ISU's next strategic plan could resemble a 'to-be' list

The next university strategic plan will look and feel different than past plans.

Peter Dorhout, vice president for research who is chairing the steering committee for the next effort, said, "President [Wendy] Wintersteen has charged us to create something that those who come after us will point to and say, 'Now there was a defining moment for Iowa State University. That's when things really took off.'"

The current five-year strategic plan ends in 2022. The next plan may cover a nine-year period, from 2022 to 2031, and the effort may be realized as more of a strategic "process" than a "plan," Dorhout said. The goal is to have the new nine-year plan ready to be presented to the state Board of Regents before the end of spring semester 2022.

"President Wintersteen wants a plan that's more of a living document, in ways similar to how the university must be responsive to changing times," Dorhout said. "The previous strategic planning effort could never have envisioned how a university would need to keep moving forward in the face of a global pandemic. It's why our new plan should really be a strategic process in which we are nimble and capable of responding to future opportunities and challenges, to focus on excellence."

Joining Dorhout on the steering committee are:

  • Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost
  • Pam Elliott Cain, senior vice president for operations and finance
  • Toyia Younger, senior vice president for student affairs
  • Larissa Holtmyer-Jones, president and CEO, ISU Foundation
  • Andrea Wheeler, president, Faculty Senate, and associate professor, architecture
  • Chris Johnsen, president, Professional and Scientific Council, and manager, Extension and Outreach distribution

Karen Bramow, project manager with the office of the vice president for research, will serve as strategic plan project manager.

Developing the plan

The steering committee held an organizing meeting Oct. 8, led by a charge from Wintersteen.

"President Wintersteen charged us to focus less on what Iowa State should do and more on what Iowa State should be in the future," Dorhout said. "So, we envision that we will be developing a 'to be' list rather than a 'to do' list. In that way, it will be as much a process as it is a plan.

"Our initial thinking is that we would build in regular reviews during the nine-year period of the new plan in which to take the pulse of the process and adjust direction or priority if needed."

A set of core values will be part of the new plan.

"It is essential to state these upfront to inform what comes next and to serve as threads that weave throughout the processes," Dorhout said.

The steering committee is beginning to lay the groundwork for the next plan. Its members are setting up working groups that will flesh out a development process and provide opportunities for input from the campus community and external stakeholders. It is expected that town hall meetings, both virtual and in person, and online surveys will be part of the mix.

Each working group will center around themes or "pillars" of the plan. The pillars still are under refinement, but are likely to focus on students, engagement, innovation and discovery.

"Throughout the nine years, we envision creating a timeline made up of significant success stories that illustrate progress towards what we are striving to be as a 21st century land-grant university -- one that provides access to excellence," Dorhout said.