:
Strategic Plan Overview - the plan should address:
Thank you for including me in your request for public comment. I apologize in advance for the length of the attachment. No response to this letter is necessary.
Add "economic development"
Under Priority: "Translate discoveries into..."
Under Priority: "Partner or with Iowans tob..." [Partner implies a contractual agreement.]
Under Measures relating to 2nd Current Goal: "Enhance the viability of Iowa's Communities and wellbeing of its people."
International dimensions slighted
Some brief comments follow:
Thank you for responding. My concern has to do with the use of, or proper use of, good assessment criteria, data, and processes. What I have seen on the campus the last seven years alarms me. It appears to me that there is more politics going on than sound assessment for the good use of resources. This carries over to the departments, who then do a similar poor quality of assessment either because they do not know how to do any better, or because they are following the politics that plague the top planning team. While the planning capabilities of all departments should be a concern, the one on which I was commenting below concerns the ability of those in our education system to do proper assessment and planning. Such skills do not appear to exist, and yet education takes over half of our state budget. The 2001 Accountable Government Act requires all users of state funds to learn proper assessment skills in order to justify use of the resources to achieve results. Unfortunately the law is being ignored, costing Iowa taxpayers dearly.
ISU's engineering department does not appear to have the influence over the assessment process it should to improve the performance of the university. Neither does it appear those skills are translating to the other departments on campus so they can teach their students. The lack of those skills coming out of the university has an exponential affect on society, which then misuses the resources at its disposal. Education is supposed to be the foundation for how well society does in the future. What I presently see is rather frightening.
Not only has the student achievement of Iowa k-12 gone downhill for the last forty years (according to the data from the Iowa Testing Program), the average high school graduate is two years behind grade level (according to the DOE). U.S. students, generally, do not test well on international exams (according to the TIMSS), indicating other countries are doing a better job of educating their students (As evidenced by the higher quality of international students on campus compared to U.S. students). Rather than figure out the problems with the education system (which proper assessment techniques of delivery system and curriculum would have shown), our k-12 educators decided the problem lay with a poor quality of student coming to them (resulting in a tremendous amount of misused resources on fads that do no good because the proper problem is not being addressed). The Manhattan Institute released its latest assessment of the education system and found that Iowa has the 6th most teachable students in the nation but ranks 25th in ability to teach them. This clearly explains why student achievement has been going downhill for the last forty years (offset only by the regular renorning of the exams used for assessment).
If k-12 schools had better assessment skills only politics could be blamed for interfering with the proper use of resources to maintain student achievement at the high it enjoyed in the early 1960s (according to the data coming from the Iowa Testing Program). Universities must come in for a share of the blame for this situation because they educated those involved in this fiasco. For this reason the assessment techniques used by the strategic planning committee are of grave concern to me. If the latest effort represents the best effort, then we are in serious trouble.
Staff and three others, plus a faculty member
Add "economic development"
First, a positive comment on the addition of "Land Grant Ideal" language and the current inclusion of Extension . I would suggest the following:
Under Priority: "Translate discoveries into..."
Under Priority: "Partner or with Iowans to..."
Under Measures relating to 2nd Current Goal: "Enhance the viability of Iowa's Communities and wellbeing of its people."
Emphasize outreach to businesses
As State Director of the Iowa Small Business Development Centers, an outreach activity of the College of Business of Iowa State University, I would be remiss if I did not encourage inclusion in the strategic plan, greater emphasis upon and support for the outreach assistance to business activities of the university. The Iowa Small Business Development Centers are funded from U.S. Small Business Administration dollars and state legislatively-appropriated dollars, with 13 centers around the state, covering all 99 counties annually. To insure that such outreach program receive the recognition deserved and financial assistance necessary, the ISU strategic plan should more specifically identify such business value-added activities and encourage further support from the university and from the legislature, via the Regents budget. Inasmuch as 97.5% of Iowa's businesses are "small" (under 500 employees), and the results of SBDC assistance, as verified by outside evaluation, are so significant to job creation and retention, tax payments, both federal and state, and generate new and further developed businesses supporting our communities, it seems more than appropriate that such outreach activities of the University are noted, encouraged and supported in the strategic plan.
Thank you for you consideration. Greater detail on the value of the SBDC to Iowa's economy, and thus the value to the university, is available.
Improve students' creative thinking
I would like to suggest the inclusion of one word under the second goal of the first priority as in the 2nd draft of the Strategic Plan.
