West Virginia University is making great strides on all five goals of its 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future, associate vice president for academic strategic planning Nigel Clark told the WVU Faculty Senate Monday (April 8).

Clark updated the Senate on the plan that reflects the vision and drives the activities at the University. He said WVU has experienced positive change in multiple areas since the plan’s unveiling in 2010.

The plan, which bolsters the University’s land-grant mission, focuses on five goals:

  • Engage students in a challenging academic environment
  • Excel in research and innovation in all disciplines
  • Foster diversity and an inclusive culture
  • Advance international activity and global engagement
  • Enhance the well-being and quality of life of the people of West Virginia

“All five goals are moving ahead,” Clark said.

In addition to the goals, the University adopted three aspirations for 2020: To attain and maintain the highest Carnegie research ranking; double the number of nationally-ranked programs; and groom graduates to be among the nation’s leaders in career readiness.

Clark also noted that individual colleges and departments have instituted their own strategic planning as a result of the university-wide plan.

“Perhaps that’s the most important outcome – encouraging people to do their own planning that is aligned with the overarching 2020 plan, and is focused toward the future,” Clark said.

Some tangible results from the plan and aspirations include: creation of 145 faculty positions, including 61 at Health Sciences, hiring of Chief Diversity Officer David Fryson, the launch of a new School of Public Health, expansion in the Evansdale campus, establishment of the “Mountains of Excellence” initiative and development of the University College – a centralized support system/program to assist students who have not declared an academic major.

“Nigel is doing a great job facilitating our progress,” said WVU President Jim Clements. “I’m proud of the faculty, staff and students for making early progress on many strategic initiatives. We have accomplished a lot and there’s a lot more to accomplish. I’m thrilled with the direction we’re heading.”

Officials rolled out the plan in 2010 after a 40-member Strategic Planning Council, made up of a cross-section of individuals within the University Community, spent several months crafting a vision for WVU for the next decade. The council then developed work groups to look at systems and structures related to innovation, inclusivity, international initiatives and other areas.

A comprehensive website presents progress and archives material related to the Plan; dashboards on the website show baseline data and metrics aligned with the goals.

“One of the biggest strides we’ve taken has been with diversity,” Clark added. “David Fryson, as Chief Diversity Officer, is directly charged to advocate for diversity and inclusion: that’s a landmark in itself, as opposed to incremental change.”

Clark said the plan also has driven the process of hiring of an associate provost for engagement and outreach, which will advance the land-grant mission of WVU.

Also as part of the strategic planning process, the academic deans last year defined “Mountains of Excellence,” five areas where the University will focus its scholarly efforts:

  • Achieving international leadership in radio astronomy.
  • Utilizing shale gas.
  • Promoting stewardship of water resources.
  • Improving STEM education and scientific literacy.
  • Addressing health disparities in Appalachia.

These “Mountains” represent existing strengths and opportunities for growth at WVU and the initiative can only help push the University as an internationally recognized force in researching those areas, Clark said.

The Plan also created momentum for the University College, which will be home to more than 6,000 students who don’t currently have a declared major. Clark said the University College is designed to increase retention and graduation rates, advise students for career success, provide programs for academic advancement, and optimize the first year experience.

The launch of the School of Public Health also illustrates how the University is tackling multiple strategic goals, such as outreach to West Virginia and excelling in research. Some academic departments had formed to lead the pre-accreditation phase of development for the school. One of its missions is to provide primary prevention, intervention and public health research to West Virginia communities and beyond.

Other news from Clark’s report:

  • The Advance program provided research-based information to 70 faculty on unconscious bias and best practices geared to recruit women and underrepresented faculty. It also funded 21 external sponsorship programs for women and 11 for underrepresented faculty.
  • The Blueprint for Student Success, an initiative of Academic Affairs, was implemented to retain and graduate students through its early alert program and resident faculty leader program.
  • Officials are working to identify priorities and goals of global engagement by comparing WVU’s statistics to other institutions and forging educational alliances with inbound and outbound students across the world.
  • The “A State of Minds” campaign will further help the University reach the Plan’s goals. The campaign, with a goal of $750 million, is the largest private fundraising campaign in WVU’s history. Through Dec. 31, 2012, donors have contributed $605 million toward the campaign, which focuses on these six priority areas that align with the Plan: Enhance the undergraduate student experience and global education; advance the research initiative; enable WVU to improve West Virginia’s health, economy and quality of life; foster faculty excellence; enhance WVU through professional and graduate education; and support healthcare through research, education and patient care.

In other business Monday:

  • Faculty Senate approved a resolution supporting West Virginia House Bill 2856, which would add sexual orientation to the categories covered by the Human Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination in employment and places of public accommodation. College of Law professor Bob Bastress said that while the bill itself is dead in the statehouse, it is important for faculty to make a statement supporting inclusiveness.



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