Given the environmental pressures faced by universities across the country, but most especially by regional universities such as ours (a challenging demographic shift; decreased state funding; pressure to keep college affordable; questions about the relevance of a college degree, especially one in the liberal arts and humanities; and increased external scrutiny and calls for accountability, among other things) it is imperative that we as a college think carefully and creatively about both how we operate and about what we aspire to be. Beyond these external forces, however, strategic planning offers CASL an opportunity to engage in a productive and empowering re-imagination of the collegeand its future direction. Through the strategic planning process we have come to know ourselves better and to appreciate both what we do well and to see what we could do even better.

With this understanding in hand, CASL is positioned, through its strategic plan, to better tell our story in ways that are both meaningful to our community and understandable to those outside of the college, and to engage in creative collective planning to foster enrollment growth, and to enhance the vitality of our scholarly endeavors.

  • CASL launched its Strategic Planning initiative in the Summer of 2014. Initial steps centered on a team of CASL faculty, staff, and students working with facilitators (paid for by donations from the Dean’s Advisory Board) from the Kardia Group to collect data and to chart a pathway for an internally driven and authentic strategic planning conversation for the college. To build awareness of, and support for, the need for strategic planning and to ensure that the strategic planning document crafted reflected the collective values of the CASL community, this team worked diligently throughout the Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 academic terms to engage all elements of the CASL community through community building activities, surveys, strategic planning forums, attendance at department meetings, social media discussions, mission statement feedback, student feedback, and informal coffee dialog sessions (to name but a few of the many tactics employed). This information, in turn, gave rise to a list of five areas of focus for the college. A preliminary completion date for the strategic planning process was also then set for the end of 2015.

    To flesh out the initial five areas of focus and identify key questions related to these areas to bring back to various CASL constituencies, new focus area specific working groups were established with invitations sent to the CASL community for additional volunteers to join in the clarifying work. Over the course of the Winter 2015/Summer 2015 academic terms this group engaged in their work. Once the separate groups reconvened in September of 2015, it became immediately obvious to all that the five focus areas needed further refinement and that at least one key area of concern was not fully captured within the existing categories. Accordingly, the overall team engaged in a further round of dialog and feedback collection with the CASL community.

    Out of this feedback, in the late Fall of 2015, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee determined that a refined list of strategic priorities (now numbering four) along with some specific initiatives related to promoting these priorities was emerging from our conversations. The new priorities were shared with the college in January 2016 and a new timetable established to complete the work on the strategic plan set for December 2016. 

    During the Fall 2016 academic term a small Implementation Group convened to identify specific objectives tied to the strategic priorities as well measures of success, a timeline for implementation, and champions to move the objectives forward. The document offered represents the end product of much faculty, staff, student, and alumnae/alumni work to refine these priorities and to reflect what we heard from all of you. 

    The document is being offered for formal endorsement by the college through its Executive Committee. Once endorsed a formal implementation team will be established to help move the plan forward and to evaluate progress on an annual basis.
     

  • Student learning is central to our mission. At the core of student learning is the ability to ask important questions, acquire the knowledge necessary to answer those questions, and evaluate and apply that knowledge to develop answers. Students who master these skills will succeed in the classroom and in life. In CASL, we believe that these skills emerge from broad exposure to a range of distinct disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving and analysis, from exposure to path breaking faculty research, from the adaptation of high impact pedagogical practices, and from the transferrable skills inherent in liberal arts based education. 

    Initiative 1A: Improve Student Success

    • Increase accessibility, efficiency, and effectiveness of academic advising.
      1. Empower students to understand and utilize advising tools such as Degree Works.
      2. Establish a consistent communication pathway between CASL Advising and START.
    • Increase faculty advising and mentoring in order to enhance students’ learning experience and ensure timely progress toward graduation.
      1. Mentor students in creating a more personalized curriculum and major (i.e. Individual Program of Study).
    • Implement curricular and scheduling policies that support timely progress toward graduation.
      1. Improve flexibility in scheduling by increasing summer, online, hybrid, and evening course offerings.

    • Develop new or revamp existing degree programs that can be completed by a combination of online, hybrid, evening, or weekend classes.
    • Explore ways to provide credit for Veterans and/or life experiences.
    • Establish well-articulated two-year plans across the College.

     

    Initiative 1B: Employ High-Impact Educational Practices (HIEP)

    • Align curricular and administrative dimensions to facilitate these high impact practices.
    • Create a Coordinator/Director position to oversee high-impact experiences in the College.
      1. Dedicate staff and resources to support this position.
      2. Build a stronger partnership with the Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources (the Hub).
    • Create and grow Study Away/Abroad courses and programs.
    • Develop and re-invigorate the first year experience for FTIAC and transfer students. 
      1. Embed academic supports and resources for first-year experience courses.

      2. Develop and implement common pedagogical practices for all first year experiences.

    • Develop and create more experiential learning programs.
      1. Increase access and exposure to Internships and Co-Op opportunities.