Creative thinking is really something different from critical thinking and more should be done in our education mission to further this skill.
It includes but goes beyond artistic creativity and is important in all professions.
This proposal is supported by the Integration Committee of the Civil Engineering Curriculum. This has members from both LAS and ENGR colleges. It represents the opinion of more than ten professors and other academics. Probably beyond this number as the members represent a larger section of faculty.
The Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Steering Committee
Establish centers of excellence in arts, humanities, social sciences
There is much in this second draft that incorporates issues the arts and humanities community feels strongly about, and we thank you for your hard work, and for your attention to the larger university community, specifically the arts and humanities.
We are, however, concerned about some of the changes you have made, which we don't believe are in the interests of supporting a distinctive university. We'd like to focus on those changes here.
Add water quantity important too
I appreciate the very long and detailed explanation on adding "water" as a important issue.
Please just remember that water QUANTITY will be just as important as water quality, now and in the future. Ask any agribusiness -- the concept of water QUANTITY is what dominates and drives our economy and livelihood.
Promote international opportunities for undergrads
The Society of International Engineers would like to thank the committee for allowing us to provide feedback on the strategic plan draft.:
The Society of International Engineers (SIE) is a student club composed of:
This is our third year as an official student organization at ISU, and our purpose is to:
SIE is sponsored by the Engineering International Programs and Services Office (EIPS) as an effort to meet the College of Engineering's goal that 33% of undergraduates have an international experience of six weeks or more.
We are writing to emphasize the importance of international opportunities in undergraduate education. Most of us have spent at least one semester abroad studying and/or working, and the experience has affected us profoundly. We know that they have made us more confident, more resourceful and more aware of the importance of diversity - all things that help to make ISU a better university.
We could not agree more with your decision to include "sensitivity and responsiveness to ...the world" as part of ISU's culture and "a diversity of ideas, peoples, and cultures" as a core value of the university. We especially enjoyed the vision statement, "Students will become well-rounded, global citizens who are technologically proficient, culturally informed, and ready to lead" which recognizes the interconnectedness of technical and cultural learning and leadership. These are the core values of our organization as well.
We know that some say international programs are not in keeping with ISU's practical values as a land grant school. However, we would like to suggest that providing students with more international opportunities actually helps the university meet its land grant mission. By training our students (i.e. the future of Iowa) to think globally we make it easier for diversity to thrive both on our campus and throughout our state. According to the strategic plan, "Diversity enlivens the exchange of ideas, broadens scholarship, and prepares students for lifelong, productive participation in society" - and this statement is what the land grant mission is all about.
In summary, we would like to suggest that the new strategic plan include an even greater emphasis on international opportunities for students, and that specific plans and goals be set. Why not match the initiative of the engineering college and set a goal that 1/3 of all undergrads participate in an international experience? Setting forward-looking goals in this area will help students create, share and apply knowledge. This will make Iowa and the world a better place.
Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to your final draft of the strategic plan.
Staff and two others
P&S and merit staff left out
Strategic Planning Committee,
The second draft of the 2005-2010 Strategic Plan, though very sound overall, was a great disappointment. The heart of the failure, in my opinion, was where P&S staff (and Merit presumably) recruitment and retention goals were eliminated. The message may be unintended but it is quite clear: P&S and Merit staff play no significant roll in the future success of Iowa State University.
Here are the relevant portions of the first and second drafts:
It is clear that the general importance P&S staff has either been forgotten or it has been defined within the second draft. Possibly a model of "trickle-down" retention and recruitment is implied. Again, in all cases, the message is clear.
ISU provides students opportunity to achieve their goals; the faculty (departments and colleges) are the rungs on the ladder of higher achievement and they must be strong. The P&S and Merit staff are the stiles that support the rungs, they must be strong. There are many analogies but the theme is always the same: the sum is greater than the parts, where one part fails the whole system fails.
Assess quality with creativeness
Goal: Recruit and retain outstanding faculty who are or will be leaders in their fields.
Measure: Number of books, refereed articles, book chapters, and reviews published.
"Advancing land-grant" vague
Much appreciation is due to all of those who have worked so hard on the strategic plan thus far - thank you!
While I certainly agree with those who say that the second draft is an improvement, I think further improvements can be made. To be specific:
"The land grant ideal" is not fully spelled out. "Accessibility" and the teaching of "liberal and practical subjects" are the only substantial elements in the text in the yellow box. This doesn't seem to get us very far, yet the phrase "advancing the land grant ideal" is at the heart of the vision statement, replacing the phrase "educating students" in the first draft's aspiration statement. I find the vagueness of this phrase very troubling.
