Strategic plan groups summarize early efforts

The run-up to semester break is a bit busier than usual for the 100-plus faculty, staff and students serving on assorted strategic planning committees.

After break, the subcommittees working on key components of Iowa State's next strategic plan have a little over a month to develop and submit final reports to the steering committee.

Keep comments coming

While subcommittee work is well under way, there's still plenty of time for the university community to have its say in the development of the plan that will guide Iowa State through June 30, 2022, said Steve Freeman, steering committee chair and University Professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering.

Many already have done so, offering suggestions at public forums in November and December and via feedback forms on the strategic plan website. More than 200 comments were submitted through the website over the past two weeks.

"We encourage individuals to continue sending comments and questions to subcommittees," Freeman said. "For those who want to follow the work of subcommittees more closely, approved meeting minutes are available on the strategic plan website."

The timeline calls for the steering committee to submit a draft of the new plan to President Steven Leath in early March. Public comments on the draft will be sought during the last half of spring semester. The new plan will go into effect July 1, 2016.

Subcommittee reports

The six subcommittees provided these summaries of their recent activities.

Student experience

Each committee member completed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to identify key issues related to the student experience. Initial items included persistence and graduation rates disaggregated by race and gender, student learning outcomes, facilitators and obstacles to student learning, and access and availability of support services. 

Research profile

The subcommittee identified four activities essential for strong research at Iowa State and assigned small groups to flesh out details on how to:

  • Develop more coordinated, proactive faculty hiring strategies across the university and enhance collaboration among existing faculty and new hires
  • Grow research expenditures
  • Recruit high-quality graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
  • Develop and implement a plan to enhance ISU’s research infrastructure

Economic development and service to Iowans

The subcommittee received briefings on the activities of ISU's offices of  economic development and industry relations, and extension and outreach. Committee discussions focused on state economic development and service needs, including business and technical assistance for existing companies, training and development for community leaders, collaborative research with the private sector, technology transfer and workforce development. The committee also stressed the importance of alerting Iowans to ISU's economic services and addressing the unique needs of underrepresented populations.

Campus environment

The committee reviewed a variety of documents related to campus climate. The committee will develop a shared definition for a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment and build a broad list of priorities intended to achieve that environment. The original list will be narrowed to a manageable group of ideas that will be fashioned into strategic priorities.

Infrastructure enablers

The committee continues to gather comments submitted through the strategic planning website. Members have been named to liaise with the other five subcommittees to learn how infrastructure can better support the work of the university community. Space -- as it pertains to use, efficiency, safety, staffing, studying, transit, parking, facilities and accessibility -- is emerging as a theme in early conversations; additional themes are likely.

Additional creative oppportunities

Individual committee members have read various documents related to the strategic plan, and shared their summaries. Through this document analysis, members have begun identifying common themes, opportunities, gaps or pinch points. Committee members also are engaging constituent groups to gather ideas and input. Future meetings will generate big-picture ideas that address the themes and opportunities that are identified.