Western eyes strategic plan renewal

Western administrators have kicked off the process to renew the university’s strategic plan. And they are turning to the university community for help.

“Developing our strategic plan will be very important from an engagement and consultation perspective,” said Amit Chakma, Western president. “When it’s done, I’m confident there will be no surprises because we will be drawing from the collective thinking of the entire campus community, and building on our institutional strengths which are based on the solid foundation laid in past strategic plans.

“This is our opportunity to be masters of our own destiny and choose the course we wish to pursue for the benefit of our university and the global community we aspire to serve.”

Western rolled out its first-ever Strategic Plan, Leadership in Learning, in 1995. That was followed by Making Choices: Western’s Commitments as a Research-intensive University in 2001 and, most recently, Engaging the Future in 2007. Engaging was updated in 2010.

At Friday’s Senate meeting, Janice Deakin, Western provost and vice-president (academic), started laying the groundwork for the latest document’s renewal.

“The planning process we are undertaking will allow all members of our campus community to help shape how we articulate Western’s institutional aspirations and suggest some strategies for how we might achieve those goals,” Deakin said. “When completed, the plan will serve similarly to how its predecessors have served: as a touchstone that guides our decision-making on all academic and budgetary matters.”

The renewal is an opportunity for the university to decide if the principles set down in Engaging continue forward and whether new ones should be added. Also up for discussion are some key priorities established in Engaging including maintaining and enhancing the best student experience at a research-intensive university; expanding graduate enrolment and graduate programming; internationalizing the campus; and increasing research intensity.

Deakin asked the Senate Committee on University Planning (SCUP) to take the lead in soliciting advice from members of the Western community on what priorities need to be addressed in a renewed strategic plan. That advice will come via formal and informal means until December.

Plans are still being developed on how to do just that, but Deakin said a combination of public forums, faculty-specific events and website contributions could all be in the mix.

“Let me emphasize it is our hope all members of Western’s community will feel able to bring forward their ideas for where Western should be heading, and how we should get there,” she continued. “At the end of this process what we want is all members of our community to know they have had an opportunity to help set the course for Western’s future.”

A draft report will be outlined and composed in January/February, then delivered to Senate for consideration in May/June. A final report will be delivered to the Senate and Board for approval in September/October.

“This is an important process that will produce an important document for the future of our university. Each of the three previous plans adopted by Western brought about transformational change,” Deakin said. “In times of plenty, they help ensure we spend incremental funds wisely; in times of change or fiscal challenge, they help to ensure we focus on preserving what we see as essential priorities.

“While our strategic plan provides an opportunity for the Western community to decide whether we should be making any of the discussion paper’s ideas a priority, the strategic planning process is not being driven by government initiatives. This will be Western’s plan, outlining Western’s future, determined by the Western community.”