I also note that "be one of the world's leading universities in..." is replaced by "be the best at...." I believe that the "best" rhetoric has impeded this university's progress and should, at the very least, be muted.
Moving to page two: the first of the listed priorities seems to concern teaching/undergraduate education, and the second, research/graduate training. But there are no measures to show how teaching will be developed, recognized, or rewarded. Why is it that faculty salary by rank, and survey of faculty satisfaction, are measures for research but not for teaching?
I think that the "Balanced Scorecard" model that Brad Shrader presented at the Presidential University Lecture this week could well be applied to the first two priorities in the strategic plan. Just as stockholders' views are not the only measure of corporate vitality, Brad said, research measures are not the only way to gauge success at a university. The elements of the "Balanced Scorecard," including rewards for excellent performance, for innovation, faculty growth and learning, and student satisfaction should be integrated into the measures for Priority 1.
With sincerest appreciation for all you are doing -
Iowa State IS the land-grant institution
Current strategic plan draft wording:
The Land-Grant Ideal
Here is the way we addressed that issue on the historical sign near Beardshear:
Strengthen the library
We have all heard the quote that a great university has a great library. I found the following reference while researching scholarly communication and it speaks directly to the preceding statement, I quote: "Comparing the reputational rankings of America's 25 greatest universities with the Association of Research Libraries rankings of its membership, the one-to-one relationship between reputational ranking and library quality is there for all to see."
Access to scholarly information is the foundation upon which excellence in teaching, learning and research are based. Given the importance of the library in supporting the work of outstanding students and faculty, as a faculty member and as Chair of the University Library Committee, I strongly recommend that the following goal be included in the list of goals under: Increase the number of graduate, professional and research programs ....
Goal: Building a library that strengthens scholarly and research excellence.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment upon our strategic plan
Information sources "vague"
I commend the strategic planning committee for its hard work. I have three main suggestions on the second draft.
Environmental issues lack visibility
To the members of the strategic planning committee:
ISU Greening (a consortium of students, staff and faculty of ISU working to "green" Iowa State) was very pleased to see the "green" campus goals in the 4th priority area of the strategic plan -- we thank you for your leadership in integrating this concept into the strategic plan.
We remain very concerned about the overall lack of visibility for environmental issues in the current draft of the Strategic Plan. The mark of our time seems to be a disconnection between environment and society. The imminent challenge of our future will be re-integration of those concepts into how we approach solving problems and designing new technologies. We strongly encourage you to embrace the challenge of re-integration of environment and society into a goal for excellence in student education and university programs.
ISU Greening supports the comments submitted regarding using water quality as common ground for how this could be approached. Additionally, we would to provide the following goal suggestion for providing more robust attention to this very important issue:
"Provide strong environmental leadership for Iowa and become a national leader in integrating environment, education and entrepreneurial activity for students, faculty, and stakeholders. "
Promote faculty, departments
I am writing to ask that you consider the addition of a simple but extremely important goal to the strategic plan. I am convinced that this simple goal will dictate the success or failure of a number of the other goals and priorities currently laid out in the plan that are related to educational excellence.
Old goal: Develop, recognize, and reward excellent teaching.
Revised goal: Develop, promote, and reward faculty and departments who participate in interdisciplinary and experiential teaching, research, and service.
Will it inspire stakeholders?
When it is all said and done, will our new ISU strategic plan inspire all of us stakeholders, as:
Good luck with your work. Thanks for the opportunity to participate.
Include P&S, merit staff
Under the last priority, second goal: Do P&S and merit staff in non-academic departments consider themselves members of the 'academic' community? Should it say 'university' community?
Under the last priority, fourth goal: Is 'green' slang and should we use slang in an official document? Also, to some, it has a negative connotation of extremism.
Many of the stated measures don't measure outputs, but rather inputs -- which do indicate how important something is to us, but not how well we're producing or achieving. Also, I agree with many of the comments that sheer numbers are no indication of quality.
Too much emphasis on diversity
I normally have not involved myself in reviewing or commenting on strategic plans. I have been happy to focus on my work and doing it well. However, all of the emphasis placed on the strategic plan has called my attention to it this time.
I am happy with most of the plan. I do not know if it is possible to delineate more specific action steps at this time. Many of the items seem to be an affirmation of items which I would suppose are already in place. If there are particular new initiatives, maybe something could be done to highlight them as they represent new directions for the university.
