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Common terms related to strategic planning



A voluntary process conducted by peers through non-governmental agencies for the purpose of improving educational quality and assuring the public that programs and services meet established standards.


A specific step designed to accomplish a goal.


A systematic approach that focuses on the collection, analysis, and use of data to improve or enhance programs and services.


Future-oriented statements that serve as projections about the future environment the institution is likely to be operating in as it moves toward achievement of its vision.


An improvement tool whereby an organization measure its performance or process against similar organizations’ best practices, determines how those organizations achieved their performance levels, and uses the information to improve its own performance.

Campus master plan

Long-range plan for the development of new infrastructure, as well as the use and maintenance of existing facilities. Each of the University’s five physical campuses has a master plan.

Core themes

Areas of timeless focus that are core to the institution’s mission.

Future vision

What the institution seeks to be or become within a future time horizon. The future vision consists of a big goal statement and vivid descriptions.


Outcome-oriented statements, worded in the future tense, that describe what will be achieved for stakeholders, and progress that will be made toward the long-range vision.

Measure or metric

Numeric- or data-oriented milestones to achieve a specific point in time on the way to accomplishing the goal. Describes the measure or change that will be used to assess progress and set future benchmarks and targets.


The fundamental purpose for which the institution exists.  It should not be confused with specific goals, vision, or operating strategies. A mission statement may include what the organization does and for whom, how, and why the work is done.


Measurable, attainable milestones that describe progress toward key issues affecting the ability to achieve the goal, and what would constitute success in observable or measurable terms. Indicates a direction: increase, expand, decrease, reduce, consolidate, abandon, improve, distribute, enhance.

Strategic planning

A specialized planning method for organizations based on the 3 core elements of: a clearly defined mission statement, acknowledgment of basic values that must be expressed in its actions, and a vision of desired future outcomes. The elements are used to develop and carry out a specified course of action to reach the organization’s envisioned future.

Strategic priorities

These define system-wide or core institutional commitments that define our desired outcomes for the 5-year period that are required to achieve the vision.


Specific actions taken by the institution to commit its resources to accomplishing a goal. Brings focus to operational allocation of resources. Indicates an activity: redesign, refine, revise, develop, implement, create, establish.

SWOT analysis

An assessment of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that an organization must consider when making strategic decisions. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors related to the institution and Opportunities and Threats represent external factors related to the competitive environment.


Tasks that create progress toward accomplishing an action step.


The essential and enduring tenets that guide behavior and decision-making and shape institutional culture.  Values can define both what is important to do and how it should be done.


A clear and succinct description of the ideal future state of an organization.


A process by which individuals or groups develop a vision or dream of a future state for themselves and their organization. The vision should be clear and powerful, motivating the organization’s staff and students to carry out and sustain the actions needed to make the dream or vision a reality. The process of developing the vision should be shared among the institutional community.

Vision statement

This describes where we are going as an institution. The statement should be inspirational and aspirational, and should guide planning, decisions, and actions.