Strategic Plan charts University's future
Toss out the words “Strategic Plan” and it doesn’t take long before most people’s eyes glaze over. At least that was the perception in the past.
The U of L Strategic Plan is nearing completion and if attendance at recent Town Hall meetings is any indication, this incarnation of the University of Lethbridge mission statement owns a unique feel. Strong audiences took in a pair of Town Hall events in September, with all facets of the University community represented and engaged in the process.
That’s exactly the response Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Andrew Hakin is looking for as he, Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Nancy Walker and a dedicated planning group are crafting a document that is intended to be both accessible and flexible.
“It’s important we engage the entire campus community, and we do that by finding a way where everyone can see themselves in the plan,” Hakin says. “That’s what makes the plan real - people feel as though they are a part of what is going on, that’s where real change comes from.”
One of the main focuses of this Strategic Plan is to create a document that does not speak down to its constituents with muddled corporate language. Instead, what has been produced is a plan that offers plain language describing clear and concise goals. In all, the draft document is just eight pages in length with straightforward sections discussing “Who we are”, “Why we exist” and “Where we are going”.
The plan introduces goals and missions over the next five years but unlike many strategic documents, does not bog down in specificity. Instead, broader concept ideals are being pushed forward with the anticipation that as the academic landscape changes over the course of the plan, it will have the ability to adapt.
“We cannot create a plan that is rigid and locks the University on to a set of rails as it pursues a specific set of goals,” Hakin says. “We need a plan that can be moved and is flexible enough to respond to all the changes we know will be thrown at us.”
The core of the mission statement is not a radical departure from the path the University has established over the past 40-plus years. Rather, it emphasizes the need for the University to maintain that which it does well, while pushing forward to meet new challenges.
“We don’t want to lose who we are,” Hakin says.
The University will continue to foster its strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs with an emphasis on providing students a personal and supportive learning environment. It will also continue to forge ahead in pursuing original research and creative activities.
The challenges on the horizon include defining the University’s status as a comprehensive institution, thereby continually separating it from other post-secondary institutions in the province that are expanding their undergraduate degree programming. At the same time, the University must maintain its growth in graduate programming and research initiatives in a unique manner that both aligns itself with the province’s other comprehensive universities but also sets it apart.
“We may be grouped with the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and Athabasca University but our challenge is to show how we’re different and how we stand out,” Hakin says. “That ambition rests with the entire campus community and I’ve seen it at the Town Halls and I’ve seen it as I make my way around campus. We have the people to differentiate the University of Lethbridge experience from any other.”
The U of L’s 2009-13 Strategic Plan is to be presented to the University’s board of governors later this year and, pending approval, officially launched in January 2009.