Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

Comments on Strategic Plan draft, Sept. 13

These comments refer to Aug. 30, 2004, first draft the Strategic Plan for 2005-2010. The draft is very much a work in progress. Still to come in future drafts are strategies and action plans to achieve goals, and measures that will be used to assess success of those efforts.


Engagement should be part of mission

I'm concerned by the fact that ISU's role as a land-grant university isn't mentioned until the end, almost as a historical statement, rather than something that is current, active, and prominent in numerous ways. Throughout the document there should be bullets/examples which set forth clear and concrete goals/visions for the "sharing of knowledge with people throughout the state." Mission - If an average person read the items under the mission statement, they would have no reason to think ISU does any kind of educational work besides work with for-credit students. The "Engagement" portion of the Land-grant mission is really not reflected here. When it comes to sharing knowledge to make Iowa a better place, the outreach work that Extension does with audiences that are not enrolled-for-credit students is a huge element that should be very visible in the strategic plan. Likewise under "Aspiration" -- the "can-do" attitude should not exist on campus only, but should be spread from the campus to all the citizens of the state. Instead of just referring to "partners" or "collaborators" (which implies institutionalized partners - government agencies, businesses, etc), it would be ideal for this statement to reflect a partnership with the citizens of Iowa -- involving ordinary citizens in educational and research efforts to make Iowa and the world a better place. That citizen involvement is not only a passive element ("recipients" of education, or "subjects" of research), but an active one - citizens should be (and are) involved in setting the direction of research efforts and outreach efforts. Just as students (both graduate and undergraduate) and their academic programs are specifically mentioned, and research is specifically mentioned, it would be appropriate to specifically refer to Extension as a primary outreach mechanism used by the University to spread knowledge and technology to the people of the state. Of the four "Priority Areas," both #3 and #4 seem to be logical places to emphasize the University's outreach beyond "for credit" students. Additionally, when the University is appropriately engaged, students benefit from service learning and/or real-life-community experiences such as those provided through "Life in Iowa." The reference to "experiential learning" doesn't adequately reflect that valuable advance which the university has begun in the past few years. A better phrase might be "community-based learning and service opportunities." (That would not necessarily take the place of the bullet which refers to experiential learning - they are different things, and both very important.) It has been my impression that the University values every opportunity to connect with the citizens of Iowa. If that's the case, then when an average Iowa citizen reads the strategic plan document, they should be able to see clear ways in which the university does connect with their lives and their local communities.


Programs for high-ability students narrows focus to few

Please consider the following revisions for the proposed Mission Statement: Share Knowledge through outstanding learning-centered undergraduate, graduate, professional, and Extension programs. (Omit distance learning as this is a delivery method rather than a form/level of education. It is too specific for the intent of this statement. Distance Education is not an appropriate substitution for continuing education programs for degree and non degree education offered by the university.) Make Iowa and the world a better place by supporting programs that build leadership, improve understanding of the world and it's diversity, and apply knowledge in ways that improve the quality of life. Goals: Are you sure you want to put funds in the direction of enhancing programs for high ability students? This seems like a statement that would narrow the focus to a tested academic few. Can you do this when the University is currently looking at low enrollment programs and considering their elimination. The mission statement should reflect the idea that we are looking for students with the interest in growth and opportunity to gain skills and direction to make an impact on their chosen area of interest. Leverage the university's areas of strength and emerging needs of the state and nation to achieve preeminence in interdisciplinary research. Omit bioscience, material sciences, information sciences. This may not be appropriate by 2008. Omit the last bullet with Enhance the quality of life on campus and throughout Iowa. It is too narrow and already covered with the first two bullets.


Improving rigor of programs should take priority

Thanks for providing the opportunity for input on the draft Strategic Plan. I have one comment and one proposed addition.

Under the first priority, the first goal is to "Improve the rigor and challenge of all undergraduate programs..." while the fourth is to "Increase the percentage of students from all backgrounds who complete degrees." While it is theoretically possible to achieve both, there will be many instances where these goals conflict in practice. I would make it clear that the first goal has the higher priority, and that increased graduation rates are not to be achieved at the cost of less rigor.

