Five Takeaways from UM-Dearborn’s ‘Situational Analysis’

July 18, 2019

As the university’s vision for the next decade starts to take shape, we break down the major opportunities and challenges ahead.

UM-Dearborn students walking on campus in fall 2017.

As you no doubt know, UM-Dearborn kicked off a strategic planning process in December to define a vision for the university’s crucial next decade and beyond. As a first step, a diverse team of people from across campus took a critical look at both the outside forces likely to impact our future and the university’s internal strengths and weaknesses. That near-100-page “Situational Analysis” is now complete, and we recently talked with Executive Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness Becky Chadwick, who helped lead the team that created the document, about some of the major takeaways for the UM-Dearborn community.


The time for a strategic plan is now.
Chadwick says the biggest of the big-picture takeaways from the situational analysis is that it’s a good thing Chancellor Domenico Grasso made strategic planning one of his first major campus priorities. The university was winding down with Vision 2020, the prior plan, and faculty and staff expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for a new, comprehensive, clearly communicated plan to lead the university into the future.  

It’s going to be a team effort.
Teaching and research may be the major parts of the university’s mission, but the “internal” part of the review revealed just how many people and processes are necessary for the university to conduct business.  “People who work in enrollment, marketing, counseling, facilities — you name it —  they all bring critical pieces of expertise,” Chadwick says. “There simply is no single person who can know everything it takes to make a university thrive, so you really need a team of great minds to strategize and come up with the best solutions for the future.”

External forces may present the biggest hurdles.
Chadwick says a shrinking pool of high school graduates is just one of many trendlines that point to “very challenging times” ahead for Michigan universities. Some of the other big external factors demanding action: A “permanent reality” of declining, or at least stagnant, state support for higher education; and somewhat relatedly, increasing skepticism among the public about the value of higher ed (in part due to rising costs). The potential for leaner times means it’s all the more important that we’re deliberate in our actions and strategic about getting the most out of our resources.

Data will play a much bigger role.
As a data person, Chadwick says one way we can maximize the impact of almost anything we do is through measurement and evaluation. “What gets measured, gets managed. If you can’t effectively evaluate what you’re doing, it’s really hard to say whether you’re doing it well.” She says the situational analysis revealed opportunities for using data more effectively in all corners of the university, from academic departments to supporting offices.  

There’s real enthusiasm about the future.
Despite the somewhat bearish forecast for higher education, Chadwick says there’s a general excitement about engaging in the planning process. In particular, she sees it as a very good sign that staff and faculty are eager to think innovatively about the university’s future direction and bring their ideas to the table. It’s those ideas, after all, that promise to be the building blocks of UM-Dearborn’s next decade.


Want to learn more? Dive into the full text of UM-Dearborn’s 2019 Situational Analysis. And keep an eye on the strategic planning website for information about upcoming Thought Leader sessions, new documents and other opportunities to share your ideas.