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It Takes a University

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 22, 2018) — Creating a strategic plan for UAlbany has been a methodical process and one that relied on input from more than a thousand people, across all areas of the University.

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Co-chairs of the Strategic Plan working committees are, from the top, Jeanette Altarriba, Ed Englebride, James Dias, Simeon Ananou, Tamra Minor, Edelgard Wulfert, Laurie Feldman, Harvey Charles, Darrell Wheeler and Mark Benson. 

Leading the planning process were Provost James Stellar and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Christakis. And right behind them were the co-chairs of the five working committees, who led efforts to develop goals and strategies to achieve the five major pillars of the strategic plan: Student Success, Research Excellence, Diversity and Inclusion, Internationalization, and Engagement and Service.

More than a hundred members from the campus community – faculty, staff and students – worked on committees led by the co-chairs. In dozens of meetings they shared ideas, hammered out themes and honed language to draft a mission and guidelines for each of the pillars. And hundreds more offered their reactions and critiques at one of 33 “Road Shows,” where the work-in-progress strategic plan was shared in open forums across the University’s three campuses.

“At every stop along the way, we gained greater insights from campus stakeholders – students, faculty and staff – about how the plan’s goals could be strengthened,” Stellar said of the Road Shows. “The draft strategic plan is better today because of the feedback we gained throughout this process.”

Christakis noted that the working committees worked behind the scenes to draft both overarching statements and implementation strategies for the five major pillars of the plan.

"The most recent phase of the strategic planning process was driven, in large part, by the 10 work-group co-chairs who worked diligently for six weeks between Nov. 3 and Dec. 15 to provide the substance behind the development of each priorities’ goals,” Christakis said. “Without their capable leadership and commitment to hearing as many voices and perspectives, we would not have realized the draft strategic plan as it reads today.”

Student Success

Co-Chairs: Jeanette Altarriba, vice provost and dean for Undergraduate Education; and Ed Engelbride, associate vice president for Student Affairs

Statement: “By promoting academic achievement and personal growth we will prepare UAlbany students to succeed in their careers and in all aspects of their lives as engaged citizens.”

By investing in academic programs, enhancing the student experience and integrating teaching and experiential learning, the University seeks to improve retention and graduation rates as well as student satisfaction, employment outcomes and alumni participation.

Altarriba noted that advisement and strong academic programs are key factors in student success, but equally important are supporting personal and professional development and offering a range of co-curricular options such as education abroad, undergraduate research, and service and public engagement.

“It was tremendously rewarding to bring together University leadership, faculty, students, professional support staff and others into the various groups that undertook this task of outlining our strategic plan,” she said. “It was refreshing and uplifting to gather together for these discussions, and a lot of learning took place from the exchanges that occurred during those meetings and beyond.”

Englebride also praised the collaborative efforts of the working group. “People brought their expertise, passion and perspective to the table,” he said. “Writing and re-writing draft goals and the discussion evolved was an enlightening experience.”

Research Excellence

Co-Chairs: James Dias, vice president for Research; and Simeon Ananou, vice president for Information Technology Services

Statement: “Strengthen UAlbany’s research, scholarship and creative pursuits that address societal challenges, advance human knowledge, and drive innovation and discovery.”

By encouraging interdisciplinary and collaborative research, the University can better support innovative research and creative pursuits, and better recruit and retain faculty, staff and graduate students. Active research also enhances students’ academic experiences by teaching critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills that can be applied throughout their lives.

“Faculty and staff work at an R1 institution with the expectation that they will have the opportunity to conduct world-class research,” Dias said. “Support is needed to obtain funding – external federal, state, industry or philanthropic – and the competition is fierce. Fostering collaboration is critical, and most federal agencies want interdisciplinary approaches and interinstitutional collaboration because most societal and technical problems are complex and require a multifaceted approach.”

Dias and Ananou both called it rewarding to be involved in the planning process, particularly to hear voices and experiences from across the University.