      2. Build on success of Academic Service Learning program.

    • Expand and support research opportunities for students and student-faculty collaborations.
      1. Prepare students for research at the college level.

      2. Connect faculty with advisors and students to make research possibilities known.

      3. Develop consistent models and standards of student research and course-based opportunities for student projects.

      4. Increase on- and off-campus exposure to student research presentations and publications.

     

    Initiative 1C: Optimize use of CASL Resources and Technology to Enrich Student Experience

    • Modernize learning environments and academic support offices to promote active and peer learning.
    • Foster student learning environments and organizations.
    • Promote student interactions and build community through improvement of indoor and outdoor common areas (i.e. furniture, white boards, and décor).
    • Develop an app that informs students of opportunities for academic engagement such as honor societies, student orgs, clubs, lecture series, learning communities, etc.
    • Create online modules to educate students on CASL learning expectations (i.e. How to work in a group, or Academic Code of Conduct, or How to use the Library Database).
    • Extend on-campus and remote access to learning and advising centers.
  • The underlying framework for the excellence that CASL offers its students is the college’s talented faculty. This cadre of engaged teacher/scholars inspires our students through innovative pedagogy and by exposing them to leading edge research/scholarship not only in the classroom but also through public talks and mentored research opportunities. Ensuring that CASL faculty thus have the time and resources necessary to continue this tradition of excellence is a top priority for the college and a necessary prerequisite for student learning, student success, and enrollment growth.

    Initiative 2A: Enhancing the Liberal Arts Experience

    • Create more regular CASL-focused on- and off-campus programming and activities.
      1. Identify and host more events for collaboration and networking.

      2. Build greater faculty presence at CASL events.

      3. Get students together from different majors for regular informal events.

      4. Bring more high profile speakers/events on campus.

      5. Organize themed series of research presentations during which faculty across CASL present their research.

    • Increase communication and awareness of research and other scholarly activities.

     

    Initiative 2B: Increase and Strengthen Support for Faculty Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities

    • Increase funding for research support.
      1. Devote financial resources to supporting research endeavors, including more seed grants/pilot funding for new projects.

      2. Continue to support competitive start-up funding for new hires.

      3. Expand internal grants that can lead to external funding.

      4. Enhance funding for conference travel and other forms of professional development.

      5. Find support for areas in CASL in which external support is typically limited.

      6. Increase institutional support for opportunities for faculty-student research (including summer funding).

      7. Provide summer research support for CASL faculty.

      8. Provide support for large interdisciplinary collaborative research projects and encourage full participation in M-Cubed program.

      9. Create a climate of institutional support for funded research that sends the right signal to granting agencies.

    • Recognize faculty research activity.
      1. Increase the value of faculty-student research in the Promotion and Tenure process and documents.

    • Dedicate CASL personnel to assist with grant and external funding support.
      1. Train staff to support faculty research projects.

      2. Strengthen connections between CASL and ORSP.

      3. Create a climate of institutional support for funded research.

      4. Create a clearinghouse of research information and people in CASL to facilitate collaboration.

    • Dedicate CASL personnel to support roles to free faculty from administrative work.

     

    Initiative 2C: Catalyze Community Connections and Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration and Innovative Teaching

    • Increase community connections.
      1. Expand and deepen connections with community partners for community engaged research and applied research.

      2. Sponsor/organize community-university conventions.

    • Create mechanisms to foster interdisciplinary research.
      1. Promote and provide more collaborative interdisciplinary research opportunities for both faculty and students.

      2. Provide collaborative work space and support for interdisciplinary research collaboration on all levels.

      3. Identify research strengths, attract faculty who could collaborate in core research areas, and provide support for large interdisciplinary collaborative research projects to create centers of excellence.

    • Create mechanisms to foster innovative teaching.
      1. Fast-track boundary-pushing topics and pedagogy.

      2. Create opportunities for more team-teaching for cross-listed courses capped at 60-120 students.

      3. Facilitate ways to integrate research into innovative courses.

     

    Initiative 2D: Increase Time for Faculty Research and Support Faculty Promotion

    • Explore ways to help faculty find more time for research.
      1. Build flexibility in to teaching by encouraging disciplines to use flexible course banking; encouraging different modes of course scheduling, etc.

      2. Encourage faculty to take year-long sabbaticals by reinvesting some of that savings into CASL faculty research grants and financially rewarding research productivity during sabbatical.

      3. Shift to differential teaching loads for research active faculty.

      4. Create teaching and research faculty tracks.

    • Support faculty promotion.
      1. Improve mentoring and training opportunities to support new faculty.

      2. Improve mentoring and college support for mid-career faculty.

  • Embedded within Priority 1 is the principle that a firm foundation in the liberal arts and sciences is essential to student success. A related priority that will thus guide CASL’s actions in the coming years is to build a stronger sense of community and to engage in more outward facing dialog about the value of a CASL education. In the increasingly competitive world of higher education where universities battle for enrollments to ensure sustainability, where students battle with mounting financial and time demands, and where the general public battles with how to prepare to thrive in an increasingly uncertain future, we have seen an increasing tendency toward constraining intellectual growth, and a focus on immediately transferrable skills. 

