The strategic plan presented here is not the first of its kind at West Georgia. On the contrary, this one grows out of the context and tradition of the previous planning process. In the fall of 2000, President Sethna created and charged an ad hoc committee with creating a strategic plan for the University. That committee, which contained representatives from all areas of campus work and life, created a two-level strategic document that listed “non-negotiable” goals as “Bread and Butter Goals” and a set of aspirational goals as the “Visionary Goals” or the “Three by Five” goals, or “Three Fives,” so called because they were organized as three sets of fives – in five years, five goals, top five per cent of the nation. (These reports and some other materials are still available on the committee’s web site http://www.westga.edu/~spc.)
In March of 2007, Acting President Tim Hynes, very much in concert with Dr. Beheruz Sethna, who was at that time away in a temporary position as Executive Vice Chancellor for the University System of Georgia in the Atlanta Office, charged the Institutional Studies and Planning Committee of the Faculty Senate with revisiting and re-presenting a strategic plan for the University. Not long at all after the committee met, we all realized that we did not want just to echo the previous strategic document. In fact, it seemed to us that many of the University’s publics wanted a clearly and singly defined vision of the University. Mindful, to be sure, of such idealism, the committee began a careful review of the previous planning documents in order to build upon them and in order to develop a new plan that could at least move toward a singly defined vision. Consequently, this plan carries forward a great deal of the sentiment and goals of the previous strategic plan but with a few significant differences.
Perhaps the most significant difference between this plan and the previous one can be explained by the committee’s adherence to a principle of pragmatism or realism. The committee members in their attempt to craft a definition of the University also wanted to stay grounded in what it is the University actually does and does well, and that it has done well for much of its history. The answer came in the concept of liberal arts-based professional preparation. The majority of the students that we graduate and that succeed in some form of satisfying employment are products of West Georgia’s long standing high quality liberal arts programming that informs and inspires and sustains professional curricula in nursing, education, and business. This goal is actually an elaboration of one of the 2000 Visionary Goals, the fifth one dedicated to professional preparation.
Unwilling to leave out any attempt at innovation goals, the committee began to formulate a second part of this goal – a total integration of co-curricular programming. This is not what we do now, but what we wish to do. Over the last few years, UWG has developed the beginnings of a substantial first-year program and there have been some other co-curricular developments. In fact, one can point to the Advanced Academy and the Honors College as being developed according to co-curricular lines. Overall, however, these projects have not come about as a result of any University-wide systematic planning. Our committee thought that the University could yoke together these efforts under an office or small committee and develop a uniform version of co-curricular experiences for every year of undergraduate life (thus, instead of first-year programming, we talk about student-level programming) and an integration of graduate studies, where possible, to the issues, concerns, and education of undergraduates.
As we were developing the earliest version of our plan in spring of 2007 the central office of the University System of Georgia came out with a draft of its own strategic plan, which the committee had to quickly take note of and incorporate where important, useful, or necessary. This phase has been a helpful one and supplemental to the planning overall process.
We humbly submit here the following plan. We have taken a little over a year to develop this vision, principles, goals, and action steps. A completed implementation plan is not a part of this plan, but many proposed steps are. It is assumed that the Vice Presidents of the four divisions will work out a distribution of responsibility and unit-level assignments. The units will work with their division's supervisors to fine tune the plan in terms of a realistic time-table and budgetary requirements. Also, the regular reporting schedule would need to be agreed upon by the VP and perhaps the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. As we move forward we want to stress that officers, faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders should understand that in order for the University to accomplish its mission and reach the goals outlined below its daily work must be conducted in an environment of open and free inquiry and debate in which leaders, faculty, staff, and students know themselves empowered and their requisite work valued. The people carrying forward this work should be convinced that the work is valuable and that once settled the University will make every effort to implement the plan and allow resources to follow the direction that that strategic plan sets forth. Chancellor Davis is often quoted approvingly that a strategic plan should not just collect dust on an administrative bookshelf; it should matter; it should be consequential; it should, in short, drive the budget. This indeed is what we hope to see insofar as that is possible.
Vision of the Strategic Plan
The University of West Georgia (UWG) will pursue a strategy to become a competitive, destination member of a top (“robust”) tier of comprehensive universities in the University System of Georgia (USG), serving the broader west Georgia region as well as metro Atlanta and beyond including international students and clients. The fundamental effort of the University will be to provide for a diverse student population an array of high quality graduate and undergraduate programs in the liberal arts, business, and education that have as their distinctive mark the successful preparation for professional careers based upon the content, principles, and discipline of a liberal education. These programs will be as diverse as English and Nursing and taught by a faculty who are equally committed to teaching as they are to their research and service. Furthermore, West Georgia will be known for its distinctive approach to an integrated student experience, an experience that for undergraduates will be designed to guide them through their freshman experience to career goals and for graduate and professional programs to connect them as mentors, models, and guides for others on campus.
