Preparing UND for the next level
A fond farewell to the One UND Strategic Plan, which has positioned UND well for the upcoming UND Leads plan
The One UND Strategic Plan isn’t talked about much any more, said Dana Michael Harsell, associate professor of political science and public administration at the University.
And as the co-chair of the 2016-17 committee that created the plan, he couldn’t be happier about it.
“I call that a win,” said Harsell, speaking about the fact that although UND still is operating under the five-year plan, whole days or even weeks may pass without his hearing about it.
“That’s because by now, a lot of the plan’s operations are so fully integrated into the fabric of the University.” Increasing access to online education (Goal 3 of the plan), improving graduation rates (Goal 2), a campuswide drive to boost research (Goal 4) and inclusivity (Goal 5) – these are elements that, thanks in part to the One UND plan, now are tracked by professionals and factored into decisions made in UND offices from Demers Avenue to Gateway Drive.
Jeff Holm, vice provost for Strategic Programming & Special Initiatives and previously a Goal Manager for the One UND plan, agreed. And remember, UND in 2016 was emerging from a demoralizing period of retrenchments and cuts, he noted. The One UND plan, with its seven goals to be accomplished by 2022 and specific metrics accompanying them, likely was what the campus needed at the time.
“Back then, I think a lot of those prescriptions were not being adequately addressed by the University,” Holm said.
“Now that they are being addressed, I think that allows us to build a new strategic planning effort on top of the foundation that has already been built.”
In other words, the One UND plan – now about to sunset – has brought UND to the point where it can advance even further with its new plan: the UND Leads plan, which a campus committee has been developing since the spring and will be launched in January, Holm said.
But more about that in a bit. First, some background:
Developing the plan
The One UND Strategic Plan got its start under former UND President Mark Kennedy. Starting in September 2016, Harsell and his co-chair, former UND Vice President for Student Affairs Laurie Betting (now retired), led a 50-person committee in the complex process of soliciting broad input and then crafting a workable plan.
In that pre-Zoom era, getting a 50-member committee to meet in person was itself a challenge, Harsell said. So was building a consensus on even noncontroversial topics: “Consider Goal One – the plan’s very first strategic pillar, the Liberal Arts,” said Holm, who served on the Goal One subcommittee.
“In open meetings and focus groups, we had people who I thought would be saying, ‘Yes, this is a really good idea.’ But instead, they’d speak out against it by saying, ‘If we single out the Liberal Arts as a goal, will it just exist over there in that silo, rather than underlying all of the other programs on campus?’”
But thanks to the administrative supports provided to the committee, as well as the thoughtful input of dozens of groups and thousands of people both on and off campus, the One UND Strategic Plan got delivered in the spring of 2017.
“Just thinking about the generosity of all of the deans, all of the department heads, all of the students, staff, faculty and administrators and alumni who gave so much of their time – it’s still inspiring,” Harsell said. “And it just speaks to the interest and desire of everyone at UND to produce something meaningful for the University.”
Implementing the plan
Then came the plan’s implementation stage, the effects of which still are being felt today, Holm said.
“In the provost’s office, we thought about it by asking, ‘How does this become a living thing?’ It becomes a living thing by being embedded in the institutional framework, like a reporter being embedded in an Army unit.”
That meant finding – or creating – University homes for each of the plan’s goals. So, for example, a new office was created to bring together academic core advisors, professional advisors, a new transfer coordinator, career services and other functions, all with an eye to implementing Goal 2: Increase Retention and Graduation Rates.
Speaking of retention, Goal 2 also called on UND to “progressively upgrade campus facilities and ambience,” Holm noted. That helped drive the major construction work that UND has undertaken in recent years, including the Coulee to Columbia Project, the construction of the Nistler and Memorial Union buildings and the upcoming renovations of Merrifield and Twamley halls.
