By Elizabeth Labiner
Many parts of the strategic plan have grown and evolved since we discussed it with President Robbins in April. The University of Arizona community has been shaping the strategic plan for nearly a year now; Dr. Elliott Cheu, Associate Dean of the College of Science, and Dr. Lisa Ordóñez, Eller College Vice Dean of Academic Programs, continue to lead the planning process and revisions toward the final form that will be presented to the Arizona Board of Regents in November.
“The plan is a set of initiatives,” Dr. Cheu explains, “and right now we’re in the stage in which we have to look at our goals, assess the cost, and create implementation plans.” Many aspects of the plan will be revised as the ideal scenarios face real-world time, workforce, and budgetary constraints. He adds, the plan simply can’t address everything:
There are so many good ideas, and I do hope people recognize that while this is a strategic plan, it doesn’t come close to representing the whole of the university in terms of what we already do and will continue to do. If something is in the plan, it means we want to focus more resources and attention there moving forward, but if something is not in the plan, that in no way means it’s being abandoned.
Dr. Cheu also draws attention to the fact that the plan’s pithy descriptions and bullet-pointed lists are extremely truncated when compared to the aspirations and projections to which they refer.
Among these endeavors, Dr. Cheu champions student-oriented goals, particularly in terms of student outcomes and success: “We have a mission at the university to create a curriculum that is the right thing for the students, and then go back and figure out how to make the funding work for that goal. If you start with the budget, you’ll never make any progress and never improve on the model that you currently have.” Graduate students, he says, are included in this goal both as students and instructors.
“We’ve also had a lot of discussions about graduate student training and teaching,” Dr. Cheu says, “specifically, how to provide resources for graduate students to be stronger researchers and teachers.” He hopes to create a robust, campus-wide program to support graduate student instructors, as well as for improved mentorship of graduate students. He acknowledges that there are potential policy changes to undergraduate curriculum that may impact graduate students, but remains dedicated to making sure that the plan does not damage one demographic at the university in an attempt to serve another demographic. “It’s a real concern that we have here,” he admits, “we have to make sure that we’re not hurting anyone as we move forward.” Dr. Cheu points out that the education and research missions of the university are vital and will continue, and that the makeup of the university -- faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students -- will remain the same, meaning that a major shift that disenfranchises graduate students is unlikely.
Marie Teemant, President of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, notes, “In the university’s previous plan, graduate and professional students were not mentioned, considered, or incorporated. Because of President Robbin’s affinity for graduate and professional students, we greatly hope that this time will be different.” The GPSC has been diligently involved in the crafting and revision of the strategic plan, attending meetings, listening to proposals, and providing feedback. Teemant stresses the importance of clear representation in the plan: “Our primary request regarding the strategic plan has been steady and simple: say our name.”
Though the plan is nearing its final stages, the strategic plan website is still open and accepting comments.
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