UWG History and the Strategic Plan
West Georgia’s history, its “rural roots” to use the term of the Centennial Commission, is grounded in professional preparation. It was primarily a teacher’s college in the early twentieth century, and its future, its “global reach,” will likewise be professional preparation in a more broadly defined manner. The earliest orientation of the history of West Georgia was as an A&M school and thus again we see at its core an emphasis on pragmatic education. This emphasis is by no means to be understood as what may be referred to derisively as vocational and technical education; rather, it should be understood as a weaving together of the liberal arts tradition (the educational program that teaches students to think about any subject, to create theories and test them) and the professional tradition (an educational program that teaches students to act, to do, to be in the world of business, education, science, the health professions). To be trained such is to follow the spirit of Benjamin Franklin whose theory of education informs the foundational principles of the University of Pennsylvania, whose history claims that “Franklin outlined a progressive college: one that would offer practical as well as classical instruction in order to prepare youth for real-world pursuits.” The future for West Georgia students is directed toward the global reach and globalization that will affect every one of our students. As one of the most popular of recent writers on globalization, Thomas Friedman, makes clear, the best training for this new world is a liberal arts training that prepares the students for new worlds of work. This is our plan, to emphasize our history of liberal arts and professional preparation to prepare students for the as yet unknown professions in the global economy of our very near future.
The Strategic Plan at 30,000 Feet
UWG’s Four Strategic Guiding Principles
- Academic Programs Balancing Liberal Arts with Professional Preparation
- A Campus that is Safe, Engaging, and Exciting
- Steady and Intelligent Enrollment and Resource Growth
- Meaningful Engagement with Off-campus Communities
The Strategic Plan is designed to shape the University of West Georgia for the next five years in such a way as to place it as a destination university, particularly among peer universities in the state of Georgia and among those universities in the nation granting doctoral degrees in programs that balance liberal education with professional preparation. In addition to this bold pledge of shaping, creating, and maintaining such a distinctive educational mission as expressed in its degree programs, it also promises to be a leader in campus safety and campus life. That is to say, West Georgia will be guided by a commitment to a safe and engaging campus. West Georgia predicts a growing enrollment, and the University is committed to a steady and smart growth that together with careful resource management will enhance our primary mission of academic excellence in a personal environment. Finally, we are committed to our external community from Atlanta to India to Japan, but we are quite mindful of our local community of Carrollton, Georgia, and will build on all of our current obligations of giving students opportunities for service work in the community even as we invite the community into our campus and thus work together to develop our neighborhood as a recognizable university village.
The Four Guiding Principles
Guiding Principle 1: The University will develop and support a distinctive set of quality academic programs ranging from bachelors to doctorates that blend the best of professionalized liberal education, experiential learning, and individual transformation.
Goal 1: Every undergraduate academic program will demonstrate a distinctive blending of liberal education, professional competencies, and experiential learning, preparing students to be ethically responsible and civically engaged professionals in the global economy of the 21st century.
Goal 2: Every undergraduate student will be advised to take advantage of one of multiple available learning communities. Learning communities that are available to students will include communities organized by living arrangement, by year in program, by other co-curricular associations – Honors Program, Advanced Academy, Band, Athletics, Debate, or program in the major.
Goal 3: The University will endeavor to increase enrollment in and graduation from graduate programs, including doctoral programs, that have as their mark a practical professional purpose, experiential learning opportunities, and an intellectual program informed by a foundation of liberal education.
Guiding Principle 2: Every responsible agency of the University will be dedicated to creating a safe, supportive, and engaging campus life.
Goal 4: The University will maintain an environment that is safe and conducive to learning.
Goal 5: The University community will provide a balanced variety of cultural, recreational, leisure, and informal education programming opportunities for faculty, staff, and students that enhance the quality of campus life.
Goal 6: All units will strive to improve the compensation and working environment of faculty and staff in order to recruit and retain the best individuals.
Guiding Principle 3: The steady enrollment growth over the next five years will be managed to enhance the University’s dedication to educational excellence in a personal environment.
Goal 7: The University will endeavor to increase our overall enrollment to 14,500 by the year 2015.
Goal 8: With our enrollment growth West Georgia will remain committed to the following targets of academic quality: faculty-student ratio of 18 to 1; average class size of 29; full-time to part-time faculty ratio of 4.4 to 1.
Goal 9: West Georgia will develop several new facilities to improve quality along with meeting capacity demands due to enrollment growth, such as new classroom space for Nursing and Art.
Guiding Principle 4: The University will increase its fund-raising and community service to match the needs of all of our stakeholders and communicate our story effectively.
Goal 10: Capital Campaign: The Development Office will prepare for a capital campaign to assist in meeting the long-term needs of the University of West Georgia
Goal 11: Communication and Marketing: The Office of University Communications and Marketing (UCM) will internally and externally promote the missions and goals of the strategic plan. This will be achieved by aligning the institution’s integrated marketing plan (advertising, visual identity standards, web presence, media relations, etc.) with the strategic plan.
Goal 12: Community Relations: The University will engage the local community educationally, culturally and recreationally.
A variety of supplementary documents are available for download at the following web address.