Comprehensive strategic planning effort sets the stage

 

Academic opportunities, neighborhood development, student preparation

The thousands of suggestions from Vision 2030 coalesced into 32 proposed initiatives that can help the University achieve excellence in enrollment and retention, brand identity and image, career outcomes for students, University advancement, and finance and affordability, while strengthening the surrounding community

Cummins-CEO-108After a year of conversations involving every segment of UIndy, the Board of Trustees has adopted an ambitious blueprint for a strategic plan designed to:
—establish UIndy as a major anchor institution on the south side;
—build on its liberal arts core and strengths in health care, education, business, political science, and gerontology;
—invigorate the student experience with new opportunities and connections;
—support faculty and programmatic innovation;
—expand financial aid;
—improve retention; and
—integrate teaching and applied learning in distinctive new ways.

“UIndy has a storied history of academic excellence and service to Indianapolis,” noted President Manuel, “and a special relationship with the surrounding University Heights neighborhood that dates back to our founding in 1902. “We want to work with our community to revive the possibilities in the neighborhood we share and create new opportunities for students and faculty. “A mass transit hub alone has the potential to transform the area. UIndy can bring its assets to bear to make University Heights a destination point and to encourage development that will benefit our educational programs as well as the community.”

Healthplex in the offing?

motion-lab-photoA medical clinic/health complex at the edge of campus, for instance, with office and laboratory space for many of UIndy’s allied health programs, could provide clinical experiences for nursing students right in the neighborhood, as well as research and clinical opportunities for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychology majors. Such a facility, identified as a priority during the strategic planning process, could free up space that’s now dedicated to those high-demand programs in existing campus buildings, providing more room for basic science labs and enabling program expansion.

Sorting the torrent of ideas

The strategic planning process, initiated in the fall of 2012 shortly after Manuel’s arrival as UIndy’s ninth president, involved 1,600 individuals in conversations and task force activity that represented all segments of the University—students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and trustees—and the neighborhood, and generated more than 5,500 ideas. Yet it is just the beginning of a more extensive conversation about realizing a collective vision for UIndy and University Heights. The thousands of suggestions from Vision 2030 coalesced into 32 proposed initiatives that can help the University achieve excellence in enrollment and retention, brand identity and image, career outcomes for students, University advancement, and finance and affordability, while strengthening the surrounding community.

The initiatives fall within one or more of three University focal points for the next decade that emerged from the strategic planning process: the student experience, faculty/staff excellence, and community engagement. Development of the surrounding neighborhood will be integral to all three.

Restructuring to better prepare students

around-campus-3165One result of the strategic planning process is a blending of the Office of Alumni Relations with the offices of Career Services and Community Programs (which connects students with volunteer and service-learning opportunities in the community). Every group that engaged in Vision 2030 conversations had emphasized the importance of connecting students and alumni in more meaningful ways. This merger of operations within the Advancement division will set the stage for comprehensive mentoring and career development. Student advising also is being restructured to create a centralized system that will go well beyond course scheduling to focus on creating a professional development plan for every student—incorporating coursework with applied experiences, travel, service, and co-curricular activities. The new advising system is a direct response to student input during strategic planning conversations as well as a recommendation from the Intellectual and Campus Life Task Force.

Enriching the curriculum

Another focus of the next three years will be development of cross-disciplinary coursework as well as active-learning experiences that involve team teaching, course linking, and other approaches that enrich rather than extend the curriculum, keeping students on track to graduate in four years while enhancing their employability. “This blueprint for our new strategic plan is ambitious and broad-reaching, yet laser-focused on the quality of the student experience, faculty and staff excellence, and community involvement,” said Manuel.
“The level of interest and engagement in the strategic planning process during this past year has been impressive. It provides a great base on which to build as we begin the exciting work of bringing our vision to life.”

Hanna-Avenue-006Photos: Vision 2030 seeks to capitalize on the many ways UIndy engages its community. The vast improvements to Hanna Avenue (left) are just one example. Students begin engaging city and state long before graduating, whether by applying sophisticated software solutions to Super Bowl challenges, providing media coverage during elections, learning from civic and corporate leaders, helping Downtown businesses gauge accessibility for disabled patrons, offering community health solutions while learning, or conducting cancer research, among other ways.