“And consider ‘Goal 3: Deliver more educational opportunity online and on-campus,’” Holm said. “That’s now a department – UND Online – within the provost’s office. And that decision came out of Goal 3.”
UND had online programs before the One UND plan took effect, Holm said. But as happened with all of the other goals, the One UND plan drove strategic investments, in this case to boost the online programs’ reach, ease of use and integration into the curriculum.
Tracking the results
The net results of all that effort were impressive, said Amanda Moske, UND’s chief data officer and the head of University Analytics and Planning.
A standout component of the One UND plan was the development of multiple quantifiable metrics for each of the seven goals. Those metrics have been tracked with care, and a final report will be plan’s results is being prepared and will be available soon.
Overall, those results show that “in terms of retention and graduation rates, we hit most of our goals,” Moske said. “We hit our research goals. We hit our enrollment goals for both on-campus and online.
“Unfortunately, when you look at Serving the Military (Goal 6), we didn’t hit our goal,” she continued. “Though the number of earned semester credit hours for individuals affiliated with the military increased, those numbers didn’t reach the goal.”
But across all of the other goals, “we did very well.” And that’s likely to continue, as developing quantifiable metrics also will be a key component of the UND Leads Strategic Plan, Moske said.
The plan in action
When Dr. Joshua Wynne, vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, took over as interim president in 2019, UND still was feeling the effects of cutbacks and frequent leadership changes. (Counting Kennedy, former president Bob Kelley and former interim president Ed Schafer, Wynne was the fourth person to sit in the president’s chair in 3 ½ years.)
“When I took over, as you will recall, there was some upheaval in the University, there was uncertainty and the University felt a little abandoned, if you will,” Wynne said.
“There was a lack of a clear focus on where we were going. But to me, it was very clear where we were going, and that was moving forward together as One UND.”
The One UND Strategic Plan made a difference in two key ways, Wynne said. First, it crystalized prior strategic planning efforts into seven clear goals, building on those earlier plans in the process.
Second, it made sure not only that its goals were measurable, but also that they were – as Moske described – actually measured.
The result was a catalyst: a plan that helped UND unite despite the earlier period of uncertainty. “So during my interim presidency, the One UND plan basically was that bridge, that blueprint to the future that kept us focusing on where we were going,” Wynne said.
“I saw it as an evolution from the previous strategic plans. And in the same way, I see that we’re now ready for the next phase in the upcoming strategic plan.”
DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and the former Goal Captain for Goal 7 of the One UND Strategic Plan, agreed. Importantly, alumni as well as faculty, staff and students pay attention to strategic plans, she added.
“Strategic planning is a chance to take what we’re doing well and enhance it, while also bringing to the table new ideas,” Carlson Zink said. “And when that happens, you have more opportunities in fundraising as well. Because you’ll find that individuals or corporations who are friends of the University will be saying, ‘Yes, this is important to me. I want to be a part of it, and I can do that by being philanthropically involved.”
From One UND to UND Leads
To sum up, the fact that the One UND plan’s goals largely have been incorporated into UND’s culture is a real accomplishment, Carlson Zink said. But just as important, it’s also a solid foundation for the future.
Like their One UND counterparts did in 2016, this year’s UND Leads planners “sought wide input and did the hard work of distilling all of that into a cohesive whole,” Carlson Zink said.
The difference is that UND is a stronger university today, thanks to the research, retention, inclusion and other One UND-related elements that now are in place.
That means UND is positioned to emerge even stronger still, Carlson Zink said.
And the new UND Leads plan is the vehicle to make that happen.
Like a university ascending Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, UND has strengthened its student-satisfaction, academic culture and other foundational values, and now has its eye on innovation, pioneering, continuous improvement and other higher-order traits.
“My sense is, it’s cumulative,” Carlson Zink said. “That’s how the One UND plan worked, and that’s how I see the new UND Leads Strategic Plan: as a stairstep for increasing UND’s visibility and exceptional service as a university.
“So the campus community now is going to take UND to the next level.”