Defining the Future: The University of Tennessee Strategic Plan

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The success of the strategic planning process and the plan itself depend on engagement and input from every UT constituency. Every step in the process will include outreach to engage our diverse internal and external audiences. You are encouraged to continue to submit your comments and suggestions through UTALK. Feedback from the strategic planning process is archived below.

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Posted by: skrishna on Thursday June 21, 2012
I read about University of Maryland Baltimore County and thought may be a good system to have at UT. "UMBC keeps undergrads engaged by including them in research typically left to graduate students. Students can also get jobs and internships at one of 76 companies located on campus. Most are technology startups. They get help growing their businesses and tax credits, along with access to students and faculty."
Posted by: menglish on Tuesday June 5, 2012
The UT System Mission Statement includes a call for the UT System to contribute to "the environmental well-being of all Tennesseeans." Why is this laudable mission not reflected in the UT System ADMINISTRATION Mission Statement and its 5-year strategic plan? Other UT System missions, such as fostering economic development, are picked up in Administration's mission statement and strategic plan. Why is environmental well-being ignored?
Posted by: jayprice on Tuesday June 5, 2012
The lack of specific sustainability goals in the strategic plan was a major oversight. As has already been mentioned, a central focus on sustainability is critical to the success of this institution both now and in the future. Real sustainability has social, economic, and environmental implications and should not be overlooked as a passing trend.
Posted by: colters on Friday May 25, 2012
As the chair of the Knoxville-area UT Exempt Staff Council, I reviewed highlights of the second draft document at this week's monthly ESC meeting and encouraged our representatives to submit feedback. Hopefully our group can help communicate about it with our 2,160+ exempt employee constituents at UTK, UTIA (CASNR, Vet Med, Ag Research & Extension), IPS, University Wide Administration, and the Graduate School of Medicine. I sincerely appreciate the numerous references to staff in the document, particularly since that group has been overlooked in other administration’s plans. However, I wasn’t sure whether staff had intentionally been left off the list in the first sentence of the first paragraph on page 3, or if the belief was that the category of “administrators” sufficiently represented them. I did also notice one possible error in the document—-the paragraph at the bottom of page 6 references four groups, but I count five in the subsequent list. I believe the ESC will be especially interested in developments relating to Goal IV, in particular the implementation of Employer of Choice standards and the extension of diversity initiatives. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance with these initiatives or with helping create a “culture of communication” throughout the System. We look forward to seeing the frameworks & dashboard for Years 1-2 when completed next month! -Shane Colter, ESC Chair
Posted by: bwh355 on Tuesday May 22, 2012
I like the inclusion of promoting community relations and having a leadership voice in public education, however, I think the strategic plan should specifically include the goals of developing stronger relationships between the business community and public education at all levels as well as the goal of developing educational pathways for students from high school through graduate school in specific career areas. These programs, designed in partnership with businesses who would, no doubt, help to fund the initiatives will better prepare young people for the labor force and would also provide 21st century life skills. These ideas are not just armchair theorizing on my part. I served as Vice President for the Education Initiative with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and have worked with the Ford Fund as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on these issues. I think UT has an opportunity to fully revitalize the role of higher education in developing much needed busienss and education partnerships.
Posted by: vanfara on Monday May 21, 2012
General Comments from members of the Faculty Senate Executive Council:
(1) There is confusion in that the UT system seems to be characterized as land-grant. We do not believe this to be true.
(2) There is also reference to advancing UT’s stature as a “best on class” university—the system is made of four or five component parts. This statement is confusing. Now we are all ONE university—confusing.
(3) Raising enrollment and graduation rates as well as ensuring achievement and success of students does not seem to be system goals These are areas that should be left to the individual campuses and to the respective missions of the individual campuses. The system should ensure that the individual campuses are addressing each of these areas, but it is not in the realm of the system to do these things.
These four things point to:
(1) There needs to be clear thinking about the value added to each of the campuses by the system. It does not seem like the working committees were able to get a good handle on the distinction between the system and the campus.
(2) There is much confusion (in the first few pages) in not being crystal clear about the use of land grant, UT, and the like. Why does the system not simply say the SYSTEM as opposed to the campuses and more fully recognize the differentiation among the campuses. What does “decentralized” structure really mean on page 4. It is unclear.
The development of innovative academic programs is the responsibility of the campuses. Why is the system getting into curriculum development and coordination?
The system, in the body of the Board of Trustees, approves all tenure and promotion cases for faculty. Why is the system establishing a mechanism for accountability for faculty quality and productivity? Each of the campuses is a bit different in its expectations of faculty—that is why we have Faculty Handbooks and the like.
