North Central Self Study
Chapter 6: Criterion Four
The institution can continue to accomplish its purposes and strengthen
its educational effectiveness
Effective Planning Processes
University of Nebraska at Kearney plans are shaped by continuous planning dynamics at three levels: in the state-wide and University of Nebraska-wide framework, in UNK's campus-wide planning processes, and in individual Colleges and units. These processes must be coordinated to help position the institution effectively.
Planning at Statewide and University of Nebraska System Levels
The Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (CCPE) has oversight for all public institutions in Nebraska. It produces a statewide plan, which provides general guidance relative to mission and core objectives for campuses within the university, state college, and community college systems.
The University of Nebraska's Central Administration developed a Strategic Planning Framework for 2000-2004 that guides the work of the four institutions within the University system. This document states overarching goals and strategies reflecting top-level priorities developed by senior University administrators, with some campus input, and approved by the Board of Regents.
Apart from that comprehensive document, University-wide planning initiatives are also important in selected areas of special interest. For example, the Information Technology Office in the NU system, with the assistance of campus-based personnel, has prepared overall plans for technology development and has also spearheaded specific upgrade projects (especially for administrative computing). Also, the 1999-2001 University-wide process of identifying top priority academic programs was led by the University President on behalf of the Regents, working through a Blue Ribbon Committee of faculty and academic administrators. This resulted in the Program of Excellence funding mentioned earlier. The Regents and University of Nebraska-wide officials have also actively promoted both central and campus-based diversity planning.
Planning at the University of Nebraska at Kearney
Planning at the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus level takes place within the framework and dynamics that produced the UNK Strategic Plan 1995-2005. The UNK Strategic Plan 1995-2005 was a result of a yearlong planning effort led by the Assistant to the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, described previously in Chapter 1. It was designed to be different from long range planning efforts of previous administrations in that (1) it would be more broadly collaborative, (2) it would reflect fiscal realities, and (3) it would be consequential - i.e., it would guide future budgeting. A Strategic Planning Committee, representing all campus constituencies and the off-campus community, developed the plan. Its work produced a new mission statement as well as an environmental scan identifying key planning factors. It also conducted a series of hearings at which each unit reporting to the Chancellor, along with academic colleges, presented a strategic plan for the unit. The UNK Strategic Planning Committee updated this plan in 1997-98, when all units were asked to present progress toward goals.
The Strategic Planning Committee met regularly during each academic year from 1994 through 2002. With the institution of a Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs position in 1995-96, that officer assumed responsibility for chairing the committee (working directly with the Chancellor on agendas and proceedings). Membership included all Vice-Chancellors, a dean, faculty members (including Faculty Senate leaders), staff members, students, and community members. In general, the Chancellor and SVCAA have used this forum to adjust some aspects of the original strategic plan, to review progress in specific areas of interest, and to consider ideas for future development. The Committee's forward-looking work proved especially useful after 1997-98, when budget planning at all NU campuses was required first to reallocate resources to top internal priorities and then (starting in 2001) to reduce campus budgets in response to a statewide economic downturn. The Committee was also the mechanism through which UNK developed academic program priorities, in a process initiated by Varner Hall in 1999 (and described previously). Funding for priority programs began in 2001-2002 and has continued in subsequent years. Annual reports on the use of funds are submitted to the Regents and can be found along with other planning reports in the Resource Room.
Outside the formal strategic planning committee process, UNK has employed other mechanisms to review challenges and opportunities and to set institutional direction. From1994 to 2001, the Chancellor's Administrative Council met annually in August to review progress the past year toward existing objectives and set new objectives for the coming year. Strategic themes addressed during these planning retreats included:
- student retention
- student life assessment
- information technology
- academic programs
- communications and marketing
- student recruitment and financial aid
- diversity (See Resource Room)
Also, within the framework of values and objectives established in the Strategic Plan, a variety of special plans launched initiatives in areas of strategic import. They include:
- the Facilities Master Plan (October 1997)
- an Information Technology Plan (January 1999)
- a Communications and Marketing Plan (May 1999)
- a series of student recruitment and financial aid assessments and plans
- a Gender Equity Report for Athletics (1996)
- Athletic Scholarship Funding Study (1997)
- a Student Life Assessment Report
- an Assessment Strategic Plan (2001)
- NCAA Self-Study Report (2003)
- annual reports by the Director of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity
Since 2001, planning related to budget reduction has been the major focus of two chancellors and major unit leaders. One product of this process is a tighter focus on the institution's strategic core as decisions are made concerning what to protect and what can be reduced. During budget cuts in 2002-03, the Chancellor sought input from faculty, staff, and students during open campus forums as well as from the Administrative Council and the Faculty Senate Executive committee. The UNK Strategic Planning Committee did not meet that year, but the Chancellor intends to reconvene it in 2004 to develop the next UNK Strategic Plan. The NCA Self-Study process will lay a framework for developing the next UNK Strategic Plan.
Planning in Colleges and Major Units
As described previously, each College developed a strategic plan that has guided the work of the college and in some cases, the work of departments. A priority the past decade has been working toward accreditation of business programs by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). The College of Education continues to be accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
At the department level, the UNK Academic Program Review process results in programs within departments conducting a self study every five years with follow-up accountability reports to the appropriate dean(s) and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. National professional associations accredit numerous programs. During the past years, priority program planning has impacted selected departments within each college. Plans for each year are tied to additional budget allocations that are designed to strengthen these programs.
In addition, within major administrative divisions and in major units that report directly to the Chancellor, planning is a continuous endeavor. For example:
- UNK's student recruitment and financial aid planners prepare for and conduct each recruitment cycle in light of systematic assessment of past results and current opportunities.
- The Business and Finance Division plans and manages a variety of projects and operations that maintain and improve the physical campus (recent examples include rehabilitation of Bruner Hall's infrastructure and construction of a new greenhouse, as well as unifying the heating and cooling system for our east and west campuses. The Division has also recently reorganized, based on recommendations of a consultant who evaluated ways to streamline both operations and the supervisory structure.
- The Student Affairs Division plans in areas affecting the quality of campus life and student retention - e.g., residence hall renovation and refurbishment, first-year learning communities, and multicultural activities.