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UVA Board of Visitors Reviews Strategic Planning Process

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Strategic planning took center stage Tuesday morning for the University of Virginia Board of Visitors.  A consulting company hired to conduct an assessment of UVA presented the school's strengths and weaknesses to the board.

The Art & Science Group is a Baltimore-based company that specializes in strategy for universities and colleges. Their study's findings suggest UVA needs to be more aggressive and strategic in order to stay competitive.

The board of visitors heard the results and recommendations from the university-wide peer analysis during their meeting at the Rotunda Tuesday. 

The process for the assessment included seven working groups that involved faculty, staff, administration, and students.  The consultants also interviewed so-called "thought leaders" in higher education and compared UVA with about 10 other peer institutions.

The major piece of advice was that the university should focus on what it's doing well and build on it.

Bill Goodwin, who was elected as the next vice rector Monday night, said, "I think it's an absolutely fantastic first step, but we have more steps to go through.  As we go through these steps, I hope that we refine it down to very specific things that we need to accomplish and also form some kind of metrics to follow those."

Governance was one issue that was not asked about in assessment, but the consultants say those interviewed unanimously told them of about flaws in university leadership.

"I think we should be transparent, so I'm not one who fights it," said Goodwin.  "I think the public has every right and should know what takes place.  I think also the public needs to be mindful that some issues are very very difficult, and there are differences of opinion and we have to respect each other and work through some common solution."

The Art & Science Group told the board that the analysis shows UVA what they can do.  The recommended strategies are as follows:

  • Increase awareness of affordability and AccessUVa
  • Provide a more welcoming visit and atmosphere
  • Strengthen reputation for program quality, advising, and student quality
  • Increase emphasis on global citizenship
  • Most notably, invest in faculty-student relationship
    • Will have strong effect on desirable cohorts

After the assessment findings were presented, President Teresa Sullivan discussed the draft of a strategic plan based on the study.  She summarized the drives and initiatives that have surfaced as some of the most important theme areas from the working groups. The board then gave feedback that will be used to make a final plan recommendation.


University of Virginia
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Sullivan Provides Update on University of Virginia Strategic Planning Process

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., May 21, 2013 - Using preliminary findings from the University of Virginia's ongoing strategic planning process, President Teresa A. Sullivan at the May meeting of the Board of Visitors outlined five emergent ideas that would help drive the University's future.

Sullivan launched the strategic planning process at the beginning of the academic year, and the board is scheduled to receive a draft of the full plan in the fall. The points Sullivan outlined are distilled from planning done by seven working groups – each tasked to examine an area of the University's operation – as well as an outside consultant, and represent the broad actions the University will detail in the full plan later this year.

"The University of Virginia is at an inflection point in its history," Sullivan said. "This strategic planning process gives us an opportunity to re-examine and re-imagine the University's mission. More importantly, this planning period gives us an opportunity to define the vision for the University's future. When complete, the strategic plan will guide us on where we will focus limited resources and how we can best direct limitless energy.

"These strategic drivers represent the broadest recommendations of hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and supporters who participated in this important stage of the planning process. We owe them all a debt of gratitude," Sullivan added.

The Art & Science Group LLC, a Baltimore-based company with expertise in market-informed strategy for universities and colleges, also conducted a peer review comparing the University to other top institutions of higher learning and consulted with a variety of leading thinkers in higher education, including university presidents and technology innovators. The consultants presented the results of that peer review at Tuesday's board meeting.

The five strategic drivers identified by Sullivan represent areas in which U.Va. can build, and would require additional financial investments in order to succeed. The five are:

  • Enriching and strengthening the University's distinctive residential culture
  • Assembling a distinguished faculty and focusing research strategically
  • Making ethical leadership and leadership preparation a common purpose uniting faculty and students
  • Pioneering a pedagogy that produces new levels of engagement and access
  • Developing a sustainable organizational model for academic excellence

These are broad points, each comprised of many smaller ideas, Sullivan said. Enriching and strengthening the University's distinctive residential culture, for example, includes concrete recommendations such as reworking the advising process; enhancing high-impact educational experiences for undergraduates such as research with faculty, service learning, entrepreneurial experiences and internships; and instilling a global sense in the on-Grounds culture.  

Assembling a distinguished faculty includes steps such as reinventing the recruitment process and engaging in world-class development of faculty, while the commitment to focused research could involve creating high-potential, cross-Grounds research initiatives that play on the University's strengths – regardless of disciplinary boundaries – and contribute to the public good.

The University will continue to develop ethical leaders through co-curricular and extracurricular programs, such as the Honor Committee, residential life and student organizations. In addition, the University will emphasize curricular approaches to leadership, with some leadership programs residing in the College of Arts & Sciences or schools, while others will cross Grounds, such as the social entrepreneurship initiative and the Jefferson Public Citizens program.

With regard to new teaching approaches, Sullivan said the University will invest in production facilities and classrooms that enrich traditional in-class activities with Web-based or digital technologies. Also, the University will capitalize on existing research capacity to be a source for new teaching and learning environments within higher education.

The University will remain open to a variety of new collaborations that use technology innovatively, including relationships with Massive Open Online Course developers, and will seek to expand online resources for undergraduate degree completion programs, executive programs and professional master's degrees, she said.

The last of Sullivan's points centers on developing a sustainable financial model that strikes the right balance between state support and market-based tuition. Doing so would include balancing in-state and out-of-state students, continuing to take steps to restructure the University for the 21st century, and recommitting to access and affordability. Such a model would assure excellence in U.Va.'s undergraduate and professional schools, assure a value-based relationship with the commonwealth, create a best-in-class philanthropic development model and allow U.Va. to pursue a program of operational excellence.

During the meeting, Sullivan also described several guiding principles the University will embrace moving forward as it works to implement the final strategic plan. Those principles are:

  • Ensuring the plan's actions conform to the University's values
  • Welcoming opportunities to serve the commonwealth
  • Pursuing continuous improvement as the source of ongoing excellence
  • Making collaboration an institutional hallmark
  • Seeking opportunities to enhance the University's global perspective and presence
  • Leveraging technology for maximum gain
  • Aligning financial resources with aspirational goals

"A truly valuable strategic plan provides a roadmap to long-term success for an organization," said Board of Visitors member Frank B. Atkinson, who is co-chairman along with Linwood H. Rose of the Special Committee on Strategic Planning. "This process will do just that and today's presentation represents President Sullivan's strong commitment to continuous improvement and advancing excellence at this great institution."

"And in mapping that success, it will benefit the citizens of the commonwealth by ensuring that this flagship public university remains in the best position to serve our students, our patients, our thirst for new discoveries and innovation and our economic well-being," Atkinson added.

"An effective strategic plan needs to provide both the broad areas that indicate major priorities and specific targets that provide the actual steps to carrying out the plan," Rose said. "These preliminary ideas set the stage, and I am eager to discuss them with my colleagues on the board and to work with the president and her team once the final plan is completed."

Board members expressed their appreciation for the hard work and dedication of all of the individuals involved in the robust planning process. University officials will continue to refine implementation plans and metrics as board feedback is received over the next few months.  Sullivan will present the full strategic plan to the Board of Visitors for its consideration in August.

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