This past year Washington State University launched the Institutional Effectiveness Council to facilitate and track our progress on the 2014-19 Strategic Plan. Following months of planning, the development of clear and reliable measures, assessment of the proper fit of various peer-comparison groups, and an initial inventory of efforts across the system, the Council hereby presents its first progress report.
What is the Institutional Effectiveness Council?
The Council was convened last year and formed subcommittees around each of the four themes of the Strategic Plan. Those groups began gathering information, gauging the effectiveness of current practices, reviewing strategic plans from units across the University, and taking inventory of WSU’s efforts under each theme. They also promote awareness and communication across the university and provide feedback from the university community to the steering committee. The subcommittee members include a broad range of representatives from academic affairs, student affairs, business services and operations, faculty, staff, students, all campuses and areas, based on programs and services connected to each theme.
What have the subgroups been doing?
Each subgroup has spent the past few months collecting and reviewing strategic plans, organizational charts, and assessment data from all colleges, areas, and campuses. They have identified common and best practices that can help each unit to make and document their progress on University goals.
What universities will comprise our peer-comparison group?
- Colorado State University-Fort Collins
- Iowa State University
- Louisiana State University and A&M
- Mississippi State University
- North Carolina State University Raleigh
- Oregon State University
- Purdue University-Main
- University of Georgia
- University of Maryland-College Park
- University of Missouri-Columbia
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- University of Tennessee-Knoxville
- Virginia Tech
What measures are being used to assess our progress?
How are we doing so far?
Below is a summary of the subcommittee reports, including a review of how areas of our institution currently are gauging progress on each theme, activity reports, and recommended next steps for the strategic plan implementation process. Overall, in comparison to our identified peers, Washington State University’s performance currently is mixed. For example, WSU is in the top half of peer institutions for research and development expenditures, but at the bottom for freshman student retention.
Theme 1: World Class Innovation, Discovery and Creativity
WSU’s research vision is well aligned with the Strategic Plan. The 120-Day Study and resulting Grand Challenges (Sustaining health, Sustainable resources, Opportunity and equity, Smart systems, National security) define the University’s strategic research agenda. The Office of Research is now moving forward to implement the Grand Challenges and 120-Day Study detailed recommendations. This includes a reorganization of the Office of Research that will improve proposal development and business processes and thus, enhance our performance. The Office of Economic Development has now been moved under the Office of Research; this will bolster innovation and industrial collaborations. The Office of Research also is strengthening the Office of Research Assurances to meet current and anticipated demand in the compliance area.
WSU is also improving its research infrastructure. As an example, major computing infrastructure has been installed and will be brought online in the Fall of 2015.
We are encouraged by growth in research and development expenditures in each of the last ten years. This, along with recent organizational changes, shows encouraging progress. The Office of Economic Development has now been moved under the Office of Research; this will bolster innovation and industrial collaborations. The Office of Research also is strengthening the Office of Research Assurances to boost WSU’s compliance activities.
Theme 2: Transformative Student Experience
Strategic plans drafted in recent months tend to align well with the University Strategic Plan; the subcommittee recommends convening University-wide workshops on developing and writing strategic plans to help areas and units develop consistency, specificity and accountability within plans. A common theme among submitted plans has been a commitment to improve facilities, and some units cite investment plans to facilitate suggested improvements.
Theme 3: Outreach and Engagement
This group has noted an overall need for more communication both externally and internally and has offered several recommendations for improvement. WSU’s marketing efforts need better internal coordination so that departments working with various constituencies like students, alums, donors, and policymakers can collectively develop one voice for WSU messaging and strategy. The Marketing Steering Committee has been created to address this. With regard to internal communication, Dr. Bernardo has started using HTML direct communication for internal messaging with great success. The subcommittee is considering further options to include other direct HTML communications and other new methods of internal communication.
