Strategic Planning Report - FAQs

Why are we doing SPRs?

The big picture: Weber State University Academic Affairs’ Mission Statement (approved April 2017 by the Academic Affairs Planning Task Force) captures what Academic Affairs aspires to realize.

Weber State University is a dual-mission, regional, comprehensive university that transforms lives by educating students of diverse backgrounds and skill levels, while remaining committed to academic and teaching excellence. In our contemporary democracy and information–based economy (both of which require an increasingly educated population), WSU’s open access mission seeks to extend the reach and benefits of higher education to the greatest number of students.

The WSU curriculum combines deep disciplinary learning in a major with broad interdisciplinary training in general education, community-engaged learning, and professionally relevant experiences. This combination lays the foundation for sound intellectual and professional development, creative problem solving, responsible local and global citizenship, and meaningful life-long careers. In a world in which the careers of tomorrow might not yet exist, WSU strikes a balance between promoting local workforce development and encouraging students to invest educationally for successful and productive lives in a swiftly changing, globalized economy.

The smaller picture: As we move into the future, Academic Affairs wants to ensure that units within the division have sufficient resources to realize our shared mission. The purpose of the SPRs is to align units’ missions to AA’s and the University's missions and serve as a  basis for resource allocations.[1] 

Who has to complete a SPR?

All units reporting to Academic Affairs with academic programs (undergraduate - including minors - and graduate) and faculty paid with E&G funds will be a candidate to complete a SPR.  Deans, in consultation with department chairs and program directors, have the discretion to determine how many reports should come from different units.  It is likely, for example, that departments with both undergraduate and graduate degrees will submit two SPRs.  But a dean, chair, and grad program director may determine that undergrad and grad initiatives are aligned in ways such that a single SPR can serve to represent both programs. Similarly, when a department contains multiple undergraduate degree or certificate areas the chair and dean may determine that multiple SPRs will represent the areas more accurately than one.  Or they may agree that one SPR will provide sufficient information to readers.

Aren’t these SPRs a lot of work?

The original pilot of these reports resulted in much discussion about how to improve the process and lighten the burden on departments.  In most years the expectation is that chairs will be updating  the previous year's report. Findings from a recent Program Review may necessitate a revision of the strategic plan or its assessment. Additionally, the collected SPRs should support the writing of the next Program Review and make that process easier to complete. SPRs are also a good place to address curricular changes resulting from Biennial assessments.

What are the three core objectives identified by AA that units should consider as they plan for the future?

Units should be in alignment with the Weber State mission, the Academic Affairs mission, as well as the college mission. In addition, the Provost in conjunction with the Deans, has agreed to three key areas of focus (retention and completion; inclusive culture; enhanced interdisciplinary program innovation) while continuing to support our core objectives: 

  • Value/Quality refers to the unit’s contribution to the recognition and reputation of the institution as one that is committed to excellence reflected in the personal, professional, and academic accomplishments of students, faculty, and staff.  Traditionally, we have emphasized our low faculty/student ratio and our many opportunities for faculty/student interaction as key elements in academic value/quality.

•    Affordability refers to the ways a unit can keep expenditures required of students and/or costs to the university as low as possible, assuring the accessibility of higher education for all, recognizing that some programs are more expensive to operate than others, as well as inevitable tensions between affordability and quality.
•    Access/Growth is how a unit contributes to student success by promoting student recruitment, enrollment, persistence/retention, and/or graduation. End goals: an increase in new students, a decrease in students who step-out or dropout, and a better-educated population.

Certainly, the three objectives emphasize divergent aspects of how a department or program functions, and the aspects may very well be in tension with each other. AA encourages unit chairs and deans to consider how best to address these objectives in the context of their own strengths and challenges and the strategic direction of the college. 

What is the process for accessing data, writing, and submitting this year’s reports?

AA encourages deans to orchestrate meetings for all those in the college who will be writing SPRs. These college meetings should allow units to collaborate, learn from each other, and structure plans that accord with the college’s vision. Of course, departments or programs contribute in unique ways to the shared mission due to the nature of their discipline, curriculum, faculty, and a host of other factors.

Units should focus on measurements of strategic outcomes and use data to assess those measurements. Relevant data are available through the Report Gallery. The Report Gallery is a university app that includes popular and well-vetted dashboards and Argos reports, including Program Review (both Baccalaureate and Graduate), the Ten Year Trends Dashboard, the Semester-to-Semester Enrollment Dashboard, Student Persistence & Success, among other data sources for departments to identify strengths and challenges. If you need other data that you believe are relevant to your report, please contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. They will do their best to honor all data requests.

How do Strategic Plan Reports connect to funding and resource allocation?

What is at stake in preparing strategic plans is how available funds in the divisions (college and university level) will be reallocated to ensure that division and university missions are more completely and adequately realized. The monies available for such investments may be new funds to the university based on new legislative allocations or enrollment growth, or reallocated funds from retirements or other internal cost savings. The result will be a resource allocation process that is based on investing in units whose goals and plans currently realize or may realize (in the future) key elements of the mission (i.e., forward-looking analysis) and not specifically their past accomplishments (backward-looking analysis). 

In preparing the SPR units should list resources requested to realize their proposed goals/plans. Contingency goals/plans should also be proposed in case resources are not available or are only partially forthcoming. As part of the process, units are encouraged to explore possibilities for reallocating current resources or pursuing other internal funding sources (e.g., CE, ARCC, collaboration with other units) before requesting new funding for proposals.   

What will happen with SPRs in future years?

The SPR is designed to streamline and wherever possible integrate reporting work and ensure that strategic goals are used in WSU’s resource planning process (a key requirement for accreditation).  In subsequent years, units will report on steps they have taken to achieve their plans and how successful they have been in meeting proposed metrics, until such time as new plans are proposed.

When it comes time for USHE-mandated Program Reviews, programs will have a strategic plan with perhaps several years’ worth of data to report. Each unit will have the opportunity to revise goals and/or propose new goals after its regular Program Review is completed. Such a cycle will liken department and program review to the accreditation cycle where new metrics are proposed and the achievement of metrics are regularly updated until a final formal review.

The SPR can and should make use of Biennial Assessment data. If it is relevant, assessment data should be used to defend the units’ goals and plans, thereby facilitating the integration of reports.

[1] Financial resources come from state legislative appropriations and student tuition in roughly equal parts and are then allocated to the division of Academic Affairs through President’s Council.  Of course, departments and programs may have additional funding from grants, donations, and other sources that are not considered here.