Several months of thoughtful discussions, broadly inclusive surveys and collaborative writing and editing have produced the NIU College of Education’s new Strategic Action Planning framework.
Presented as a “commitment to the future,” the framework officially unveiled Tuesday during the All-College Meeting outlines the college’s vision and mission statements and value proposition to guide daily and long-term decision-making.
It also provides a guide for departments, programs and units tasked with creating their own operational and tactical plans.
“We have a shared purpose,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper says, “It’s important for the NIU College of Education to have a shared identity, and to be able to focus on shared goals and priorities that cut across departments, programs and other structural units.”
The framework fits well with the university’s ongoing Program Prioritization initiative to align mission with resources. It supports the university’s narrative as an “individual-centered small college” with “big university advantages” that fosters “career success.”
Meanwhile, it coincides with the arrival of four new deans at NIU – Elish-Piper among them – along with fresh faces in other administrative roles at all levels.
“Given the challenging budget climate, this is an opportunity for us to come together,” she says. “This roadmap will provide guidance, but it is also flexible enough to honor the unique aspects of our departments and programs.”
Conversations on developing the framework considered both external and internal audiences.
For example, an externally facing mission statement describes why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you exist and who you serve. Externally facing values promise what, in the case of the College of Education, students and community partners can expect over time.
Internally, a value proposition is a message that conveys that the college knows what its clientele needs most and how to best respond to those needs. The value proposition for the college is, “Through programs grounded in engaged learning experiences, we prepare students to succeed and lead in their careers and communities.” Meanwhile, a framework’s priorities define what high-level actions you will take to fulfill your value proposition, mission and vision.
Stakeholder input and leadership discussions defined the College of Education’s values as student-centered, experiential, research-informed, inclusive, collaborative and innovative. Priorities are innovative practice, intentional growth, research advancement, climate and resource alignment.
“Engaged learning is a hallmark of our college, and it is a key component of many of our programs,” Elish-Piper says.
“Our students get opportunities to work in the field. Our students get opportunities to conduct research. Therefore, our students are more prepared to connect research, theory and practice,” she adds. “We want our students to become leaders. We want them to be knowledgeable. We what them to be highly qualified. We want them to be passionate. We want to them to be on the cutting-edge of their disciplines, and to make a difference in their chosen fields.”
During the creation of the college’s Strategic Action Planning framework, facilitated by the NIU Center for Governmental Studies, the College of Education Senate sought input from faculty, staff, students and alumni.
More than 200 surveys were submitted from across these key stakeholder groups; the leadership team spent many hours reviewing the comments as well as external market data on current job trends.
Two face-to-face dialogue sessions and an online survey generated additional responses that informed revisions now reflected in the current document.
“We wanted to honor their input and voices to contextualize our narrative of who we are and who we want to be,” Elish-Piper says. “We saw patterns in the input we received, and those patterns are reflected in the framework. We are confident we have the right key priorities for our college and that we fit well under the university’s narrative.”
When faculty and staff at the department level begin their planning, with the continued assistance of the Center for Governmental Studies, they will ponder two questions: What role do we play in supporting the strategic planning framework? What will we do over the next three years to “move the needle” on each priority?
College leadership will identify metrics to monitor efforts and will review the framework on an annual basis, Elish-Piper says, to determine whether it still reflects the college and whether new challenges or opportunities call for updates to “the living document.”
“That’s the spirit in which we’ve embarked on this process,” she says. “On any trip, there might just be detours you need to make. There might be obstacles. You might need to adjust your roadmap. We will use the Strategic Action Plan framework to help us be nimble.”