Town hall addresses proposed strategic plan

The universitys new strategic plan features a greater emphasison science, technology, engineeringand mathematics (STEM)-related programs and stresses theimportance of performance-basedfunding, something that has become more of a reality as state funding has changed shape since the time of USFs 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 plans 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, didnt have enough emphasis on student success.The new plan adopted laser-likefocus on academic success, he said. We realized we werent doing a very good job with student success.The three strategic goals the new plan focuses on include acommitment to student success, fostering research and innovation and creating partnerships to build a future for Floridas economy.Tobin said the universitys goal is to become accredited by the Association of American Universities (AAU), which includes 61 leading research universities in North America, and many elementsof the plan were redesigned to increase AAU eligibility, includingrecruiting 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 graduateprograms, especially in STEM and health-related disciplines, andproviding additional mechanisms to assist students enrolled in STEM degrees to graduate successfully.Its 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 lifes presence in the plan. It scares me that if the strategic plan doesnt 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 thein-class and out-of-class experience,Tobin said. How do we geteveryone working together for (the) students success?The plan encouragesinterdepartmental 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 USFs presence as a major economic engine, according to the draft of the strategic plan.A second townhall meetingis on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 9:00 a.m. in BSN 115.