Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

Comments on Strategic Plan draft, Oct. 25

These comments refer to the second draft of the Strategic Plan for 2005-2010. The plan was released Oct. 11.

Outside organization

Plan would bring 12% improvement


It was interesting to learn below that ISU is soliciting public comments on its "new" strategic plan, which was released on Oct. 11 -- and that comments must be submitted by Oct. 29.

Before Iowalive professionals become involved in any matter, an assessment is made to determine if any significant favorable results would be achieved, as a result of any Iowalive effort expended.

With our regrets, please be advised the assessment showed ISU minds are fixed and there is no intention to change the plan to add metrics or objectives Iowalive or anyone else would suggest. For example, ISU performance would not be measured by the growth in the number of jobs offered its graduates, nor the average value of the job offers. These are the core measures of a university's existence -- which show how the university is serving its customers.

Neither would the university consider it to be a priority to raise its operating efficiency from a dismal 31%, to above 50%, which would be a respectable, but not great, level. See the table and take special note of Kirkwood Community College. To learn how the numbers were derived, visit website: and then visit with Kirkwood officials to learn how they manage and operate -- and then listen to Iowa farmers and the ISU College of Engineering.

It is Iowalive's projection that ISU's customer value will be improved by about 12%, as a result of this plan. 30% improvement should be the minimum value for improvement -- to justify pursuit of such a plan. If anyone at ISU claims to have better numbers, please submit them for evaluation and comparison.


Define quality

In the strategic plan for 2005-2010 under the 2nd priority, 2nd bullet under the goals it states:

Increase the number and elevate the overall quality of graduate students.

I think it would be appropriate to identify what "quality" means in this statement. It leads to a vague interpretation.


Add Iowans

Here of my thoughts. Thanks for listening. Mission, paragraph just before Culture, last sentence add what is in red. The University reaches many people of all ages beyond the students through Extension outreach programs. "Diversity enlivens the exchange of ideas, broadens scholarship, and prepares students and the people of Iowa for lifelong, productive participation in society." Thank you for moving "The Land-Grant Ideal" toward the beginning of the document. Vision, first sentence "Students and Iowans reached through outreach programs will become . . . and ready to lead." Last Priority What about Extension offices in each county? Are these part of the "university" in this priority. Will county offices be included in the measures listed for this priority?


Think more globally

Dear committee --

Your second version is much improved. Thanks for your hard work.

There is still a little too much inward, Ames-only focus, traditional University thinking, especially in considering our state and nation wide delivery system available through our Extension division, as well as global internet technology to link students anywhere, anytime.

Under Priority #1 Strengthen .... to enhance students success.....

Additional goal:

  • to improve offerings of distance education classes and certificate programs to students across the Iowa, USA and the world. (of course using differential tuition rates!)
  • diversify our for-credit learning delivery systems to include more week-end, 1 week seminar, combination delivery style courses to meet the needs of today's adult learners and how they wish to learn


  • number of students, classes, programs and graduates that participate in creative delivery system


Remove the measures

there is one recurring comment that I am hearing about the second draft that I would like to pass on. Several faculty have indicated that they are not pleased by the inclusion of measures in the priority sections. Several reasons are given.

1. They are confusing. Since the individual measures do not align with individual goals, it is hard to understand what they relate to.

2. The goals will have to be met by different groups of people, with particular expertise. Should they not be the ones to suggest which measures are the best to make? The committee does not have the expertise to make that decision in many cases.

3. They clutter up the plan. One goal was to have a clear, short plan statement and the measures appears to be returning us to the world of fine print and confusing details.

I suggest that the committee seriously consider removing the measures from this plan and putting them into a separate, operations/implementation document.


Placement inappropriate

The placement of the diversity statement is inappropriate.

What goals go with what measures?

How do "critical thinking" and "communication skills" differ?

In the last priority - delete the word "green":

Promote a university that conserves resources and enhances environmental quality.

"Environment" has been called out several times - delete "Maintain attractiveness of campus and improve the quality of its facilities"


Add salaries to measures

I think the second draft of the ISU Strategic Plan is very well crafted, and I can see all areas of the university fitting into one or more of the priorities. I also think that the average faculty salary by rank is a useful measure of our progress in implementing the plan -- clearly, faculty must be competitively paid if we are to conduct important research and recruit and retain quality grad students.

