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President Harrison's Letter

Dear Members of the University Community:

I write to distribute to you a draft of the University's Strategic Plan for the next five years. The plan is the product of six months of growingly intensive work by a group of about 120 administrators, faculty, staff, and Regents, led by the provost, the vice presidents, and me. I'll explain the process we followed later in this letter.

We are sending this draft plan to all faculty and staff now for your reflection and comment, with our hope that you will be able to participate in one way or another in the final phase of the plan's preparation, which will take place over the first month of the spring semester. I encourage you to read about this in more detail by visiting the strategic planning website, and to offer comments through email to Sue Fitzgerald at fitzgeral@hartford.edu. All comments are due by Friday, January 24.

OK. OK. I can hear you now. “What in blue blazes are they springing on me, during the final days of the semester, when I have tons of end-of-the-semester work to do? What am I supposed to do about my piles of finals or exams, or my end-of-year reports?”

The good news is that you can relax. We're sending it to you now so that you can read it thoroughly over the next five weeks and respond, either in writing or in group sessions or town hall meetings we will be holding toward the end of January.

Basically, what you'll find attached is an eight-page plan, the result of six months' work. The Board of Regents reviewed this last week, and we came away from three hours of discussion and deliberation with advice I would paraphrase as follows: “It's a good plan, with some excellent and important goals. If anything, it may be too ambitious in responding to the threats the University will face in the next few years. Solicit advice and comments from the faculty, staff, and students, and then use that to focus and sharpen it before bringing it back to us in February for further discussion and approval.”

I believe that this plan takes shape around three core ideas and three other goals aimed at building a sustainable financial base for the University.

The core ideas are:

  1. Re-examine and re-design our basic curricular foundation to create a new way to balance disciplinary focus with interdisciplinary breadth and a re-imagining of how we provide all of our students with a vibrant general education. Together, this new curricular plan should provide the context in which to introduce the second goal.
  2. Establish and integrate with our academic core, a career-ready focus for every one of our undergraduate students, regardless of major or academic focus. This career-ready focus would begin in the first year of a student's attendance and increase in intensity throughout their undergraduate years. This career readiness will no doubt take a different form for every major, but our plan imagines that every major, from the liberal arts to the arts and professions, will devise a career-ready focus that complements and enriches the disciplinary work and our general education.

We believe a combination of these two goals will differentiate the University from many of its competitors and emphasize its attractiveness to our wide range of undergraduate students. And we believe our third goal will provide a further balance and an exciting new departure.

  1. Establish a new, centralized, entrepreneurially-focused unit to develop a “virtual” University of Hartford that responds to market demand for fully online programs for non-traditional students and employers seeking skill-building and professional development. We anticipate these programs will be at the graduate or professional development level. We also anticipate that this initiative will help make us more innovative and agile, and this new culture will allow us to develop more hybrid programs as well.

In helping provide the revenue to make these and other improvements possible, the plan anticipates three important supporting goals:

  1. Fully implementing the University brand—namely support and challenge as keys to student success—as a core function of every member of the University community.
  2. A new emphasis on fundraising, with adequate support and focus by senior management and the Board of Regents.
  3. Renewed emphasis throughout the University on enrollment management, emphasizing both the recruitment of new students and the retention of current students.

Each of these core ideas and supporting goals will be accompanied by appropriate economic models and budgets, and will be measured by agreed upon metrics.

That's my quick summary of the important parts of the plan. But I encourage you to read it for yourself and develop your own opinions and perspectives. Here's an equally quick summary of how this plan was developed.

Beginning in May, with the help and advice of the strategic planning consulting firm The Napa Group, we designated the provost, vice presidents, and me as the Steering Committee. Throughout this process we have coordinated our work with the Board of Regents Strategic Planning Committee. After consultation, we discussed the central ideas behind the plan's formation and solicited advice from the Council of Deans, the Faculty Senate, and through several sessions of selected faculty and staff. We then devised and distributed a survey to all faculty and staff, and then used the comments by the nearly 500 people who participated in these early phases to work on a basic set of goals in the early fall.

We then constituted five teams of faculty and staff, one for each goal, each of which was led by co-chairs of senior faculty or administrators, and charged them with recommending broad approaches or solutions for achieving the five goals. These solution teams devised all of the specific goals of the plan, although the provost, vice presidents, and I had to choose from among many great ideas presented by these teams in November. The Steering Committee then completed the plan and discussed it with the Board of Regents last week.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. In addition to the attached plan, within days we will be uploading a great deal of background material to the strategic planning website. I urge you to read the plan, read through the materials on the website, and comment to us directly by sending your thoughts to Sue Fitzgerald at fitzgeral@hartford.edu . I also encourage you to plan to attend one of the open meetings we will begin holding in mid-January. We will announce the exact times, dates, and venues for these sessions in early January. We will also hold discussion sessions with the Council of Deans, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Association, and the Student Government Association.

I hope you find this fairly quick summary useful and will plan to join in the community discussion of this important planning initiative.

Sincerely,

Walter Harrison

President

About the NAPA Group

The University has retained The Napa Group to facilitate this project. They specialize in higher education strategy, leadership, and organizational design and have extensive experience with institutions of all sizes.   NAPA Group