We recognize the scope of work that is involved in strategic planning. We also recognize that the system can potentially add value to each of the campuses. These goals do not capture the relationship between the system and the campuses and could be potentially problematic—causing tensions between system and campus.
Here are specific comments related to Goals I, II, and III.
Goal I [Enhancing Educational Excellence]:
Increase the number, quality and diversity of students graduating from the UT System and benefiting from its distinct educational portfolio to produce the most capable and best-prepared workforce for society.
1. Raise the UT System’s academic quality, stature and impact through educational excellence and student achievement across diverse populations
2. Drive educational excellence and student performance, raise graduation and transfer rates and ensure a “best in class” student population
[Some nuance here is in order. There is a tension between excellence and graduation rates. A component of excellence is accountability, which by itself can reduce graduation rates. Not every student who enters UT is prepared, either academically, or more importantly, motivationally, to succeed, and to increase excellence, those students need both remediation and consequences for lack of performance.]
3. Establish a System mechanism to ensure campus/institute accountability for faculty quality and productivity.
[Is this a requirement that the campuses provide accountability, or is there going to be a system-level reporting scheme for faculty productivity. I think this should be done at the campus level, not at the system level. This goal should make it clear that the reporting is at the campus, not the system level.]
4. Develop and coordinate collaborative and innovative academic programs that build on the unique capabilities of the System’s campuses and institutes and drive key outcomes and standards defined by UT
[It is important that academic programs be owned by the various campuses that implement them, not by the System. The System should be involved in enabling them, but the ownership of the programs should be at the campus level.]
Goal II [Expanding Research Capacities]:
Develop support systems for System research efforts that solve critical problems and issues, expand economic development and enhance the quality of life in Tennessee, the nation and the world.
[The System should be enabling campus research. It should not be in the business of owning research. This expansion of research capacities should not be to duplicate at the system level capabilities already at the campus level, but to enable adding at the various campus levels research capabilities. All research should be a the campus level with collaboration among campuses facilitated by the System.]
1. Design and implement a strategic business plan for expanding UT research to harness the power of the UT System’s substantial research enterprise and increase its visibility and impact
2. Promote the application and commercialization of UT-sponsored research to improve the economy and develop and expand business and industry in the state
[I don't know the laws behind who owns the research output. If it is currently the campus, then it should not be changed to be the System. If it is currently the system, then yes, the System should also help in the commercialization of it. ]
3. Define standards, measure progress and communicate research outcomes and impacts in the economy
Goal III [Fostering Outreach and Engagement]:
Engage every member of the UT community in outreach, engagement and service to improve communities and the quality of life of residents in Tennessee, with emphasis on economic development.
1. Articulate clearly the role of the UT System in community outreach and engagement and engage all campuses/institutes in this mission
2. Promote and measure alumni and student engagement and outreach that benefit the people and communities of Tennessee
[How does this interact with development? Is the System going to solicit from alumni too, competing with the campuses? I think they should not.]
3. Track, measure and communicate the outcomes for economic development and improved quality of life for Tennesseans through a Strategic Plan dashboard
Posted by: jlee39 on Friday May 18, 2012
RE: Goal III: "Engage every member of the UT community in outreach, engagement, and service...." One of the three objectives listed specifically mentions alumni and students, but is silent on faculty and staff involvement. Is this a purposeful omission? If so, I wonder why. Also, if the intent is that faculty be involved, active, and passionate about engagement, then there need to be incentives in the reward structure, including merit, promotion, and tenure decisions. Otherwise, engagement efforts fall disproportionately on those individuals and disciplines which are characteristically altruistic and other-focused, thus often suffering negative consequences in the traditional merit, promotion, and tenure decisions.
Posted by: jcres on Friday May 18, 2012
I have worked in the capacity of UT support staff for several years. Based on that experience, I suggest that increasing pay scales for the lower rungs of employees might go a long way toward achieving the strategic planning goals. These employees are often the first people that meet and greet potential students and their parents, funders, and members of the general public, and as such, plant initial impressions to others regarding the quality and capacity of the UT community. By raising the overall level of pay, UT will attract and retain better employees, encouraging solidarity and improving morale among many.
Posted by: Laura H on Thursday May 17, 2012
I am very glad to see that a top goal for the strategic plan is increasing student retention. From my viewpoint as a "consumer" - I'm a parent shopping colleges for my TN high school senior - low graduation rates are off-putting. This absolutely must be addressed.
