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Faculty, Staff and Students Help Shape Strategic Plan

Campus Responds to President’s Invitation by Packing the Titan Student Union

Oct. 15, 2012

Photo of Jennifer Faust, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs

Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Jennifer Faust led Town Hall attendees in extended discussion of the plan's stated goals.

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More than 400 campus members gathered in the Titan Student Union Friday morning to help set the course for the university’s next five years.

A standing-room-only crowd assembled at the invitation and urging of CSUF President Mildred García, who has identified the completion of the University’s Integrated Strategic Plan as a priority for the institution.

Aligning Mission and Budget

“This strategic plan is about us, it is about … who we are, how we are different, highlighting our priorities based on our mission and then determine how we measure our accomplishments and tell the world the great things that we do at Cal State Fullerton,” she said in welcoming the faculty, staff, students, deans and program directors assembled in the Portola Pavilion.

“This is the plan that will highlight how we align our priorities to our budget, which is so important today in these times of fiscal crisis,” she said.

García introduced Jolene Koester, emerita president of Cal State Northridge, now serving as consultant to CSUF as facilitator for the planning process; the members of the reconstituted Strategic Planning Steering Committee; and Irene Matz, associate dean of the College of Communications and the on-site coordinator, and thanked them, along with the attendees, for their efforts. “Look at the number of the people in this room who are committed to this institution,” García said.

The roster of speakers that followed included Koester and the two co-chairs of the steering committee, Robert W. Mead, associate professor of economics and chair of the Academic Senate’s Planning Resource and Budget Committee (PRBC); and Jennifer Faust, associate vice president for academic affairs.

Getting There

Mead recapped the years of campuswide engagement and effort that preceded the day’s activities, including establishment last year of a committee to move the planning process forward.

“Planning has been active on the campus for a number of years,” he said, “involving a number of entities.” Following many exercises and much campus engagement, an ad-hoc committee produced a plan, but one without goals, strategies or initiatives, so the Academic Senate’s PRBC “tried taking it to the next step.”

Later on, he noted, “WASC realized we weren’t quite there” and said that one issue of concern was the setting of 25 goals — “too many” to be incorporated into a plan for the next five years. Both Koester and Faust reiterated that point.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel ... and we're not throwing away everything that we did,” he said. In “trying to figure out what goals do we want to push for the next five years,” he added, “it's important to have these conversations.”

Koester said it is “an honor” to work with the campus on the strategic plan. She offered background on the characteristics of successful planning and cited being “positive” as one of the elements. “This is the time for those of you who see the glass as half full to really come to the forefront and help set the tone for the planning process.”

She also coached the participants on how to approach the morning’s group exercises as part of a dialogue. The first exercise involved whittling down the 25 goals that emerged during the previous phase of the planning process; the second was devoted to identifying five priorities among remaining goals.

“Twenty-five goals is too many goals ... you can't possibly achieve that,” Koester said, speaking to the packed pavilion. The plan “needs to be implementable; this is not a letter to Santa Claus.”

Being Strategic

In speaking to the strategic aspect of the plan, she noted: “It doesn’t refer to and include everything that goes on in this institution of higher education, so it is possible that when the plan is completed, that the part of the university that you work in, that you bring passion to, that you care the most about won’t necessarily be automatically reflected in the goals and strategic priorities. It doesn’t mean that what you do isn’t an important and ongoing function of the university. It just means that right now, it doesn’t fall into the set of activities that need to be undertaken, in order for Cal State Fullerton to best meet the challenges of this time, in order to fulfill its mission,” she explained.

In urging the participants to be creative, she said: “There’s a lot of smarts in this room. … Let’s take advantage of that intelligence, that set of ideas, that passion for Cal State Fullerton that you all bring to your work every day and bring that to bear to this strategic planning process.”

Furthering her coaching role, Koester added: “You’re a university filled with greatness, how is it that you want to shape and promote that greatness, develop it over the next five years? This strategic plan you have heard your president say is going to guide and shape what takes place at Cal State Fullerton. That’s the internal imperative for doing this process.”

Refining the Plan

Faust led the exercises and cited things to avoid while paring down the list of goals.

"Remember, it’s not necessarily what we're already doing; it’s not the definition of the university, but it’s something that we're poised to do now and will bring us another step forward,” she said.

"Avoid listing as a strategic goal for the campus something that we do as an ordinary part of doing business.” She also advised participants to steer clear of redundancies, vague statements “because they’re going to be hard to operationalize” and overly ambitious goals that cannot be achieved in the next five years.

She also reminded participants that the goals “are supposed to be aspirational.”

Attendees sitting around tables of eight or more engaged in spirited debates while completing the exercises in their small groups. During the period set aside for participants to stand and deliver on the reasons for their choices, cheers broke out for popular positions.

Near the end of the reporting-out period, Faust said: “I’m really excited by both the consensus that is emerging, but also by the difference of opinion, so I feel that the steering committee has its work cut out for it … ”

Next Steps

Attendees were asked to urge their colleagues to get involved in the process by sending in their own recommendations to the steering committee at with the subject line Individual Feedback, or visit the website to offer feedback.

The steering committee will review and refine the input in the coming weeks and report back to the campus. Working groups will be established across the campus, and another town hall is planned for the spring to present a draft of the strategic plan.

At morning’s end, García declared: “This institution rocks! All you have to do is look around, and we're rocking today. We are touching over 37,600 and some students; we're doing it for them. ... We are all committed to the student body we serve.”

More about the process is available online, including the PowerPoint presentation from Friday’s session.

By: Paula Selleck, 657-278-4856

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