Under the fourth priority, I would add a goal to become the primary source of objective information about issues of public policy and public concern facing Iowa and Iowans. Iowa faces a number of issues that provide an opportunity for faculty and students in many areas (including, but not limited to, those in the social science and arts and humanities) to make major contributions. This would be fully consistent with the land grant mission, would help to distinguish us from U of Iowa, and would constitute a valuable service to policymakers and taxpayers.


Add Extension to mission, goals

I hope the Stategic Plan for ISU is revised to reflect not only teaching and research, but also Extension as an integral part of the university. Specific suggestions include: revise the second point under the mission to read: Share knowledge through outstanding learning-centered undergraduate, graduate, professional, and Extension programs. revise the third point under the mission to read: Make Iowa and the world a better place by preparing students to be world leaders, while at the same time engaging Iowa residents of all ages in Extension programs aimed at improving the quality of life for all. in the concluding paragraph of the mission recognize that our mission is not only to work with students but all Iowans. as part of the Aspiration...A can-do spirit will permeate campus and off-campus learning centers including county Extension offices as collaborators work together to find new ways to improve Iowa and the world. under priority 2: Increase the number of undergraduate, graduate, research, and Extension programs known as the very best in their field... add a goal ... Capitalize on the 100 ISU Extension office located in every county in the state to address the critical needs of Iowans by fully utilizing the expertise of the entire university. add a goal to priority 4 (enhance the quality of life)

Provide an opportunity for quality life-long learning experiences through a strong Extension program that helps communities, youth, and adults improve their quality of life.

  • core values - additional bullets
    • the opportunity for Iowans of all ages to have quality life-long learning experiences
    • being an engaged university in each county of Iowa

Human capital greatest resource

I would like to comment on what I see as the most obvious omission from the draft strategic plan, and that is anything concerning Iowa State's human capital (which is by far, our greatest resource).

Human resources should definitely be included in the "4th" priority--many of the issues falling under this category would include:

  • family leave, child care, partner accommodation, climate surveys, a civil environment, and conflict resolution. These impact on the quality of life in Ames as well as the lives of every faculty, staff, and student member of the campus community.

Plan tilts from broad-based tradition

Just a few comments regarding the strategic plan draft:

  1. I agree that the focus of the strategic plan tilts too much away from the traditional values of a broad-based institution - and puts too much emphasis on science and technology, technology transfer, and economic development

    The following statement was approved by the State Board of Regents, November 1989 and is printed in the 1998-99 ISU Fact Book.

    • "A common goal of undergraduate education is to assure that all students, regardless of disciplinary major, acquire literacy in science and technology, and understanding of humane and ethical values, an awareness of the intellectual, historical and artistic foundations of our culture, and a sensitivity to other cultures and to international concerns."

    Like many other faculty in the social sciences, arts and humanities (and many of my colleagues in the sciences), I am concerned that if we followed the plan outlined in the first draft, ISU might retreat from the goals of a comprehensive university to become an institute of science and technology. I understand this was not the intent of the strategic planning committee, so I am hopeful that the next draft can return some of this language to the document.

    In a similar vein, the plan talks about creating new knowledge and sharing knowledge - and perhaps this might be interpreted to mean the fostering of cultural understanding and achievement - but many of us work in areas where the word "knowledge" does not begin to convey what our disciplines contribute to this institution - and what education is about. In my area (Music and Theatre) we are not so much about knowledge as about self-expression, creativity, and passing on the greatest expressions of our (and other's) cultural heritage(s).

