Oct. 27, 2020
TO: Tonia Ferrell, University Council Chair
FROM: John M. Wiencek, Executive Vice President and Provost
COPY: President Gary L. Miller, Steve Ash and the University Community
As we have been discussing at the University Council Executive Committee (UCEC) meetings over the past month, the University Council is the primary shared governance body that advises the president and the Board of Trustees on pan-university matters. I am formalizing our recent discussions on the University’s planning process with this memo and the actions that will follow from this memo.
The University Council represents all of our shared governance constituencies including faculty, contract professionals, staff and students. Given the pan-university scope of strategic and operational plans, the Board of Trustees rule dictates that the University Council’s duties include deliberating and making recommendations to the president on the strategic plan.
The University of Akron community, at the behest of President Miller, initiated strategic planning discussions in Fall 2019, which included University Council leadership. We were making good progress toward finalizing the strategic plan when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to take a pause. It is now time to pick up and complete this task.
President Miller has directed me to engage with University Council to move our planning process forward. Given the significant work of the Strategic Working Group (SWG) and the Drafting and Integration Group (DIG), the president and I offer a draft action plan (attached) that begins nominally in January 2021 and runs through June 2022. This draft is, in large part, the last draft version of the strategic plan that was nearing completion in March 2020. The specific action items are reflective of ongoing interests and ideas that have percolated from Faculty Senate, Student Government and University Council over the past few months and reflect some changes that have occurred due to COVID-19 and recent difficult decisions.
I have asked Professor Steve Ash to serve as Chair of the University Planning Group (UPG) to allow continuity with the SWG and DIG, both of which were chaired by Steve as well. You and I agreed last week that the University Council should have a larger role to play on the UPG and, thus, the UCEC would be the core membership of this committee. I suggest you work with Steve to confirm the final membership of this UPG since we will likely need some additional members.
The first task for the UPG is to review the draft action plan for the period of January 2021 – June 2022. The group will share the draft plan broadly, seek feedback, and recommend modifications, if any, to the action plan. The president would like the feedback by the end of the Fall semester, so that the plan can be formalized and launched with the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester.
The second task for the UPG is to take steps to make the University Planning Group (or an equivalent name) a permanent part of the University Council governance structure. The UPG will be responsible for invoking and managing a continuous planning process. The plans that emanate from this group will be two-year plans that are monitored and adjusted as needed. The University Planning Group will frame an ongoing two-year planning cycle that includes a process to monitor progress, adjust university-level goals, and cascade the process and plan to the department or college level. This new structure should be in place starting July 1, 2021. In addition, the next two-year plan would be developed in time for a seamless launch on July 1, 2022.
I will continue to remain engaged with University Council and the Executive Committee to move this initiative forward in a collaborative and collegial manner. This brief memo is intended to start this important work and to meet our promises to our students and our community. I am looking forward to embarking on this journey with you, the University Council and our entire Zips family.
See the faculty-led process we will follow to identify the priorities to be presented to the Board of Trustees.