In January, the University of North Georgia's Strategic Planning Steering Committee, which has been meeting weekly since Nov. 1, will release a timetable of town-hall meetings and other engagement initiatives as committee members get to the heart of their work on crafting a plan for the future of the university.
The committee, a broad-based representation of about 60 faculty, staff, and students from the university's four campuses, is guiding the university through the current phase of the strategic planning process, "Engaging UNG: Planning for Excellence." Strategic planning is a collaborative process through which the university community develops a shared vision of its future and goals.
The committee is co-chaired by Dr. J.B. Sharma, professor and assistant department head of physics, and Dr. Andrew J. Leavitt, vice president for university advancement and professor of chemistry. Starting in January, engaging the university and the community in the strategic planning process will be a major focus for the committee.
"As we seek to provide a high-quality education to our students and serve the northeast Georgia region, it is vital that our faculty, staff and students and the members of the community have opportunities to provide their input and share their opinions," said UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs. "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."
Members of the committee will solicit feedback from their specific constituencies, Leavitt said, and he will lead the efforts to engage alumni, donors and the community.
"A strategic plan without community input is only half a plan," Leavitt said. "Gathering input from people outside of the university will be critical for the committee to develop a strategic plan that best serves the university and our communities."
Dates and times for UNG town-hall meetings will be announced in early January and posted on the strategic planning website, where comments also may be submitted. Sharma said the committee is dedicated to giving people "ownership" of the strategic plan.
"We will be sure that the conversation reaches out to every nook and cranny of our university," Sharma said. "If there is a personal buy-in at every level of the university, it will translate into success over the long term, so it is very important that people have a sense that they spoke up and were heard."
With the April 1 deadline to complete the plan looming, Sharma and Leavitt said they are pleased with the committee's progress.
"I think it's gone great so far," Leavitt said. "The visioning work that we've done this fall has created a solid foundation for us to move very quickly in the spring to produce a draft strategic plan."
The committee's first meetings were led by Dr. Keith Eigel, co-founder of The Leaders Lyceum, a consulting group that coaches new and emerging leaders. Eigel has master's and doctoral degrees in industrial-organizational psychology and has worked with leaders of a variety of industries and educational and non-profit organizations.
"We were pleased that Dr. Eigel was able to partner with UNG to facilitate the committee's initial meetings," said Patricia Donat, UNG’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "Having worked with emerging leaders within the University System of Georgia for several years, his professional expertise and personal knowledge of our institutions provided a strong foundation for the committee's work."
"By taking the qualities that the committee envisioned in this new, ideal university that we would like to create and looking at these capabilities through the lens of our mission and the USG plan, we will be able to draft a strategic plan," Sharma said.
In January, the committee will split into various subcommittees and work on focusing the strategic themes identified in this fall's visioning process into an initial draft of the strategic plan. Once the committee has established a draft plan, it will be vetted by a "sounding board" made up of people from across the university who were nominated but not selected for the steering committee. The steering committee will submit a strategic plan to Donat by April 30. The next step will be identifying an implementation committee who will begin putting UNG's strategic plan into action.