  2. I am also concerned that the "Founding Ideas" section misrepresents the ideals of the Morrill Act. In every ISU Bulletin I reviewed, from the 1960s through the 1990s, the aim of the Morrill Act is described as promoting "liberal and practical education." Dropping the "liberal" fundamentally changes the history and purpose of a land grant institution. It is the marriage of the liberal with the practical, as I understand the Morrill Act, which is at the core of a land grant institution.
  3. I am very concerned at the emphasis on fueling the Iowa economy. I appreciate and support the comments of Tony Smith, Chair of Philosophy, who sent an articulate and detailed memo regarding this point.
  4. There is nothing inherently wrong with a goal of supporting the "integration of science, technology, arts, and humanities" unless that is the only mention of the arts and humanities. Certainly, these disciplines make important contributions to the institution even in those areas which do not intersect with science and technology.
  5. I am concerned about the statement "seamless transfer of students from community colleges." In my discipline (as in many), the community colleges simply do not have the faculty expertise and curricula to provide experiences for music students so that the transfer can be "seamless." Music students who transfer essentially start over in the discipline - and that is the only way most can be successful in upper division courses. I think this goal of seamless transfer could even conflict with the goal to improve the rigor and challenge of all undergraduate programs. I wonder if these two goals could be combined - so we improve the rigor and challenge of all programs - and also work with community colleges to facilitate the transfer of students from community colleges to succeed in this environment.
  6. I think we need to look at this document through the eyes of a prospective new faculty member whom we might be trying to recruit to ISU. What kind of institution does this document portray? Would we be able to recruit top scholars/artists/teachers to assist with evolving all disciplines?
  7. Finally, I like the statement "continuously evaluating, improving, and evolving all programs." As the chair of an undergraduate-only program - and one that (I think) is a really fine undergraduate program, I have wished for years that there could be recognition that units without graduate programs can also be excellent. In fact, how can an institution be strong without all units being excellent at what they are charged to do. So, thank you for that.

No mention of Extension

I have to express my dismay that there is no mention in the Strategic Plan of Extension or what I have always understood to be the outreach mission of Iowa State University. There is mention of distance education, however, that is only one aspect of outreach education. I suppose you could say we have a role in the third priority but to not mention Extension in any specific manner seems to be an oversight that ignores what is a tremendous asset to the University and to the state of Iowa.


More functional plan, but some concerns

Once being a member of the SP committee '00-'05 as an undergrad. The plan seems more functional, but I do have some concerns. And there the same concerns I had and experienced as an undergrad. "Well instructors' be so pressured to publish while the students are stuck in the middle?" I am well aware that research is apart of the fabric of ISU, but I hope that the students are being engaged in the process.

Furthermore, I hope that this plan clearly translated on the departmental levels'. Also, what will be the measures of this plan(priorities)? What are the benchmarks? Are these peer institutions? Nonetheless, I have understood presidents Geoffroy's vision from the beginning and this SP is the architecture of that. Kudos ISU


Multicultural center needed

These are quotes from the Iowa State University's Strategic Plan 2005-2010.

"Increase the percentage of students from all backgrounds who complete degrees."

"Priority: Enhance the quality of life on campus and throughout Iowa.


  • Increase Iowa's appeal as a place to live, learn, work, and play by working with Iowans to create and use knowledge in ways that enrich the state's communities and resources, and improve the health and well-being of its people.
  • Provide for a well-rounded and lively learning experience on campus including opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to interact outside the classroom, lab, and office.
  • Strengthen efforts to create a community on campus and in Ames that welcomes people from diverse backgrounds."

I have a great idea for creating something that fits all of these goals listed in the goals section of the strategic plan.

On Iowa State University's campus, a MULTICULTURAL CENTER!

With the efforts of the Minority Student Affairs Office, there has been a push for unification and awareness of various cultural backgrounds to the Iowa State University campus. In creating such a center students of various cultural backgrounds, would have a place they can call home. For example, the honors students have the honors building. It has a computer lab, meeting rooms, classrooms, a kitchenette, offices, wireless internet, printing capabilities, couches, chairs etc. It has anything and everything an honors student would ever want in terms of office supplies, study space and hang out space. Without asking the honors students how they feel about it, I'm sure they would agree that they are happy with their building in which they have access and everything they could want all hours of the day and night. In having something similar to this, the students of color would feel like they are important to the university. They would also have more access to collaborating with other cultural organizations therefore putting on larger and more organized cultural events and programs. These cultural events and programs would therefore provide a "well-rounded and lively learning experience on campus" and it would cause greater interaction outside of the classroom. This would be a huge step in strengthening the efforts to "create a community on campus and in Ames that TRUELY WELCOMES people from diverse backgrounds."

