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Town halls look to improve strategic plan

Over the course of the year, the University has been involved in assessing how it will officially construct its Strategic Plan, a document to be approved in the fall of 2013 that will detail the overall direction and aspirations of the University for the next 10 years.

This is the first time the University has engaged in a strategic planning process in more than 15 years, a fact University President Robert L. Barchi finds unusual considering most large corporations do so every year.

To formulate the plan, the University incorporated input from all stakeholders in the University community — students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni — by hosting town hall meetings, sending out surveys and holding advisory groups.

Barchi said the University also hired the Boston Consulting Group to gather and analyzes this information and data in order for the finalized plan to best reflect the community’s input.

“This strategic planning process requires a lot of work from a lot of people, a lot of effort involving all of the constituents at the University and a lot of time to get out and listen, respond, to take suggestions and to work with them,” he said.

He said across the board, students, faculty, alumni and other members of the University expressed a need and openness for change.

“When we ask the question ‘How much does the University have to change?’ … [It’s] across the board, whether we ask students, faculty or trustees,” Barchi said. “On a scale from one to five, people want five. … That’s not very common, but it’s very, very positive for what we’re trying to do.”

The University has used the “Old Greek Temple” model to shape the plan. At its apex, Barchi will place the University’s main aspiration — broad recognition as one of the best public research universities.

This will make the University competitive with its aspirational groups, which include members of the Big Ten that are renowned as paramount public research institutions.

The temple is stabilized by a foundation, including a robust core of a liberal arts education, a diverse and inclusive culture, an efficient and responsive infrastructure and sufficient financial resources.

The University has already taken steps to strengthen its diverse and inclusive culture by establishing the new Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, with School of Communication and Information Dean Jorge Schement as its vice president beginning July 1.

The offices will incorporate cultural centers as well as the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities to advocate for inclusion and diversity at a national level and promote research into the field as well, said Delia Pitts, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

The pillars of the temple represent major goals of the strategy the University will address with high priority, such as themes for academic differentiation, attracting and developing the best students and faculty, transforming the student experience, collaborations and partnerships and enhancing the University’s visibility.

New Jersey loses 30,000 students a year to out-of-state colleges and universities, and Barchi said the strategic plan should change this.

“We don’t have the product to keep and recruit the best faculty and students,” he said.

Carrying out the areas of focus for the pillars, such as creating an Honors College, establishing more faculty interaction, increasing career development for faculty and making the University feel “people-sized,” will help reverse this trend, he said.

In April, Barchi also announced John Farmer, current dean of Rutgers-Newark School of Law, will be the new senior vice president and general counsel for the next 12 to 18 months. He will provide legal consultative support to Barchi and the University community.

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