Theme 4: Institutional Effectiveness: Diversity, Transparency and Integrity
This subcommittee has noted that most strategic plans across the University contain statements embracing diversity and equity but tend to lack metrics to measure effective practices and improvements. The subcommittee has observed that peer institutions also lack diversity and equity metrics. It seems clear that many of the sub-goals in theme 4 are difficult to measure and thus, they typically aren’t measured either within WSU or at peer institutions. Given this dearth of measures it is unsurprising that WSU has not yet identified metrics for two of the Theme 4 sub-goals, but a number of other ways to track progress have been identified. The subcommittee will continue to work on this issue.
The subcommittees have identified a variety of recommended practices and have made further suggestions as follows:
- Implementation of the 120-Day Study and the Grand Challenge themes to focus WSU’s ambitions and resources on critical research challenges with the potential to produce broad-based societal impacts.
- Creation of Grand Challenge teams, aided by peer review input, to implement Grand Challenge activities.
- Utilization of the Office of Research Advancement and Partnerships to support the development of more and higher quality proposals, with an emphasis on large $1M/year proposals.
- Aligning the University’s government relations and private sector outreach with our research agenda. This includes hiring consultants, e.g. Lewis Burke. For more information contact WSU Government Relations and External Affairs.
- Implementation of strategies to hire the best faculty in areas of strategic importance to WSU research.
- Implementation of external reviews, including “red team” reviews, of major grant proposals.
- Establishment and facilitation of collaborations with national laboratories, research universities and other research-oriented entities.
- Formation of a Strategic Marketing Council to create alignment in our University messaging to students, families, private, and public audiences, and partners.
- Improvement and standardization of communication tactics for high-level communication to help improve internal communication, along with the use of blogs, social media, with an emphasis on improving transparency and opportunities for feedback.
- The use of information obtained from the institution-wide Employee Engagement Survey to assess diversity and equity, as well as employee engagement and satisfaction.
- The IEC will develop sessions to promote awareness and communication about the Strategic Plan, and workshops for administrators on preparation of strategic plan
- A University-wide town hall meeting will be convened to discuss the Strategic Plan with the steering committee, to increase awareness and adherence to the Strategic Plan.
- For faculty, the IEC should join with the Faculty Senate to review the need for and value of unit-level strategic planning, and the importance of faculty’s role in accreditation review.
- The steering committee should provide periodic updates to the Faculty Senate.
- Development of metrics for subgoals within Theme 4 by using WSU historical data, if available. If historical data is unavailable, unit metrics may rely on peer institutional strategic plans.
- A survey should be implemented to provide opportunities to assess progress on subgoals not easily trackable by more objective measures.
- Sustained communication should emphasize the need to assess unit performance, and reinforce that performance can be objectively assessed.
- The IEC steering committee should meet with unit leadership to discuss each unit’s strategic plan and its alignment with the WSU Strategic Plan.
- Refine and clarify goals related to working with alumni and constituency representatives on advisory boards.
- The IEC should publish each subcommittee report and provide an avenue for feedback. The Office of the Provost communication team should provide regular updates on strategic planning.
- The Office of the Provost should communicate frequently with units to help them tie measures to their strategic goals.
- The Provost Office should place the Strategic Plan on the agenda for the annual University chairs and directors meeting, and the Strategic Plan should be a standing agenda item on Provost’s Council and University Council meetings for regular updates.
The IEC steering committee and subcommittees will facilitate fulfillment of the recommendations from the subcommittees. In addition, several major initiatives are under way to advance the goals of the strategic plan, such as:
- The faculty senate is pursuing reforms to the annual review process;
- The Office of the Provost is pursuing an alternative to the WORQS faculty reporting system, with a pilot of the Digital Measures reporting system taking place through the Carson College of Business;
- The Office of the Provost is in the process of implementing recommendations from a set of four task forces convened last academic year to improve academic planning and faculty hiring and review processes across campuses and colleges;
- The steering committee will be reviewing recommendations from the subcommittees to set benchmark targets for progress on the strategic plan’s 55 institution-level metrics.
The next report on the University’s progress on the strategic plan metrics will be released in early 2016.