In regards to "increasing the percentage of students from all backgrounds who complete degrees" at Iowa State University, a multicultural center would be a step in the right direction. The multicultural center would not solve the problem but it would help students of all backgrounds, especially of ethnic diverse backgrounds, to be accountable for each other. Through having a multicultural center there would be more awareness of various cultures therefore creating a better understanding for other cultures and in turn creating a better environment for students of all colors so they can focus on the real reason they came to Iowa State University which is to get a degree without worrying about racism, discrimination or other unhealthy mental or physical abuse.


Suggestions from LAS administrative group

On behalf of the administrative group of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, I would like to thank you for your efforts in pulling together the first draft of a document that is designed to provide this institution with focused direction for at least the next five years. All of us know the importance of the charge of crafting this blueprint. It is within the spirit of collegial exchange that I am transmitting some observations that reflect discussion at our most recent meeting of the LAS Chairs. Allow me, therefore, to send along some of our concerns that we hope might be considered as you pull together the second iteration of this important document.

  1. Under "Priorities and Goals for 2005-2010," the first sentence mentions a "well-rounded university". While most of us recognize that we cannot do everything, there appears to be very little attention paid to the importance of a comprehensive university. If ISU truly wishes to adhere to the principles and spirit of the Morrill Act, we believe more attention needs to be paid to what constitutes a truly top-notch land-grant university. We need to be able to provide a practical and liberal education that is easily accessible to the general population.
  2. Priority number three focuses on "translating new discoveries". While we agree there is strong merit in this, we are also concerned that this priority, as it currently stands, might promise too much. We should be investigating the most pressing issues confronted by the citizens of Iowa and beyond. If the goal is to do excellent research, we would agree with the goal. It appears, however, that we might be promising results that we cannot deliver. We are also concerned that we promise to "[l]ead the nation in the number of new patents awarded, licenses issued, and successful business ventures initiated". We are concerned that this promises furthers corporatism and limits academic research. This message is troubling. The goal should be research; this section implies that the licensing of patients should be an indirect measure of what we should be doing.
  3. We found statements such as "the creation of new knowledge" missing as a priority in this document. We do think that providing scientifically-based information and solutions to the public, and facilitating their implementation worthy and important goals.
  4. As a group we were troubled by the absence of any reference to the impact of the "social and behavioral sciences". The impact of the social and behavioral sciences is significant and this fact should weave its way through almost everything this university does. This is certainly the case if we wish to have a more informed citizenry on any of the goals that we see in this document. We think that the exclusion of any language acknowledging the social and behavioral sciences extremely unfortunate.
  5. The last two goals found in priority number one are mildly troubling without additional clarification. We need to work with community colleges to get more qualified students into ISU. We are concerned that the statement implies that ISU has an open door policy. We feel that community colleges need to work with ISU to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the transition to a four-year institution. The last goal in that section is too restrictive. If we hope to prepare future generations of Iowans for the changes they will face during their lifetimes, we need to help schools in areas besides those in math, science and technology.
  6. We believe that the importance of attracting and retaining world-class faculty should be a priority. This point is subsumed in the second priority, but we think it warrants a stand alone priority.
  7. We are pleased to see a bullet extolling the collaboration of science, technology, arts and humanities. Once again, however, we urge that statements like these recognize that the discussion should be framed by with references to the social and behavioral sciences.

We would like to conclude by thanking you for the work you are doing. As a group, we send our support and best wishes.