I believe a measure of the competitiveness of staff salaries can also be useful in tracking our progress under the Strategic Plan. Because the AFSCME contract doesn't allow much flexibility in this area, I'm mostly referring to P&S salaries, where the university has much greater flexibility (and responsibility).

Recently, Dr. Geoffroy mentioned that he believes P&S salaries can be compared to the labor market most effectively by segment -- for example, just IT salaries, or just the student services sector. This method could also be incorporated into the Strategic Plan's measures -- I would suggest adding the following measures under each priority:

Priority - Strengthen undergraduate, graduate, and professional education to enhance student success at and beyond Iowa State University. Measure: Average student services staff salaries compared to Peer 11 and/or appropriate (Iowa, Midwest?) market

Priority - Increase the number of graduate, professional, and research programs that are among the best - - especially in areas that build on university strengths and address critical needs and opportunities. Measure: Average salary of research and research support staff compared to Peer 11 and/or appropriate (Iowa, Midwest?) market

Priority - Translate discoveries into viable technologies, products, and services to strengthen Iowa's economy. Measure: Average salary of Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and outreach staff compared to Peer 11 and/or appropriate (Iowa, Midwest?) market

Priority - Partner with Iowans to enhance the state's appeal as a place to live, learn, work, and play. Measure: Average salary of Extension staff compared to Peer 11 and/or appropriate (Iowa, Midwest?) market

Priority - Ensure that the university is a great place to learn and work. Measure: Average salary of facilities staff compared to appropriate (Iowa, Midwest?) market.


Plan informative, not captivating

For the most part I find the 2nd draft visually more appealing by virtue of the lay out and aesthetically more appealing because of the content and juxtaposition of goals and measures. I still don't think it's as dynamic as it could be if a few more writing conventions were used that would lend themselves to energy or positive action, such as the use of participles as I note below. As a member of the audience I find the plan informative but not captivating. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

In expanded vision: The spirit of Iowa State University will thrive in energy of its people and be evidenced by the creativity of their ideas


Number of new business (not businesses) ventures initiated.

Survey (not monitor) Iowans on their experience...

4th listed priority:

Ensure that the university is a great place to learn and work (add - and fuel education and research)


Second draft much improved

The second draft of the strategic plan is much, much improved. I believe it strikes the correct balance of a striving for broadly recognized excellence and service to the people of Iowa. The document indicates how and where Iowa State can realistically achieve world-class research, educational, and technology transfer programs, but also highlights the connections between research, scholarship, creative work, education, and local and regional quality of life.

It makes clear that a large technically-oriented university benefits itself and its community by producing broadly educated students and supporting strong, if relatively small, programs in the arts, humanities, design, and education.

In contrast to a few of the comments already made, I very much like the phrasing of the document. It is clear, well-written, practically implementable, and free of the rhetorical 'punching-up' that turns many strategic plans and mission statements into flights of fancy that have little to do with running a successful university.

I also like the clear parallelism between goals and measures, and much good thought has gone into choosing appropriate measures. I would, however, second some of the comments that desire even more thinking about not just quantitative, but also qualitative measures of success in research productivity and quality of teaching.


Measures not new

Like many of the others who have commented, I would like to express my appreciation and congratulations for producing a much-improved version of the Strategic Plan. The tone is better, the endorsement of the land-grant mission is clear and accurate, the phraseology is more articulate, the scope is more appropriate to a comprehensive research institution, and the measures are understandable.

I agree with comments that have already been posted urging more confident and assertive language, so I will not suggest additional changes.

I do think it would be helpful if the Steering Committee would address the proposed measures at the forum or other public meetings. Please explain that the measures listed here are not new: the university has been using these "bean-counting" measures for many years. It is possible some of our faculty, staff, and students are not aware that the university has been held accountable for these goals and achievements to the Board of Regents and the State Legislature for a long time.

More comments

Send comments

Send your comments on the first draft of the plan to strategicplan by Oct. 29.