Revised strategic plan being implemented through 2020

Contact: Jeanne Baron

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Now that the new academic year is underway, faculty and staff members across the Western Michigan University campus are stepping up their efforts to implement the University's updated strategic plan.

Called The Gold Standard 2020, the refined and expanded plan sets the institution's fundamental direction for the next five years. WMU trustees adopted this road map for the future in March, following nearly a year of work guided by a transition team led by Dr. Jody A. Brylinsky, associate provost for institutional effectiveness.

"We've refined and expanded the original Gold Standard, but the revised plan retains the core tenets of that initial three-year strategic plan," Brylinsky says, noting that 2016-17 is a baseline year for the revised plan.

"WMU remains focused on being a learner centered, discovery driven and globally engaged institution. And as The Gold Standard 2020 emphasizes, every goal that the University sets and every objective that it tackles is intended to maintain and enhance those three tenets."

Revised plan features

Consistent with the original strategic plan, The Gold Standard 2020 identifies five overarching institutional goals for the University community to work on and lists specific strategies that can be employed to achieve them.

However, the revised plan encompasses five instead of three years and has been augmented to include a series of measurable objectives for each goal, with each series of objectives aligned to a set of measurable strategies.

In addition, the document organizes goals by category, is written in a more user-friendly style and embraces the principles of enterprise risk management to identify and address challenges that could prevent WMU from successfully accomplishing its long-term goals.

Strategic plan goals

The goals by category are:

  • Learner Success—Ensure a distinctive and supportive learning experience that fosters success.
  • Academic Excellence—Promote innovative learning, discovery and service.
  • Discovery and Collaboration—Progress as a Carnegie-classified higher research doctoral university that advances new knowledge and value-added discovery.
  • Inclusive Excellence and Equity—Promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive University culture to ensure social sustainability and accessibility.
  • Sustainable Stewardship—Advance economic and environmental sustainability practices and policies.

All told, those goals are accompanied by 24 objectives and 100 high-impact strategies that are being prioritized as part of the plan's implementation.

"Western Michigan University has embraced the challenge of strategic planning to ensure that it will be a premier educational environment that provides opportunity for a diverse and globally representative community of learners," the plan states.

"Those learners will be part of a setting in which discovery and innovation are used to enhance the economic vitality of the communities served and make the world a better and more hospitable place."

 Implementation steps

The plan's objectives and strategies are being supported by a stronger set of metrics that will measure progress and allow for responsiveness to internal and external changes that impact WMU going forward.

Institutional Effectiveness Measures will be used to monitor critical University functions, as well as provide evaluation for continuous quality improvement throughout the strategic plan's implementation and resource allocation processes.

Brylinsky says vice presidential areas and their units across campus are expected to integrate the strategic plan's goals and objectives into their daily work. Semi-annual monitoring and data collection will be done to assess the extent to which benchmarks are being met.

"Individual units will be aligning their divisional strategic plans with The Gold Standard 2020 in the coming months, appointing enterprise risk action teams that will prioritize elements of the plan, and developing accountability measures that will show progress toward the plan's goals," she says.

"We're developing a quick reference guide to assist the campus community in that process. Rather than include all 100 of the high-impact strategies in the strategic plan, it will list the highest priority strategies that senior leaders have linked to each objective in the plan."

All faculty and staff members will be mailed a copy of the quick reference guide in coming weeks. The guide also will include the Institutional Effectiveness Measures that the University is using to help gauge how it is performing in relation to the strategic plan's goals. In addition, plans call for enterprise risk management training to be made available in October for those participating in enterprise risk action teams.

For more information about strategic planning at WMU, visit the updated University Strategic Plan website at or call the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at (269) 387-2380.

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