On Friday, the University of North Georgia (UNG) announced the members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) who will guide the university through "Engaging UNG: Planning for Excellence," the next phase of the strategic planning process. The committee, which will meet on a weekly basis beginning Nov. 1, contains broad-based representation of faculty, staff and students from the university's four campuses.
Strategic planning is a collaborative process through which the university community develops a shared vision of its future and goals for the university. The strategic planning process helps the university determine how to best meet regional needs and ensures that UNG continues to provide an academic and developmental experience that is relevant to the mission of educating globally prepared citizens.
"Our university has a major impact on the economy, workforce and culture of this region, and we need to be both responsive and proactive in meeting the needs of the state, this region and the country," said UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs. "Our goal is not to become like every other university, but to embrace the challenges we face and to build upon our strengths to be stronger than the sum of our parts."
The committee, chaired by Dr. J.B. Sharma, professor and assistant department head of physics, and co-chaired by Dr. Andrew J. Leavitt, vice president for university advancement and professor of chemistry, will develop and recommend a plan that will identify institutional priorities. The recommended plan must be submitted to UNG Provost Patricia Donat, who also serves as vice president for academic affairs, by the end of the spring 2014 semester. In spring, the next step in the strategic planning process will be identifying an implementation committee who will begin putting the plan into action.
The committee members were selected by Sharma, Leavitt, and Donat, in consultation with supervisors. Six student members were selected by the Office of Student Affairs to represent all four campuses. Some 130 people were nominated or expressed interest in being part of the SPSC, and those who were not chosen still will have a role in the process through additional town hall meetings, sounding boards and other means, Sharma said.
"The process is as important as the product here, because there has to be an ownership of this plan," Sharma told a group during a recent town hall meeting. "If we all can own a vision together, that will inform our conduct for this great opportunity."
External stakeholders like alumni, businesses, schools and the community will be engaged through a separate, committee-driven process.
The announcement follows a series of town hall meetings held in recent weeks on all four UNG campuses to explain the strategic planning process and go over the timeline. The meetings also allowed students, faculty and staff to ask questions and provide feedback. Some 75 people participated in the town hall meetings, suggesting priorities such as technology, faculty and staff development, communication and transparency in the planning process and remaining focused on students. Themes of collaboration and unity also emerged during the meetings.
"I think the outcomes will take care of themselves in terms of the collective wisdom of all of the campuses of this great university. I think we'll do great things together," Leavitt said. "To me more than anything else, the process offers the opportunity to begin to build unity, to build a university community while still recognizing and celebrating the four distinct campuses and the cultures of each one of those campuses."
The formation of the committee is the next step in a process that began in fall 2012 with an environmental scan. For several months, teams of faculty and staff, coordinated by Col. (Ret.) Billy Wells, vice president for executive affairs, have collected data to inform preliminary work to imagine the future for the university and its shared values. The process continued in spring 2013 with preliminary visioning meetings that asked faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members to begin imagining the future for the university and our shared values.
Guided by the university's mission statement, the strategic plan aims to build consensus surrounding the vision for the university and a plan to implement and achieve that vision. As the planning process continues, UNG will prioritize academic and co-curricular initiatives. There will also be a continued focus on the preservation of campus culture and the development of a university-wide community.
"With this consolidation, we now have so many groups to embrace and that's why I think this process in particular is so important," Donat said. "I think if we can model how to work with one another through this process and begin engaging everyone as part of an engaged community, that would be a worthy goal in and of itself."