After the university’s strategic vision for 2025 had been defined, the chancellor asked the provost to establish an Implementation Design Team and related workgroups charged with planning the critical steps toward realizing that fifteen-year vision, with an intense focus on priorities for the first five-year increment of the plan. A list of design team and workgroup members is available here.
Assessing Current Conditions and Designing the Plan
This phase of the strategic planning process had two critical components:
- Rigorously assessing existing operational systems and resources, with the goal of understanding the university’s baseline condition and closing any critical deficits.
- Methodically designing a full fifteen-year strategic plan, with special attention to its first five years, that addresses the areas of endeavor that are central to attaining the long-term vision.
The Implementation Design Team had three primary functions:
- Keeping the planning process on schedule and appropriately focused on the overall strategic vision, and connecting and integrating the efforts of the workgroups.
- Assuring adherence to the five major goals established for the first five years of the plan:
- advance student success and development;
- enrich and expand academic programs and research;
- improve the learning, teaching and working environment;
- establish a financial resource model consistent with the university’s vision statement;
- develop an infrastructure supportive of the preceding goals.
- Developing and maintaining a comprehensive timeline and critical-path chart to monitor performance throughout the planning process.
The team communicated regularly with the provost, the Chancellor’s Executive Leadership Team, and the Faculty Council; it also drew information and support from throughout the university; and its representatives took part in more than 30 campus events at which they spoke and answered questions about the plan and the planning process.
Roles of the Implementation Workgroups
Working with and at the direction of the Implementation Design Team, six workgroups representing critical priorities designed the specific elements of the plan. Their work included a rigorous assessment of the status quo, provided costs and timelines, and also considered whether outside consultant help might be essential to success.
The Academic Planning and Enrollment Workgroup took into account considerable work done, since the 2007-2010 strategic planning process began, on developing and understanding the requirements of enrollment growth. It also responded to increasing interest in UMass Boston’s attaining a higher ranking as a research university and generating dramatically increased sponsored research, which has led to a growing appreciation of the need for a number of new doctoral programs, as well as programs at the master’s level. Its major responsibilities included:
- Developing a targeted enrollment growth and management plan, principally focused on where growth should occur (considering market demand, revenue potential, community good, and strategic planning objectives), in order to optimize cash generation and meet research university objectives.
- Determining what will be required to support enrollment growth appropriately, considering both new and reallocated resources.
- Working closely with the provost specifically to determine how many graduate programs and graduate degrees awarded will be required, what the cost of those programs will be, what they will require in terms of faculty hiring and research support, when they can be implemented, and where they will be housed.
- Coordinating strategic planning with efforts to assess and improve the quality of teaching and learning at the university.
- Developing a plan for establishing an Honors College.
The Additional Investment and Operational Revenues Workgroup began its work with the recognition that refining and implementing the university’s long-term vision would require specifying needs for, and obtaining, substantial new resources. This workgroup’s major responsibilities included:
- Working with the infrastructure workgroup and the Division of Administration and Finance to be certain that the university has the analytic and modeling tools for designing and implementing the strategic plan.
- Reviewing and assessing the ways in which UMass Boston and its aspirational peer universities generate revenues and allocate expenses.
- Proposing immediate actions on appropriate sources of incremental revenue.
- Working closely with other workgroups as plans that include investment needs are developed.
- Aggressively considering both potential sources of external support and internal resource allocations.
The Administrative and Physical Infrastructure Support Workgroup was charged with undertaking a “bold, honest, comprehensive review of all existing administrative, financial, grants management, admissions, facilities and other support systems that sustain operations of the university.” Its major responsibilities included:
- Reviewing all core support systems (considering, for example, IT and library operations, current and planned space availability, enrollment processing, and advising) to assure that they are aligned with the best practices of UMass Boston’s aspirational peers and can support the university envisioned for 2025.
- Identifying and proposing remediation for any critical deficits in operations or support systems that may have resulted from the university’s recent rapid enrollment growth.
- Reviewing and, where necessary, realigning the university’s Master Plan and master planning process to accommodate the priorities and schedules of the new vision statement and strategic plan.
The Communications Workgroup worked to build understanding and appreciation of the university’s aspirations, the process the university is undertaking to achieve those aspirations, the sacrifices and commitments that will be required, and the benefits that will flow to all of the university’s constituents when the vision is realized. This workgroup’s major responsibilities included:
- Assuring a thorough transparency in the strategic planning process.
- Effectively incorporating the strategic planning process and the UMass Boston vision for 2025 into university communications, both external and internal.
The Graduation Rates Workgroup (formerly the Retention Committee) continued to address the reality that graduation rates are, as a practical matter, a measure of the effectiveness of everything else the university does, and are thus central to its strategic success. Its academic mission implied a need to achieve graduation rates that are at least equivalent to those of its aspirational peers, and a recognition that improving rates will require and reflect improvements on many other fronts. While the work done by other workgroups will in due course have a direct impact on graduation rates, much can and should be done in the near term. This workgroup’s major responsibilities included:
- Incorporating earlier work on student success and retention by previous groups, including the Retention Committee.
- Identifying steps to take immediately and over the next five years to improve graduation rates, and assigning costs to those steps.
The Residence Halls Workgroup responded to general agreement among the planners that bringing dorms online sooner than previously anticipated is an urgent priority. The absence of on-campus living facilities at UMass Boston is both a major source of failures to retain students and a major reason for students not to attend in the first instance. Furthermore, there is a broad sense that the presence of students living on campus will enhance the university experience, both for those students and for their classmates. This workgroup’s major responsibilities included:
- Collaborating with the Revenue Workgroup (see above) and the Division of Administration and Finance to understand and propose expedited financing of residence halls.
- Articulating where on the continuum of kinds of residence halls—from conventional dorms to the most elaborate living/learning communities—the residence halls should fall.
- Enumerating all the conditions that must be present before the residence halls are built, and assigning start-up and analytical costs.
The Space Workgroup addressed numerous issues related to the quality and quantity of space on campus. Inadequate classrooms, office space, research space, and social and study space for students—all tend to restrict the university’s ability to support its students, faculty, and staff, and to respond to opportunities for strategic partnerships and innovative new programs. This workgroup’s major responsibilities included:
- Assessing space allocation processes and recommending ways to promote efficient utilization of space to meet current demands.
- Similarly considering ways to respond to the projected demands of 2015.
- To the extent possible, addressing the alignment of the strategic plan with the 25-year master plan for the university’s campus.