Trustees set strategic direction for WMU for next five years

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of a WMU sign.

The newly approved strategic plan will guide the University's direction through 2020.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Acting at their March 23 meeting, the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved a strategic plan for the University that will set the institution's fundamental direction over the next five years.

Trustees unanimously adopted the Gold Standard 2020, a five-year strategic plan designed to build on a three-year strategic planning period that has just concluded. The updated plan retains the core tenets of the earlier plan—identifying the University as a learner centered, discovery driven and globally engaged university.

The Gold Standard 2020 has been in development since July 2015, guided by a campuswide transition team whose job it was to review the results of the original three-year plan, identify parts of the original plan that needed to be retained, and identify new challenges and opportunities that should be included moving forward.

"Our charge was to transition, transform and transcend that initial strategic plan and develop an updated plan in a way that was meaningful and provided an end product that would serve this University well," said Dr. Jody A. Brylinsky, associate provost for institutional effectiveness, who led the transition process and outlined for the board some of the key elements of the new plan. "We started with a look at the past and then worked closely with senior leadership to focus on the challenges, aspirations and assumptions going forward."

Strategic plan goals

The new plan, Brylinsky noted, has five overarching goals:

  • Learner success.
  • Academic excellence.
  • Inclusive excellence and equity.
  • Discovery and collaboration.
  • Sustainable stewardship.

Those five goals will be pursued through a set of measurable objectives and strategies outlined for each. Those objectives and strategies will be prioritized and appropriately resourced as part of the plan's implementation in the coming weeks. The plan also embraces the principles of enterprise risk management as a critical tool to identify and address challenges along the way that could prevent the University from successfully accomplishing its long-term goals.

"The next steps are for individual units across campus to align their division strategic plans with the new effort, appoint a steering committee that will prioritize elements of the plan, and develop accountability measures that will show progress toward the plan's goals," she said. "Then the plan will be implemented through the individual units on campus, as each begins work toward achieving the objectives related to its role at the University."

Development of the Gold Standard 2020, Brylinsky said, benefited from the feedback of nearly 1,500 faculty and staff members, students and community members. Once the basic elements of the plan were drafted, an additional 31 constituent groups made up of 400 people from across the campus met to review and respond to the draft. Those groups ranged from WMU's senior leadership team to the faculty and staff members of individual units in a range of campus units.

"Our updated plan has five goals, 24 objectives and 100 high-impact strategies," Brylinsky says. "That may sound like a lot, but this is a large and complex University."

Approval by the Board of Trustees, means plan implementation will begin immediately, and the plan will be shared with WMU's accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission.

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