    Unfortunately, this has led to a de-valuation of the liberal arts as frivolous superfluities. We reject this notion and contend that a liberal arts education is fundamental to enabling society and individuals to thrive intellectually, socially, and professionally. Indeed, as former Twitter CEO Dick Costello recently argued, the keys to success in today’s global technology driven world are: “creative synthesis, disciplined thinking and awareness beyond oneself—all of which can be attained through a liberal arts education.” 

    This reality is precisely why the University has included a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences as a critical element in the Dearborn Discovery Core. A CASL education matters to all and it enriches everything we do at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

    Initiative 3A: Prioritize and Publicize CASL’s Mission

    • Communicate value of liberal arts degree.
      1. Highlight the distinct value of liberal arts education and research.

      2. Emphasize CASL’s uniqueness and creativity.

    • Show how CASL is creating visionaries, critical thinkers, and creative solutionaries.
      1. Showcase CASL research accomplishments across campus.

      2. Promote research areas that make CASL unique and recognized. Promote community through common areas and dedicate staff to event communication/coordination.

    • Develop and grow academic programs using assessment data to guide and support development/modification.

     

    Initiative 3B: Foster Stronger Communication

    • Internal Communication
      1. Bring CASL’s various constituents together (including faculty, staff, students, and alumni) with the eventual aim to create a dedicated community time (for programming and other things).

    • External Communication
      1. Create an internal CASL communications officer/specialist.

      2. Improve communication among faculty (at all levels), students, alumni, and staff.

      3. Build communication and understanding among units.

      4. Share CASL’s story with the rest of university and with outside community.

      5. Establish a stronger web presence.

      6. Share regular college-wide communiqués.

      7. Improve Open House and enhance CASL’s story.

  • Central to CASL’s ability to meet all of the preceding strategic priorities is the need for the college to operate more efficiently and intentionally. The college’s organizational and financial structures have served CASL well and enabled the college to grow and flourish. The new realities of higher education, however, along with the recent erosion of CASL enrollments, requires a re-examination of our current practices with an eye toward rationality and efficiency in the service of students, faculty, and the wider university community. Accordingly, the college views the enhancement of organizational efficiencies as a key prerequisite for the success of CASL’s strategic goals and for the college’s long-term health.


    Initiative 4A: Align Human Resources and Organizational Structure with Strategic Priorities

    • Align recruitment practices with strategic priorities.
      1. Incorporate mission, vision, and aspirational elements of Priority 1 into all staff and faculty recruitment materials.

      2. Work with HR to broaden and diversify applicant pools.

      3. Utilize assessment data/program reviews to better inform faculty line decisions.

    • Provide training and career development opportunities for CASL staff to recruit, develop and retain top talent.
    • Reorganize administrative support functions to respond effectively to new organizational demands and in support of students and faculty.
    • Map career advancement paths within the reorganized structure
    • Enhance recruitment, retention, and development of a talented and diverse faculty. 
      1. Improve faculty access to training in teaching methods.

      2. Explore options for improving faculty leave time and training for enhancing research productivity.

      3. Leverage centers of excellence to promote faculty research strengths.

      4. Examine the college’s reliance on tenure stream and LEO faculty to ensure optimal delivery of academic programs and equitable treatment of faculty.

        .

    Initiative 4B: Improve Systems, Physical Resources and Processes to Align with Strategic Priorities

    • Enhance awareness of administrative and academic work flows and processes.
      1. Map existing work flows and processes.

      2. Communicate work flows and processes with faculty and staff through user-friendly methods.

    • Optimize/use technology for administrative and academic purposes.
      1. Develop and implement a protocol for engaging key stakeholders in CASL, ITS, and Central Administration in technology planning, acquisition, and management.

      2. Identify ways for CASL to improve utilization of existing software to improve efficiency of administrative processes.

    • Increase availability, accessibility, and consistency of data for administrative and academic decision-making.
      1. Work with Institutional Research, EMSL, Financial Services, and internal stakeholders to identify data needs and availability related to administrative and academic functions.

      2. Develop systems for enabling faculty and staff to easily access and analyze data.

    • Create vehicles for encouraging CASL staff and faculty to help improve systems.
      1. Identify and implement consistent and recurring opportunities for CASL faculty and staff to provide constructive feedback on administrative and academic systems.

      2. Incentivize process efficiencies across the college.

    • Use physical resources and technology responsibly and effectively.
      1. Examine CASL controlled spaces and reconfigure to encourage collaboration and networking.

      2. Improve technology and infrastructure repair/replacement processes.

    • Review classroom usage and explore ways to use them more effectively.

     

    Initiative 4C: Increase Financial Health of the College

    • Develop a formalized budgeting system within CASL.
    • Enhance awareness of the university’s formalized budgeting system.
    • Leverage campus-wide resources.
    • Continue work on refining the Budget Model to ensure proper funding for CASL and strengthen fiscal health.
    • Support enhanced grant writing activity.
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