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University Strategic Plans; the same, but different

Now that NC State is starting to work on an updated strategic plan, I thought it would be interesting to review some of the plans from our peer universities.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Try it.  Go to Google and type in strategic plan university of XYZ.  You’ll be amazed by what comes up.  And what doesn’t.

I found the strategic communications plan for my alma mater quite easily (I actually have a copy in my file).  I’ve used the UF communications plan and sections of the plan to describe what we do (or I think we should do) at NC State  since I arrived in Raleigh.

UF does not have a written strategic plan for the entire university, or it didn’t when I left almost a year ago. Each unit (16 colleges ++) develops its own plan. The goals and objectives of the university president are established in conjunction with the UF Board of Trustees and the president reports on his progress toward those goals and objectives during the quarterly meetings of the BOT.

If you haven’t already visited the site, he’s a link to the UF Strategic Communications plan.  It’s good work and well considered.  UFStrategicCommunicationsPlan2009.  You should also check out the University of Florida Communications Network Website (UFCN.)  More good stuff.  http://ufcn.urel.ufl.edu/

To demonstrate the importance of strategic communications planning at Florida, the plan and work schedule of the planning committee can be found on the UF President’s Web site.  http://www.president.ufl.edu/committees/strategiccommunication/ The committee also makes regular reports to the External Relations sub-committee of the Board of Trustees.

Support from the top is critical if a plan is to be taken seriously and by placing the committee agenda, work plan and results on the President’s Web page, the “support from the top” can’t be missed.  Try not cooperating with a presidential committee.

Also found the plan from Virginia Tech, Maryland, Michigan and Illinois easily.  Purdue and Georgia Tech.  Ditto.  Heck, it was even easy finding the strategic plan for Harley-Davidson.  (Again, knew where to look.) Other universities either don’t have a strategic plan or simply don’t call it that because I got frustrated and stopped searching.

There are plenty of interesting ideas in the documents and novel approaches to the planning process.  They are also amazing similarities, especially among the large public land grant universities.  That should come as no surprise, but it makes differentiation very difficult.

Here’s how the University of Georgia describes its mission as a public land grant university:

1. a statewide responsibility and commitment to excellence and academic achievements having national and international recognition; ditto NC State.

2. a commitment to excellence in a teaching/learning environment dedicated to serve a diverse and well-prepared student body, to promote high levels of student achievement and to provide appropriate academic support services; ditto NC State.

3. a commitment to excellence in research, scholarship and creative endeavors that are focused on organized programs to create, maintain and apply new knowledge and theories; that promote instructional quality and effectiveness; and that enhance institutionally relevant faculty qualifications; ditto NC State.

4. a commitment to excellence in public service, economic development, and technical assistance activities designed to address the strategic needs of the state of Georgia along with a comprehensive offering of continuing education designed to meet the needs of Georgia’s citizens in life-long learning and professional education; ditto NC State in North Carolina.

5. a wide range of academic and professional programming at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels; ditto NC State.

And here’s what we say about NC State’s vision and land grant mission:

Throughout all leadership appointments and administrations, NC State has remained true to its founding mission: serve its students and the people of North Carolina as a doctoral and research-extensive, land-grant university. Now, as the university evolves its land-grant mission to respond to the needs of the 21st century, NC State will:

  • Create an innovative learning environment that stresses mastery of fundamentals, intellectual discipline, creativity, problem solving, and responsibility through the active integration of teaching, research, extension, and engagement. ditto Georgia.
  • Enhance its historic strengths in agriculture, science, and engineering with a commitment to excellence in a comprehensive range of academic disciplines. ditto Georgia.
  • Provide leadership among staff and administration for collaboration with faculty and students to ensure educational, intellectual, cultural, social, economic, and technological development and outreach within the state, the nation, and the world. ditto Georgia.

So, as noted earlier.  I’ll be reviewing how many of our peer universities approach strategic planning during the next several weeks, all in preparation for a July 23 University Council Meeting to discuss the planning process.  If you’ve got a favorite plan or an example you’d like to share, please send it my way, and please offer your comments and thoughts about planning in general.  It’s all about communications.

Passion Rules!


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