UM-Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso ushered in a yearlong campus-wide focus on the future during an event to discuss the university’s strategic planning process on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
“This [is] a big opportunity to really rethink what we’re doing at the University of Michigan, at Dearborn,” Grasso said, speaking about how technological advances are encouraging new ways to look at how society works and lives.
“There are major opportunities up ahead; and this is what we have to capture [during the process].”
The strategic planning process is expected to last through 2019. Late last year, the chancellor shared a white paper with members of the campus community, Confronting the Challenges of a New Era – A Call to Action.
Speaking to more than 150 faculty and staff on Tuesday, Grasso said the purpose of the paper was to contextualize the strategic planning effort and to highlight the university’s core principles and challenges going forward. He noted that many of the challenges the university will face are being felt throughout higher education.
“Higher education’s place in society is being challenged, even the value of going to college is being challenged,” he said. “So we really have to think about where the University of Michigan-Dearborn is going to fit in this national, and international, landscape.”
Grasso will serve as co-chair of the strategic planning process with Deborah Smith Pollard, professor of English literature and humanities and chair of the Department of Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts.
“Faculty play such a major role in this that it was very important to have this co-led by a faculty member as well,” Grasso said, noting Smith Pollard’s work in the humanities, her institutional experience and expertise, and her strong internal focus as complementary to his own STEM work and external focus. “I’m very proud and very honored that she has agreed to join me in co-chairing this.”
To help launch the strategic planning process, the chancellor announced the creation of two initial working groups — the Vision 2020 Review Working Group and the Environmental Scanning Working Group, both chaired by Executive Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness Becky Chadwick.
These cross-campus groups are charged with conducting a full situational analysis of the current internal and external environment, including identifying the organizational strengths and challenges of the university and determining what trends in the external environment may impact UM-Dearborn’s future.
The university will develop additional working groups in the coming weeks, which will include faculty, staff, students and community members. The focus of these groups will include: student experience and success; the scholar-teacher; staff development; resources, structures, efficiencies and management; and public prominence, awareness, partnerships and community engagement.
Grasso encouraged faculty and staff to join one of the working groups as a way to be engaged in the strategic planning process. Additional engagement opportunities and strategic planning resources will be posted to the university’s strategic planning website. Faculty and staff will be asked to reflect on short readings and videos, complete online surveys and attend future town hall meetings.
The university also will invite thought leaders to campus throughout the process to discuss the state of higher education and other related topics. Details about the first thought leader event, when the university will welcome U-M President Mark Schlissel to campus to discuss his vision for higher education and his thoughts about the challenges universities are facing, will be available later this month.
Grasso thanked faculty and staff for their openness to the process and stressed the importance of being intentional in achieving the university’s mission.
“We are not alone in trying to rethink who we are and where we’re going. So this is still going to be highly competitive all the way through this process,” he said. “Everybody is coming up with interesting ways, new ways, to deliver education and do research.”