However, one thing troubles me about the current plan. It seems to me that there is an inordinate amount of emphasis on diversity. I have been hearing about "diversity" here at Iowa State for probably 20 years now. I generally support the concept as applied to cultures, but all of the attention given to it recently blows it out of healthy proportion at least in my mind. I support noses on faces and assume that there is generally one to every face, but an inordinate of focus on the nose (or any other feature) neglects or distracts from the many other worthwhile features. That is my concern with what seems to be an inordinate focus on diversity in this draft of the plan.
I can see listing diversity among the "Core Values". I don't think I would list it so high, i.e., before intellectual freedom.
I don't know that diversity needs a special mention as the third goal under the first priority, but I can accept it.
I don't agree with listing diversity as the first goal under the fifth priority. Perhaps it can be moved down to the third position.
I especially find it curious (maybe to the point of grotesqueness) that diversity is listed specially under Mission. It really seems strange to mention it there or to have to mention it there. I thought the main mission was education. Broadening our perspective is one component of education, but I was not aware that we had been so "un-diverse" that diversity rated a special mention.
I think the reason I find myself reacting to this repeated emphasis on diversity is that it seems that "diversity" has been co-opted to refer specifically or primarily to "diverse" sexual orientation. Many of those "orientations" are in conflict with my religious beliefs. So while religion has long been in the list of characteristics that the university does not discriminate against, the addition of sexual orientation to the list and its continued place of prominence in "diversity" discussions leads to a bind. I don't see how the university can have it both ways.
I fully believe in non-discrimination of the basis of inherent factors which clearly include race, color, age, national origin, sex and disability. There is nothing the individual can do to change their status. But I do not automatically find it necessary to forbid discrimination according to status when that status is associated with a choice. While I do not support discrimination based on religion, marital status or veteran status, I could see a case made for it in certain situations. I know there is plenty of argument that sexual orientation is not a choice but an inherent factor. I have not found the evidence of it being an inherent factor to be compelling.
But now, nearly every time the "diversity" issue is raised, I sense the issue is really about accepting "alternate" sexual orientations and lifestyles. Like I said, that is in conflict with my religious beliefs. So, as the university seeks to facilitate an environment accepting(?) of those lifestyles, I find my beliefs and myself marginalized. The university climate has seemed less than accepting of my views for some years. The university is practically telling me that my beliefs are no longer valid or welcome in such an "enlightened", diverse atmosphere. This is particularly troublesome because I had not considered mine to be a minority position.
I can accept the normal non-discriminatory approach of "don't ask, don't tell". Some factors have no necessary bearing on our roles at Iowa State. The issues need not be raised and we can proceed in a collegial fashion ignoring such distinctions. I have learned or assumed that my religious ideas were not to be part of my workday activities. If I were to bring them up or persist in bringing them up, I might well be accused of proselytizing. However, the alternate sexual orientation community appears to be able to proselytize at will. Somehow that does not seem consistent with academic freedom.
Therefore, I find the frequent and prominent mention of diversity to be troublesome. I suggest it be scaled back and the paragraph be cut from the Mission.
4-H deserves a place in plan
Thanks for the opportunity for input. It is a difficult and tedious process to include so many voices but well worth it as it will be more likely to be embraced by all:
*By referring to Cooperative Extension are you meaning all of Extension Services or only the USDA funded portions? Will this be clear to the general public? Would University Extension be better?
In general, I believe the first priority will appear to be your most important so I think it needs to be clarified and streamlined a bit and organized in an easy to follow fashion.
Boldly engage science and technology with social sciences, humanities, arts
As many have already said, I want to compliment the committee on this second draft. Many of the issues/recommendations that I and others sent to you have been incorporated on this second draft.
The comments/suggestions that I have are few...
Comments on Strat Plan 2nd draft
I feel strongly that decisions for the university should be made by university people but I am grateful for the opportunity to submit a few thoughts for consideration. I will keep my remarks very brief and focused on the few points I think relevant.
Overall thought- I got the feeling, from the drafts and comments, that the direction is to make sure everyone is included, no one offended, and be everything to everyone (A very broad statement, I know). None of the organizations that I have consulted to-Delta, Bell South, Navy, CIA, Non-profits, or Technical organizations found that to be a successful strategy. A university is no different. You should have a clear mental image of the organization and where its going and how it will get there after reading the high level strategic plan. Can you do that?
Send your comments on the first draft of the plan to strategicplan by Oct. 29.