Cheryl Norton addresses audience for strategic plan review

SRU Strategic Plan

New strategic plan charts course for SRU’s future

Feb. 23, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - A clear and defined direction for how Slippery Rock University will draw upon its strengths in an effort to position itself within the commonwealth and the world was unveiled Feb. 23 by SRU President Cheryl Norton during a presentation in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

A compilation of nearly two years of work, the "working" plan represents a blueprint for the University's future, highlighting key priorities, goals and actions that SRU will look to implement in order to further its vision to "excel as a caring community of lifelong learners connecting with the world." It includes extensive input from the University's administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and other constituents.

According to Philip Way, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, unlike SRU's previous strategic plan, introduced five years ago and providing a 15-year outlook, the 2016 version features a pared down, three to five-year forecast, providing for a more realistic approach given the climate of higher education.

The plan features eight goals:

  1. Increase enrollment while enhancing student quality and diversity.
  2. Offer a quality, flexible, agile and integrated curriculum and co-curriculum to develop the intellectual, social, physical and leadership capacities of students.
  3. Fuel learning with powerful pedagogies and transformational experiences in and out of the classroom.
  4. Maintain an unwavering focus on success for all students.
  5. Provide a supportive campus experience through quality housing, dining, recreation, health, safety and administrative services, and a caring community.
  6. Attract, retain and develop highly qualified and diverse faculty, staff and administrators.
  7. Increase financial resources, enhance physical facilities, employ cost-effective technology and use sustainable processes and procedures.
  8. Engage alumni and friends in the life of the university.

"Given the vast input from all areas and constituencies of our University, this strategic plan will allow us to come together and move our institution forward with a mature and common focus that will allow our students to be successful not only for their future, but for the world," said Norton.

Each goal is supported by specific strategies, assigned to those SRU faculty and staff who facilitate such work on a daily basis. "The people who are responsible for implementation are the ones involved in the creation and forecasting," said Way. "We'll get results because the plan holds our people accountable."

For example, the plan's first goal - to increase enrollment while enhancing student quality and diversity - is being coordinated by Amanda Yale, associate provost for enrollment management, and Genevieve Bordogna, associate director for international student admissions.

The pair, with additional support from their respective departmental teams, will tailor data-driven recruitment, marketing, communication and financial aid/scholarship approaches to targeted market segments including: freshman, transfer, graduate and international students, as well as adult learners.

Eva Tsuquiashi-Daddesio, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, teamed with Keith Dils, dean of the College of Education on the plan's second goal: offering a quality, flexible, agile and integrated curriculum and co-curriculum to develop the intellectual, social, physical and leadership capacities of students.

"Departments are finding creative ways to stay relevant and offer students an education that fulfills market needs nationally and internationally," said Tsuquiashi-Daddesio.

"Prospective students will see that SRU offers degrees with curricula that will lead them to maximize their professional relevance," said Tsuquiashi-Daddesio. "With a focus on regional, national and international trends, SRU can be seen as a dynamic institution that quickly responds to socio-economic changes."

Regardless of goal, Dils said it is the responsibility of all units to provide clear direction to those responsible in order to achieve success.

"These goals will be shared at chairs meetings, all college meetings and department meetings to insure that productive dialogue is encouraged and shared governance is continued as we move forward with these plans," he said.

"I think all parties would agree that we've benefited from a campus-wide approach because the issues were investigated from numerous perspectives and the plan continued to evolve as new ideas were generated. The finished product represents, as much as possible, a campus-wide conception of the future of SRU."

Brad Wilson, interim associate provost for transformational experiences, said that through the process of creating the new plan it became even clearer that the learning process in higher education is a two-way street.

"In regard to powerful pedagogies, we have realized that the learning process involves effort on the part of both the teacher and the learner; it is not a one-way process," said Wilson, who along with Brian Danielson, director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Educational Technology, co-chaired the Goal 3 group.

"Thus, we have had to lay out strategies that are aimed at developing a higher level of awareness of different teaching approaches along with their strengths and weaknesses."

Lawrence Shao, dean of the College of Business, and Warren Anderson, associate provost for student success, co-chaired strategic Goal 4 that dealt with maintaining an unwavering focus on success for all students.

Deb Pincek, executive director for academic and student affairs resources, and Kris Benkeser, director of student health services partnered on the plan's fifth goal: Providing a supportive campus experience through quality housing, dining, recreation, health, safety and administrative services, and a caring community.

"(Simply put) quality is based on a consistent approach to the service, whether that be the admissions process, teaching or providing food service," said Pincek. "Conducting ongoing evaluations based on best-practice standards is important in order for us to provide top quality services and facilities."

Benkesser added that potential students are first looking for quality in both academics and accommodations. "Sometimes the 'living' aspect is the turning point in a student's decision to attend SRU. We have to make sure we're providing the best situation we can on all fronts."

Mary Hennessey, assistant to the provost, Jerry Chmielewski, interim dean of the College of Health, Environment and Science, and Lynne Motyl, assistant vice president for Human Resources, provided leadership for Goal 6, which focuses on attracting, retaining and developing highly qualified and diverse faculty, staff and administrators.

John Ziegler, associate provost, information and administrative technology services and team leader for Goal 7: increase financial resources, enhance physical facilities, employ cost-effective technology and use sustainable processes and procedures, summed up the project's reason for being.

"By placing a strategic focus on goals that are normally 'behind the scenes' such as improving campus facilities, technology and finances," said Ziegler, "it will drive innovative approaches that will differentiate our institution from others."

Goal 7 co-chairs included Carrie Birckbichler, associate provost for Academic Planning, Resource Management and Assessment; Molly Mercer, assistant vice president for finance; and Samantha Swift, director of development for the SRU Foundation.

John Rindy, director of Career Education and Development, and Tina Moser, chief of staff, provided leadership for Goal 8, which is to engage alumni and friends in the life of the University.

The complete strategic plan can be viewed at: http://www.sru.edu/about/strategic-planning. Individuals wishing to submit suggestions for the University's strategic plan may do so via: http://rockpride.sru.edu/forms/strategicplanning/.

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 | robert.king@sru.edu