Four Bold Goals: A closer look at UNT’s strategic plans

Four Bold Goals: A closer look at UNT’s strategic plans

Four Bold Goals: A closer look at UNT’s strategic plans
January 14
12:56 2014

William Darnell / Editor-in-chief

A strategic plan defines the strategy by which an organization, company or university intends to achieve its goals. In the case of UNT, since 2012 “Four Bold Goals” has been the anchor of that plan.

Determining how the university is implementing these goals, how successful the plan has been and who is accountable for the end result of this plan and those of the past is necessary in understanding how well the university is functioning.

UNT recently named a new president, Neal Smatresk, formerly the president of University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The change is one of many in the tumultuous year for UNT. Several construction projects are underway, the university had to find a new president for the second time in five years and the university’s accreditation is up for renewal.

Warren Burggen

Warren Burggren

UNT provost Warren Burggren said at the university level, strategic plans are meant to be broader. The university is also developing an academic plan, which will augment the FBG, and each college of UNT has its own strategic plan.

“They’re goals, that means that we haven’t necessarily achieved them but that’s how we frame basically everything we do,” Burggren said.

Burggren said that of the 20 or so strategic plans he has been involved in at three universities, the FBG is the stickiest of them all.

“By that I mean, people keep paying attention to it, we keep bringing up the four bold goals and framing everything we’re doing in it,” Burggren said. “We keep looking at the metrics that the president has framed up for us.”

Burggren said it’s a living plan, one that changes based on what is working and what isn’t working, whether or not some areas are too ambitious, all based on data that comes in.

That data is in the form of progress reports from the office of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success Rosemary Haggett. It’s measured in nine different metrics, ranging from restricted research expenditures, first time in college enrollment and average SAT test scores.

Another detail is the presence of other, seemingly unrelated progress reports from every college at the university that measure progress in other categories.

While there have been gains in enrollment, SAT scores and the number of graduates, retention rate is on the decline.

“Retention is still further down than what we expected. We are really interested in what is going to happen this semester,” President V. Lane Rawlins said. “The early signs are showing that the freshman and sophomores this year are staying in for the spring semester at a greater rate than before.”

After positive movement in retention rate for several years, last year’s drop was disappointing to university officials.

V. Lane Rawlins

V. Lane Rawlins

“When that retention rate went down, that didn’t make us happy,” Rawlins said. “You have to admit you’re not where you want to be and you have to do something about it.”

This is when strategic plans come in, as the raw data forces university officials to evaluate success and make changes to prevent further letdowns.

Rawlins said the university has refocused on retention rate and believes based on early evidence that the rate will improve.

Aside from the quantifiable numbers related to the plan, the notion of stickiness, or efficacy of the plan is what makes the FBG different from past efforts, according to university officials.

“I think this one has worked internally,” advertising senior lecturer Peter Noble said. “The way it’s been communicated at least to faculty and staff has been very effective. It is something that is repeated and referred to and referenced in all kinds of communication.”

Noble pointed to the repetition and reach of the plan as aspects that particularly stood out. He said the university was able to communicate the ideas of FBG, repeatedly, without having to reference the list again and again.

“The purpose of goals is obviously to set a path, to clarify or convey a vision, and they’ve done that with [FBG],” Noble said.  “ They’ve not only talked about them individually, but they’ve talked about the integration of the parts being greater than the whole and how they work synergistically.”

Although completing the goals associated is a long and complex process, Noble said the simplicity with which they’re being delivered lends itself to the plan’s long-term success.

On top of the planning, number crunching and advertising associated with the FBG, Burggren said one of the most valuable methods is face-to-face interaction with deans and professors.

“A lot of the meetings that I have with deans for example, I have the strategic plan sitting in front of me. So that we can basically say, “how’s it going? Here’s what you said you would do and achieve,’” Burggren said. “They’re not plans that you create and then shelve, and then congratulate yourself for having done.”

Whether or not the university is on the right track is impossible to know without careful analysis of long-term data. Further complicating the issue is the sea change mentality associated with changes in leadership.

The university completely changed course and expectations with the FBG, and with a new president taking office, the possibility exists that it could happen again.

Read Thursday’s edition of the NT Daily for a look back at the university’s 2008 plan, as well as what may change under Neal Smatresk.

Graphic courtesy of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success

Graphic courtesy of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success

Graphic courtesy of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success

Graphic courtesy of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success

Feature photo: Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor

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