Top programs in sociology, economics, rhetoric need notice

First, let me thank you for the effort you have spent on this plan. It is the third such plan I have seen at ISU and already it is better that the last two. There are, however, a couple of points I personally would like to see addressed:

  1. I know it is minor but the phrase - "can do" spirit - in the Aspiration section is embarrassing.
  2. Technology transfer is very popular these days as it is hoped that the efforts of the universities can pull the state out of its economic slump. Our academic colleagues will argue that the data nationwide does not support that contention, but that is a different issue. The important issue is that economic development is not a top university priority. Teaching, research, and outreach are our top priorities. It therefore concerns me that so much space is directed toward economic development and so little devoted to one of our main purposes of existence, scholarship and the discovery of new knowledge.
  3. Some of our nationally recognized programs are in sociology, economics, and rhetoric. Some of most recognized individual researchers are in psychology. If I was in these groups I would have to wonder what I was doing at an institution that had so little recognition for the social sciences and the humanities. While these are not big research cash cows, they are recognized centers of expertise and the core of our undergraduate educational programs. I would hope they would get some notice in the plan.
Faculty for committee

Globalization key to developing world citizens

The Study Abroad and Exchange Advisory Committee noted the absence of international education as a priority in the first draft of ISU's strategic plan. We wish to emphasize the great importance of recognizing internationalization/globalization as an integral part of becoming one of the world's leading universities. Globalization is at the core of developing world citizens. We ask that the strategic plan include an international vision as an important priority.


Help students find good career

I have a couple ideas as to what I think is important for Iowa State University should focus on for the future planning. All students main goal in college is to come out with a good degree and a good career. I find that since I am graduating this semester the hardest task on my to do list is to find a job. ISU does have a career services and it is very helpful, but I think that they should help students prepare a resume as a freshman and help them get more involved with internships and coops. Also another item that I think ISU should focus on is making college affordable, they have raised tuition every year. An education is a must to succeed in today's society, why make it unaffordable and harder for all students to go to college. Thanks!


Extension makes ISU unique

As an ISU employee in the field, I have a strong bias towards and commitment to the Land Grant philosophy and it's Extension/ Outreach component. These are what make ISU unique among and the envy of other Iowa colleges and universities. The Extension system provides an "avenue", a "unique presence" in every county, a direct link to individuals of all ages throughout the state as well as an established network of contacts with public servants, agencies and organizations at the county, state and federal levels.

The first draft of Strategic Planning 2005 - 2010 does include the Land Grant Philosophy in the "Founding Ideas" paragraph. Otherwise, one is hard-pressed to find any reference to the Extension/ Outreach component in the "Priorities and Goals" section. I would hope this is an oversight rather than by design.

For the past year and a half, a select committee of staff and clientele statewide have been developing a Futuring Plan for Extension. They have identified priorities and goals consistent with the Strategic Planning format and are finalizing implementation strategies. Perhaps the highest Extension priorities could be incorporated into the ISU Strategic Plan? Dr Steve Padgitt on campus and Dr Duane Acker from Atlantic, co-chaired the Futuring Committee.

The budget cuts of recent years have affected ISU at all levels. The Extension Service is struggling to maintain an acceptable level of service to the clientele of Iowa. If the University's Strategic Plan contains no Extension/ Outreach priorities or goals to fulfill it's Land Grant responsibilities, it will be difficult for Extension to obtain the necessary assistance and support from the Board of Regents and our traditional political base at county, state and federal levels. It will be increasingly difficult to maintain a viable and visible presence across the state.

Faculty for a number of Department Chairs

Social, behavioral sciences contribute much

Although there are a number of very positive aspects to the first draft of the 2005-2010 strategic plan, there are also some very troubling ones. We welcome the opportunity to comment on this early draft of the plan, and hope that our suggestions are incorporated into the next draft.

The most glaring problem is the lack of any mention of the need to further build on the successes and strengths of the social and behavioral sciences. The social sciences in LAS teach more student credit hours than any single college on campus. We do so with considerably fewer resources. We also have several Ph.D. programs that are highly ranked nationally. We bring in more grant dollars from federal agencies per faculty than most competing Peer 11 programs (on a per faculty basis). And the numbers on which these facts are based do not include the accomplishments and contributions of other social and behavioral science units on campus, such as the Department of Human Development & Family Studies, or the Department of Health & Human Performance.

