Welcome back to campus. I hope you had a very enjoyable and refreshing holiday break, and I wish you a happy and productive spring semester.
Since arriving in October, I have focused on gaining a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges before us. This was necessary to begin building a framework and path for a sustainable future. Many colleagues have shared suggestions and observations with me, and I have enjoyed discussions with campus leaders, nearly 100 faculty and many students, as well as numerous alumni, donors and community members. They have provided invaluable information, and I thank everyone for the candid insights.
In November, we announced the Affirming Our Promises strategic planning process. We also spent considerable time on two additional major initiatives (described below) intended to increase transparency and collaboration, promote innovation at the college level, and build an environment of shared accountability. It is my strong belief that these operating models must serve as the foundation for our future success.
The strategic plan and the new operating models will generate much campus activity and discussion. This engagement is essential for us to move ahead with a sense of shared purpose.
The following is an overview of what will happen in the three major areas, and of ways for you to contribute to the conversation:
- Affirming Our Promises strategic plan
The activity flow for the strategic planning process can be found at uakron.edu/strategic-plan/. Later this month, the Strategic Work Group (SWG) will release its initial recommendations of areas of major strategies and themes for the future for our University. The SWG recommendations will be merged with the University Council’s work on the three-year plans to develop the first draft of the strategic plan. Your thoughts and suggestions on this first draft will be very important, and we will provide details on how to provide that input.
- Revenue and Expense Accountability Program (REAP)
Parallel to the campus discussion on strategic themes, deans, their faculties and vice presidents will begin conversations on a program aimed at distributing the enrollment, revenue, fundraising (in conjunction with University Advancement) and expense reduction challenges of the University across all academic and non-academic units. Each college and vice presidential unit will negotiate goals with the provost and the CFO, and work to meet those goals over the next four years. The mode of operation is designed to be a campus-wide, foundational process. The small number of strategic initiatives from the strategic planning process will overlay this foundation.
- Opportunity to Rise enrollment initiative.
The provost has previewed an expanded approach to admissions that embraces our urban roots and focuses on admitting potential students who have a good probability of success as identified through a holistic review process. The details of the Opportunity to Rise enrollment and student support services initiative, and how it will work with REAP and the new strategy, will be rolled out soon. Your input can help us further refine this initiative.
It has been very rewarding to see how engaged our shared governance structure has been in this process, and I am deeply committed to continuing that engagement. The provost meets weekly with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee to discuss these issues. Shared governance bodies will be briefed and consulted frequently. Deans will hold multiple meetings with faculty to discuss the new strategy and foundational operating models. Open forums and divisional meetings can also be arranged as needed. Vice presidents will be working with contract professionals and staff to develop their approaches. We will have a place on the strategic planning website to manage suggestions and concerns.
I continue to be inspired by all of you, by this place and by the promises The University of Akron has made and kept for 150 years. Past generations of faculty and staff rose to the challenges of their times to sustain and grow this institution, which is so vital to the citizens and communities within our region. I adamantly believe that we have the capacity and the resources to seize our moment, and to move this public urban research university toward a brighter and more successful future.
Gary L. Miller
The University of Akron