(Above: The University Y Student Center against a twilit sky. The facility is just one of many recent initiatives at UW Tacoma that have emerged from earlier planning. Photo by Cody Char.)
UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano recently presented to the campus community, during our October 2015 Town Hall meeting, an update on our newly-launched strategic planning process. Below is a Q&A with Dr. Pagano in which he answers questions about the importance of the plan, and why he is certain that it will guide the operation of UW Tacoma for years to come.
Q: Why are we doing a strategic plan?
A: We are doing a strategic plan because I believe it is necessary to better define the path forward to help us be even better at what we already do so well. The world we operate in keeps changing constantly, and we need to make sure our course is still taking us where we aspire to go. We need to focus our energy to make sure we are all working toward the same set of goals. We cannot possibly do everything that we would like to do, so we need to choose our priorities and decide on the opportunities that will most effectively and efficiently help us reach those aspirations.
Q: Isn’t it difficult to do a plan when we have so many leadership openings?
A: A plan is not a trivial undertaking at any time in any organization. I know of organizations with long-tenured leadership that floundered in undertaking and implementing a strategic plan. This usually resulted in the plan just setting on a shelf. That is primarily due to the fact that those organizations did not have a clearly defined and shared identity and vision, something that apparently not even stable leadership could help them achieve.
Thankfully, we are not in that situation. We have rallied around a common purpose; that of being an urban-serving university. It is true that there are many details to be filled in and priorities to be determined around clarifying that identity. However, that identity clearly transcends any of us who happen to be in a current leadership role.
If you are worried that we might hire new leaders who will come in and second-guess or ignore the priorities and tasks we outline in our plan, then help me insure that does not happen. We should be looking for leaders who would be excited to come to a place that is filled with the energy of its vision, where everyone is actively engaged in goalsetting and moving the organization toward a shared vision.
We have outstanding leaders in place now. Some may have the word “interim” before their title, but I am not seeing interim performance from any of them. They are all devoted to this university; specifically this campus and its mission, and they are fully engaged in the current planning initiative.
Q: What’s the time-horizon of the plan?
A: First, when it is complete, it will be a living document. It will be designed to keep us always looking forward. We will need to be diligent in keeping it relevant and responsive to external changes. Therefore, it cannot be too far focused in the future but far enough out that we can plan for measureable change. We are looking toward establishing a “shared vision” for the next several decades and correspondingly, a planning document to guide us toward that vision for approximately five years.
Q: What about all the previous plans that have been done at UW Tacoma?
A: The very first thing the steering committee did was assign itself summer reading. Members read, among other things:
- the 2007-2017 Strategic Plan;
- the Report of the Advisory Board Summit from 2012;
- the Advisory Board Summit Progress Report from 2013 and the Progress Report from 2014;
- the University of Washington Year Seven Self-Evaluation Report;
- the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) Retention Report;
- the 2015 Winter Assessment of the Student Experience;
- and the COACHE 2013 Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education.
Who we are today as a university is the distilled essence of all the priorities set and the actions taken on the basis of these earlier reports. The steering committee is very aware of the desire to build on what we already have and to recognize that where we have come from helps clarify where we are going.
Q: Why should we have any confidence that THIS plan will get used, that it won’t just end up on a shelf?
A: This is the very essence of why I was hired to be your Chancellor. From the moment I first set foot on this campus, even before while I was in the interview process, I spoke about the importance of a strategic plan and my intention to get the planning process started here at UW Tacoma should I become Chancellor. That’s not just something I said in public. I said it to the Search Committee, UW President Ana Mari Cauce, and later to all of campus and Board of Regents.
Sitting on a shelf is just one of the ways the plan can fail. If we have unrealistic goals, if we don’t follow through on our plan, if we ignore external factors, if we are unwilling to change—all these are other ways the plan would become irrelevant.
I have great confidence in the steering committee, the 30 committed individuals co-lead by Richard Wilkinson and Bonnie Becker. I know that they are in no way interested in creating a doorstop or shelf decoration.
I also have great confidence in all the rest of the UW Tacoma family – students, faculty, staff and community members who will all be engaged in the process and who are stakeholders in the plan. The steering committee is developing a range of mechanisms to involve all these people in the planning process, and the best way to stay informed on developments as they are announced is through the strategic plan web site.
Everyone is encouraged to participate in the Community Survey that will help develop the vision for UW Tacoma's future. The survey is open through November 16.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org