Town hall addresses proposed strategic plan
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 01:10
The university’s new strategic plan features a greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM)-related programs and stresses the importance of performance-based
funding, something that has become more of a reality as state funding has changed shape since the time of USF’s last strategic plan.
The 2013-18 plan was reviewed by Graham Tobin, vice provost and co-chair of the committee created to craft the plan, at a town hall meeting Wednesday in the College of Public Health.
All USF community members were invited to attend the meeting, though only approximately 40 administrators, including deans and department heads, and some of the plan’s committee members were in attendance.
Tobin reviewed the draft of the proposed strategic plan that will be presented to the Board of Trustees on Dec. 6, and opened the floor to questions.
Tobin said the strategic goals outlined in the plan built upon the previous strategic plan.
But the last plan, he said, didn’t have enough emphasis on student success.
“The new plan adopted laser-like focus on academic success,” he said. “We realized we weren’t doing a very good job with student success.”
The three strategic goals the new plan focuses on include a “commitment to student success,” “fostering research and innovation” and “creating partnerships to build a future for Florida’s economy.”
Tobin said the university’s goal is to become accredited by the Association of American Universities (AAU), which includes 61 leading research universities in North America, and many elements of the plan were redesigned to increase AAU eligibility, including recruiting high-quality students and increasing graduation rates — something USF has come under recent criticism for with a six-year graduation rate of 52 percent.
“If (the budget) is performance based, and the Board of Governors will probably do that, then we will be forced to do something about it,” Tobin said.
Other initiatives for academic success outlined in the plan include promoting undergraduate research experiences, increasing graduate programs, especially in STEM and health-related disciplines, and
providing additional mechanisms to assist students enrolled in STEM degrees to graduate successfully.
“It’s the vision that sets us apart from other universities,” Tobin said. “If we are a member of that it enhances the value of degrees for our students ... A lot of funding comes through STEM.”
But some administrators were skeptical of the absence of student life’s presence in the plan.
“It scares me that if the strategic plan doesn’t say much else about student success, that (Student Affairs) will be hit come budget time,” Guy Conway, assistant vice president of student services and facilities said.
Tobin said that while “the core of the university is the academic environment,” student success lies not only in the classroom.
“The key to student success is the seamlessness between the in-class and out-of-class experience,”
Tobin said. “How do we get everyone working together for (the) student’s success?”
The plan encourages “interdepartmental cooperation to provide a better experience for students.”
Though work on how elements of the proposed plan will tie into resources and the budget is still in progress, the committee is looking on how to maximize resources, after $95 million was cut during the time of the last strategic plan.
“It is a two-step process including taking what we have … and quantifying it. The second step is the prioritizing process,” Nick Trivunovich, chief financial officer, said. “This year we are embarking on a new budget process … we will use the strategic plan to influence the budget.”
The university also hopes to continue improving its research opportunities and maintain its ranking among the Top 50 research universities in the country as well as establish mutually beneficial partnerships, even on a global scale, that will solidify USF’s presence as a “major economic engine,” according to the draft of the strategic plan.
A second townhall meeting is on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 9:00 a.m. in BSN 115.