Strategic plan is not a list, but a framework

The end result of the strategic planning process under way at Iowa State will not be a document that lists all the important activities that occur at the university, Steve Freeman said in opening remarks at a public forum Tuesday in the Memorial Union Oak Room.

Freeman, chair of the strategic planning steering committee and University Professor of agriculture and biosysystems engineering, told forum participants that Iowa State "will continue doing the many things we do to help students, faculty and staff succeed.

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"However, the strategic plan will not document everything the university values or everything we're going to do. The strategic plan is not about what happens on a day-to-day basis," he added. "It’s about priorities. It’s a framework going forward that shows what we intend to focus on and where we should invest our resources to make the university better."

Early input as groups begin work

Two forums (Nov. 18 and Dec. 2) were set early in the planning process so that steering committee and subcommittee members could hear what issues are important to the university community before they begin work, Freeman said. Most groups are starting to meet this week.

Forum highlights

In the Nov. 18 forum, many participants stressed the need for transparency and communication throughout the planning process and asked for more input into plan development. Freeman said the strategic planning groups will work diligently to keep the university community informed about the process and encourage feedback.

A key part of that communication is the strategic plan website. The site includes:

  • Key documents and resources that planners are using
  • Committee and subcommittee meeting minutes
  • A comments section for submitting suggestions or questions to the steering committee or a subcommittee

Planners will make extra efforts to communicate with students via email and social media.

At Tuesday’s forum, participants suggested the strategic plan committees consider such issues as:

  • The need for more space on campus for teaching, research, interdisciplinary work and student activities
  • Creating closer ties between economic development and the rest of the university, and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship among students, faculty and staff
  • Iowa State's continued responsibility as a land-grant to reach out and work with the entire state in areas ranging from economic development to college access

It's OK to stretch

Over the next few months, a steering committee and subcommittees will fashion the first draft of the plan that will guide university activities for fiscal years 2017-22.

Freeman said the challenge in creating a strategic plan is developing measurable goals. "How will we know that we're better off five years from now? How do we measure that?"

He added, "It's OK for our campus to have stretch goals that we might not meet in six years, if at least we've made progress. We don't want the strategic plan to just be a bunch of checkmarks. We should be challenging ourselves."