Iowa State University
Strategic Plan 2005-2010
Comments on Strategic Plan draft, Oct. 22
These comments refer to the second draft of the Strategic Plan for 2005-2010. The plan was released Oct. 11.
Plan doesn't address technological national leadership issues
Although the plan clearly sets ambitious goals for ISU, it fails to deliver the message (the "look and feel") of a university that wants to be a leader, wants to be a national resource, wants to be known for its innovation and is solving the really important problems. The plan very clearly addresses people issues but not technological and national leadership issues. Although people issues are exceedingly important to our mission, the international reputation of institutions that we wish to be peers of (e.g., Berkeley, MIT) have built their reputations more on the latter than the former; and have done so by having an national and international focus, as opposed to a state-centric focus.
These issues can be addressed with a few strategically placed phrases and insertions that "punch up" this intended message. ("old phrase" > "new phrase"
"through collaboration and cooperation"
(Note: Cooperation gives the impression that we are subservient. OTHER entities cooperate with us.)"with honesty and integrity"
"with sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs"
"excellence in all we do"
(Note: Would MIT ever have a goal for their students to be "proficient"? I think not!)
Priority, Goals (Note: These additional emphases are absolutely critical to having a more outwardly looking mission)
"Improve the rigor and challenge"
"...services to strengthen Iowa's economy"
"Strengthen...programs aimed at Iowa's"
"Promote the wise use of Iowa's resources"
(Note: The phrase "work" sounds too common. Faculty don't "work" they have careers.)
"Ensure that the university is a great place to learn and work"
This second draft of the strategic plan is, in my opinion, much more compatible with that of an academic institution, with much more emphasis on broad student learning!
I have a few minor comments:
Priority 2: discusses increase in number of programs that build on university strengths and "address critical needs and opportunities." It sounds as if this refers only to critical needs of and opportunities at ISU and should be broadened to include a global dimension.
Priority 4: The word "play" seems out of place in this document. Can this term be left out, subsumed into the expression "live, learn, and work"?
Priority 5: Instead of calling the university a "great" place to learn and work, how about using a more meaningful term like "supportive" or "encouraging" which more neatly addresses issues of diversity?
Priority 5, 3rd goal: I would change the wording in the third goal to "..opportunities through which to learn, lead, and enjoy." The term "have fun" connects back with "play" in Priority 4 and simply doesn't fit with general tenor of the document.
Many thanks to the committee for all its diligent work to come up with a feasible document!
Add presentations and publications
Under the second priority, an additional Measure category could be strength of undergraduate research experiences, measured as semesters of experience, publications by undergrads, presentations by undergrads, etc.
Congratulations to the group that revised the draft. It is much improved.
My suggested changes are in UPPER CASE. Text that I suggest be removed, is in brackets with the word [REMOVE...].
I hope that this contributes to a stronger document
"Engagement" would suggest partnership, sharing
Similarly to others who have commented, I believe the second version of the plan is much improved over the first version. Here are some suggested issues for thought. The word outreach, in the second bullet of mission, may have a connotation and denotation that is incongruent with other parts of the plan. For many, outreach implies a model of interacting with society in which "experts" from the University tell practicing professionals the right way to do things. But the bullets under several priorities talk about "partnering" or "collaborating." I think we made a wise decision in the current plan to discuss engagement.
To me, engagement has better connotations and a better denotation. It suggest partnership and sharing.
Not all of the bullets under priorities match with measures. Other comments have pointed this out. Here are some examples. What measures the rigor and challenge of all academic programs? Is the data from the National Student Survey of Engagement sufficiently valid to serve as a measure? There are no direct measures of critical thinking or communication skills. There are multiple definitions of critical thinking in the literature and in people's perceptions. Do we have a working agreement on critical thinking that would allow us to assess it?
There do not seem to be measures of awareness of global, cultural, and diversity issues or the "welcomingness" of the environment to career path exploration. I am very pleased and support the increased attention to global issues and study abroad as well as goals about diversity, by the way.
We should not treat learning communities, service learning, internships, research experiences, and international exchanges as ends in themselves.
Each of these instructional strategies can be done poorly or well.
There should be an emphasis on using these approaches well and on promoting learning from such experiences. Participation rates are one measures, but only a partial one and do not reflect the quality of the experiences.
There do not seem to be measures that assess excellence of teaching.
I think the issue of match between goal and assessment applies to most of the priorities. As others have commented, I think we need to assess quality in some of the measures as well as numerical measures. I recognize that this is difficult to do. But we should not be over simplistic. In addition, context needs be considered if measures
are applied to departments and departments compared. The playing field across the University is not even nor should it be. But the productivity of a department is not simply under the control of the department.
Include goal on partnering more with industry
The gist of the benefit of encouraging policies that grow the amount of industry-sponsored research is that it is a means to "translate discoveries into viable technologies, products and servicesb&" and should include a goal and a measure related to partnering more with industry in research. When our faculty, staff and students participate in industry sponsored research, the benefits are numerous and include accelerated economic development because the infrastructure for doing this already exists, advantage of sponsor's knowledge being gained by us, collaboration with focused industry researchers, and exposure to important practical questions. A suggested modification to the plan follows.
Send your comments on the first draft of the plan to strategicplan by Oct. 29.
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