Higher education institutions generate a wealth of data that can be used to improve student success, but often the volume of data and lack of analysis prevent this data from having the impact it could have. “I think it’s hard for the general faculty population or administrator population to really have a handle on the data that is really driving decisions,” says Margaret Martin, Title III director and sociology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University. “They don’t get a chance to see it or they just get very infrequent information about it. So there may be too much data, but it’s often not communicated effectively to people in ways that are both understandable and useful to them.”
When you think about your school’s strategic plan, what words come to mind? Academic exercise? Waste of time? Dust collector? Paper weight?
When John Pyle was vice president at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, one of his goals was to focus the campus’s energy on implementing the operational plan. “There was a lot of energy once the strategic plan was developed, but we kind of lost steam in implementing the operational plan,” he says.
The current conditions for leadership development in academe are less than optimal. More often than not, academic leaders come from faculty ranks having been asked to assume positions as department heads/chairs or even deans having had no previous administrative experience. The individual has opportunities for development, but not on any long-term or ongoing basis.
When done correctly, a strategic plan provides an academic department with a definitive blueprint. When done incorrectly, it’s an unpopular waste of time. Dr. Anne Massaro of Ohio State University shares strategies for making strategic planning more relevant for faculty, and for ensuring that once the plan is complete, it doesn’t sit on a shelf collecting dust.