“Co-leading this committee has allowed me to experience the passion and enthusiasm of our faculty and staff researchers on a different level,” Ananou said. “It is always valuable for ITS to hear directly from faculty and staff about their needs. The interaction was critical in demonstrating how important it is for all of us to come together in order to define success in our research endeavors.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Co-Chairs: Tamra Minor, chief diversity officer and assistant vice president for Diversity and Inclusion; and Edelgard Wulfert, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Statement: “UAlbany’s diversity – in our people and ideas – drives excellence in everything that we do.”

Recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and administrators that reflect the diversity of the University’s student body is a key part of creating an inclusive campus culture and learning environment.

Minor and Wulfert said key strategies to promote inclusive excellence include department- and college-specific objectives and recruitment plans, awards programs and an institutional “scorecard” to help track progress.

“As institutions seek to improve all students' success, the inclusion of people with diverse backgrounds, ideas and learning styles is an educational imperative,” Minor said. “Such inclusion creates more equitable opportunities for students from marginalized groups to participate in higher education and promotes the skills employers and society need, such as complex thinking skills, the ability to work across differences, increased civic participation and decreased prejudice.”

Internationalization

Co-Chairs: Harvey Charles, dean for International Education and vice provost for Global Strategy; and Laurie Feldman, professor of Psychology

Statement: “Prepare our students to be globally engaged citizens while expanding UAlbany’s international visibility and impact.”

Charles credited University leadership for specifically “articulating internationalization as a strategic goal” – a first for the University. “This is a major accomplishment and an important step towards becoming a truly global campus,” he said.

In order to internationalize the student experience, Charles said the focus must be on bringing in more international students and encouraging more domestic students to pursue academic and research opportunities abroad.

“Students are significant actors in the internationalization process, and their experience on the campus should reflect substantial exposure to learning from a global perspective,” he said.

Feldman agreed, noting that study abroad programs must be open and available to students in all disciplines.

“Many people who grow up in the States have a difficult time understanding why the rest of the world does not do things the American way,” Feldman said. “One obvious method to interact with people with different life experiences is to travel abroad, suspend judgment and partake in a different culture.”

Engagement and Service

Co-Chairs: Darrell Wheeler, dean of the School of Social Welfare; and Mark Benson, director of Athletics

Statement: “UAlbany will continue to serve as an integral regional, national and international partner and anchor institution.”

UAlbany has always been a publicly engaged place, from student internships to staff volunteerism to faculty projects that engage and inform the region. The goal is to increase the bonds with the region and world by increasing service opportunities; promoting community participation in the University’s cultural, academic and athletic events; and creating research clusters that tackle specific societal challenges, such as poverty, health and the environment.

“Being a publicly engaged research university is more than the sum of the research, service and teaching projects we do,” Wheeler said. “At the heart of service and engagement is the belief that the mission of teaching, service and knowledge development includes a responsibility to address matters of public need, both locally and globally.”

With the University’s rich offerings in performances, continuing education, lectures and films, recreation opportunities and sporting events, there are ample opportunities to deepen the connection with Albany and the Capital Region. Further capitalizing on programs such as the NYS Writers Institute and our Division I athletics can position UAlbany as the epicenter of our region’s cultural and entertainment sector

“I'm so thankful that Athletics was represented in the strategic planning process,” Benson said. “It sends a strong signal that we are part of the fabric of the UAlbany community and serve as the front porch to the University.”

The Next Steps

It's not too late to make your voice be heard on the Strategic Plan process. Join a Roundtable discussion on Monday, March 26, or Friday, March 30 to offer input into putting the plan into action. Participants will circulate among five tables, one for each priority, to share ideas about how their unit can help the University reach its goals.

On Tuesday, April 3, President Havidán Rodríguez will share the final plan  at the Spring Faculty Address, and then more broadly at his Inauguration ceremonies on April 13. The next step will be the creation of alignment action plans by key divisions, schools and colleges that can be implemented within the coming months.

For updates on the strategic plan process, visit www.albany.edu/strategicplan.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.