By Isaac Sims-Foster
Over the next decade, big changes can be expected in the fabric of the University’s status quo, with this goal in mind: “To flourish, to achieve its vision, to become all that it hopes to be, an organization’s special features are helpful, its distinctiveness separates it from the crowd, but its strategic advantage(s) are most critical to its ultimate success. Rise above the day to day and the year to year. Imagine boldly,” says the webpage of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, which was established last September.
In early March, this committee, dedicated to the next decade of changes at the University, released its interim report to the broader Puget Sound community for review. The committee consists of affiliated faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees recommended by multiple leaders of the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound’s (ASUPS) legislative and executive bodies.
This interim report, found on the University website, comes from the five “Goal Teams” of the long-term project, each with different missions to establish new programs and strategies that will affect the University’s future. The biggest proposed changes include a reduction of required graduation credits/classes, a “Pathways” program that would replace minors (unless the department exists only as a minor), and three new physical spaces called “Centers” around Tacoma to increase community engagement.
Goal Team One has been called upon to “advance institutional excellence, academic distinction, and student success,” according to the website. This team has presented three initiatives: “1) Create a Puget Sound education that allows each student to author his/her/their future. 2) Build a scaffold of institutional and curricular structures to respond with agility to social, environmental and technological changes as they arise, and 3) Enhance strengths in graduate programs and increase linkages between undergraduate and graduate programs.” One program proposed by this team suggests the University taking in 100 talented high school upperclassmen to spend their final year of school at the University and graduate with a degree in three years.
Goal Team Two is aiming to “enrich the learning environment through increased diversity, inclusion, and access,” the webpage says. Because diversity is of “high priority” to this team, few concrete plans are listed on their page as more time is needed to properly address the issue. Several mission guidelines that have been discussed are open for public viewing.
“The members of our goal team have truly given of their time and have approached our work with determination and courage, and with generous and generative honesty. Our discussions have been wide ranging, deep, and frank. This work has been and is complex and emotional,” the page says.
The purpose of the third Goal Team is to “support and inspire our faculty and staff members.” This team has posted one large initiative: “Reimagining engagement: Time, Space, and Resources to Innovate and Thrive.” The first order of the initiative is to provide a single, large physical space for faculty to “engage in lifelong learning and professional development” on campus, thereby encouraging more collaboration and preparedness among professors of all departments.
The rest of the initiative is dedicated to changing the status quo of faculty for the better, by creating a three-to-two teaching-to-research ratio to allow professors more time to conduct personal and career-based research, newer and faster methods for staff to attain tenure, and more flexible and attentive compensation that reflects the strain of the job.
The fourth Goal Team has been tasked to “enhance engagement with the community” via the possible investment in three new physical spaces in Tacoma, “which would bring together diverse voices, perspectives, academic disciplines, and resources, including community-based knowledge, faculty/staff expertise, and alumni experience. The goal of each Center is to produce synergies with and through our community with respect to practical needs.”
The Center for Environmental and Social Innovation would allow for the Puget Sound community to engage in local issues and work on problem-solving through partnerships with organizations and smaller communities in Tacoma. The Eastside Community Center is an existing initiative, already supported by many other organizations in Tacoma, that will provide a recreational space for Tacoma’s east side. The Center for Healthy Generations would provide “a day center to support a range of cross-generational developmental needs” in Tacoma, from child care to senior citizen support.
The final Goal Team seeks to “pursue entrepreneurial opportunities consistent with our mission and values that will expand the value of a Puget Sound education, strengthen the institution and our financial position, and enhance our ability to anticipate and respond to technological and social change.” Business ventures under consideration include a leadership institute to inspire and provide people with the tools to impact the world, a service program for students interested in taking a gap year to provide a “meaningful experience,” and a Wellness/Happiness Institute to holistically attend to the tolls of business and school work.
The Strategic Planning Committee Interim Report is available on the University website for a more detailed look at all the above information, and strategic planning update sessions are being hosted throughout April.