Furthermore, our Departments already contribute greatly to all aspects of the proposed mission and aspiration statements. Indeed, we probably fit the overall set of university missions better than any other division or sector on this campus because of our balance of basic and applied research, our teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and our outreach and service activities. That is, we create and share knowledge, and thereby "make Iowa and the world a better place," to a greater extent than anyone else on campus.

Though we do not believe that the primary purpose of ISU (or any university) is to create practical applications, it is also important to note that all major practical problems facing Iowans and the U.S. in general involve social and behavioral aspects. Some examples include:

  • Aging: health, retirement, Alzheimer's
  • Heart disease: smoking, obesity, lack of exercise
  • Homeland security: recent call for a behavioral Center, a call which we collectively examined and determined that we could not currently answer because of a lack of a supportive university infrastructure
  • Suicide: a leading cause of death among adolescents
  • Violent crime: largely the result of developmental, social, and economic problems
  • Outsourcing of jobs, and chronic unemployment
  • The lack of rural economic development programs and policies
  • Access to affordability of basic services
  • The changing demographic profile of the state and the changing set of services needed

Therefore, at a minimum, we believe that "social and behavioral sciences" should be added to the list of areas mentioned in the goals of the 2nd Priority (i.e., the list that now reads "biosciences, materials sciences, and information sciences".

A second major problem with the current draft is the heavy emphasis on technology transfer and economic development, which implies an undervaluing of generating new knowledge for the betterment of life in Iowa and beyond. There is an implicit assumption that if some new discovery or some outreach activity does not result in a new patent, a new startup company, or an easily measured direct economic benefit, it isn't very valuable. In fact, many social/behavioral advances have huge indirect economic benefits; consider the savings involved in reducing violent crime. Furthermore, one could reasonably argue that patents and other proprietary schemes often impede the free flow of innovation and improvement in many ways, are antithetical to the core values of the University, and contradict the ideals of the Morrill Act. Finally, such a narrow focus on technology transfer and economic development necessarily disenfranchises most of the key content areas of the University, including the arts, the humanities, and the social and behavioral sciences.

A third problem is a lack of emphasis on the importance of maintaining a broad-based university by improving the breadth and depth of the faculty. Recognizing that the faculty is both the heart of the university and the strength of the academy, the strategic plan should promote the preservation and enhancement of this investment in human capital. Hiring and retention of faculty should be given a more prominent place in the strategic plan.

The final problem we'd like to mention concerns the brief description of the "Founding Ideas" of the Morrill Act, which seems inaccurate in a couple of ways. First, higher education was to be accessible to all qualified persons, but it was not a right or guarantee. Second, the Morrill Act did not decree that the universities should teach only practical subjects; in fact the very genius of the Morrill Act was its explicit recognition of the need to promote liberal and practical education.

We believe that the first draft is a good start on the new strategic plan. We hope that our comments will lead to improvements in the next draft.


Inconsistency with P&T document

  • Create knowledge through excellent research, scholarship, and creative endeavors.
    • This appears inconsistent with the P&T document. These words are all the same level: scholarship is research; is creative endeavors. Possible:
      • Create knowledge through excellent scholarship in research and creative endeavors.

Also, we had discussions on the future international contributions of ISU. There is no mention of international contributions in the plan even though the mission states "world". Iowa State University's mission is to create and share knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place.


Extension education never mentioned

As I looked at the strategic plan, I agree with it in theory, but as an Extension employee I was a little sensitive to the fact that Extension education is never referred to directly, only implied by saying we want to educate the people of Iowa and at the end with the reference to the Morrill Act which helped to create ISUE. As a land-grant institution, ISU is unique in Iowa with a presence in every county through ISUE. I hope that we don't lose that because there is not a vision that includes emphasis on maintaining strength in that branch of the University.

More comments

Send comments

Send your comments on the first draft of the plan to strategicplan by Sept. 17.