Posted by: gfsmith on Wednesday May 16, 2012
I could not find mention of the Institute of Agriculture, the Space Institute, and UT-Battelle. Where do these units fit into the plan? I also agree with the comments posted earlier about the need to include sustainability and environmental stewardship in the Plan. They will be key issues as we move forward in this new era.
Posted by: mabney on Wednesday May 16, 2012
I think page 11 Strategic Plan Implementation "screams" for a PerfectForms-isk tool. I think having the correct tools will minimized the administrative effort of providing ongoing snapshots and possibly realtime dashboards.
Posted by: ssperaw on Wednesday May 16, 2012
Working on this effort is a positive step, but refinement would be appreciated. Among other things, there is internal inconsistency with reference to our system aims. Do we seek to work for the betterment of Tennessee, the nation and the world, as is often mentioned in the document, or just Tennessee? While the introductory pages indicate that our mission is broad, appropriate to the realities of globalization, specific goals are often quite narrow, referencing only Tennessee or the nation (Goals III and V). If we aspire to have our graduates and faculty expand our system's reach globally, then we must articulate in specific terms our support for and encourage of engagement world-wide. As a system, we must seek to improve quality of life for citizens of the world. If we only encourage and support engagement and outreach locally, we cannot anticipate success in preparing our students/graduates to have global impact (which inludes Tennessee). Our Strategic Plan will drive what we do (and fund) for the next five years, and we need to be consistent in all our words and deeds to prepare students who are intellectually and experientially "ready for the world". We must also encourage, support, and expend faculty time, energy and scholarship to advance the betterment of all. Finally, in Goals II and III, why so much emphasis on economic development? Surely there are other pressing societal concerns that merit our attention just as much, if not more, including social justice, environmental protection, and healthcare access. That these things are not addressed is a serious flaw.
Posted by: matkin17 on Wednesday May 16, 2012
Because of the length of the document, I think it would be great to have a "clickable" table of contents so that people can go directly to a topic. (Also, page 7 is almost blank.)
Posted by: sguffey on Wednesday May 16, 2012
Goal III [Fostering Outreach and Engagement]: Engage every member of the UT community in outreach, engagement and service to improve communities and the quality of life of residents in Tennessee, with emphasis on economic development. Change to: Engage every member of the UT community in outreach, engagement and service to improve communities and the quality of life of residents in Tennessee, with emphasis on social justice, environmental stewardship, and economic development.
Posted by: gbennet5 on Wednesday May 16, 2012
I'm pleased to see that the new UT system mission statement recognizes the importance of the environment to Tennesseans' quality of life. However, it is disappointing that environmental stewardship and sustainability are not mentioned in the draft plan's goal and initiatives. Environmental concerns are directly linked to economic development and the quality of life in Tennessee, the nation, and the world. The UT system should adopt goals and initiatives to incorporate environmental stewardship and sustainability into its education and research, facilities operations, planning, administration and outreach/engagement activities.
Posted by: wyt188 on Wednesday May 16, 2012
Goal 1 does not address increasing faculty lines to accommodate the growing student population. Who is going to teach these additional students? While we can all be more efficient, mega-classrooms and on-line instruction are not appropriate for many courses. Further, improving student quality while retaining diversity requires greater efforts in recruitment and selection processes on ALL campuses. Doing this will help improve graduation and retention rates.
Posted by: aruggles on Wednesday May 16, 2012
Google UTK strategic plan, the list of hits tells a story of strategic plans gone by. Basic services need attention. IT, purchasing, account reporting, cost controls, facility services are all below the standard of top 25. These are foundational, and are in part why we are not already top 25. People must be enabled to perform. The campus is fundamentally not well organized from a geographic and business perpsective. Some unified business model for the UTK campus would be helpful. A proposal involving the Hospital, the Graduate school of Medicine, and the College of Engineering is a nightmare to compose. If you add the Vet School it gets even more compicated. It might be easier to collaborate with other institutions than these pieces of UTK. This is also foundational,and would encourage interdisciplinary activity. The proliferation of centers with separate cost accounting is a symptom of the difficulty in using existing approaches to coordinating business activities.
Posted by: jdmiles on Wednesday May 16, 2012
I don't see the UT Space Institute anywhere in the strategic plan -- what is its status?
Posted by: vanfara on Friday November 4, 2011
This site looks great. Am excited to see what developes and is posted here.
Posted by: Vincent Stodden on Friday October 28, 2011
I look forward to seeing the final plan draft at the end of Phase IV.
Posted by: jhardin3 on Friday October 28, 2011
This is great. I look forward to following the progress on the News & Updates page.
Posted by: sfinley on Friday October 28, 2011
This is a very positive step. Look forward to hearing more!