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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 25, No. 5, Sept. 1, 2005

Campus does homework preparing for new strategic plan

By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
217-244-1072; slforres@illinois.edu

Click photo to enlarge
UI Photo

“If The New York Times published an article about our campus 10 years from now, what would you want it to say?”

That’s the kind of question that UI officials hope will guide them in formulating a strategic plan for the campus and its colleges, departments and other units and be a guiding force in the years to come. Faced with increasing competition for the best students, faculty and staff members and other resources, campus officials are looking for innovative strategies that will enable the campus to flourish in a changing environment. These challenges are facing university administrators as well, and they, too, are building strategies to respond.

After Richard Herman was named chancellor of the Urbana campus on April 19, he began articulating his vision of national pre-eminence and creating a strategic plan to achieve it, and at a Summit on Strategic Leadership for key administrators in March, President Joe White kicked off a strategic planning process that is intended to create a vision for the university’s future, enabling it to capitalize on its strengths and to position itself to surpass its competitors.

White said that creating a universitywide strategic plan is a three-stage process: development of an overall planning framework, development of strategic plans for each of the three campuses and related organizations, and development of strategic plans for schools, colleges and major administrative units.

Strategic goals and thrusts for the University of Illinois

1. The UI will achieve and be recognized for both academic excellence and extraordinary education and development of its students.

2. The UI will be the recognized higher education leader in innovation, quality and service.

3. The priorities of the UI will reflect the most urgent needs of the state, its communities and the world.

4. The UI will have the resources (people, money and facilities) required for excellence.

White recently introduced four strategic goals and thrusts that will provide the basis of the strategic planning process for the university and its units.

A key component of the university and campus strategy development is analyzing the “marketplace,” – the academic and research arenas in which the university and campus compete; analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; and analyzing their competitors and the campus’s position relative to the competition.

As part of the market research, UI officials are finding out exactly how different stakeholders – including legislators, alumni and prospective students – perceive the UI and what people believe its strengths to be. Herman explained the importance of having a research-based plan: “Our campus must listen to internal and external stakeholders as we define who we are and what we do best. This information will be used to support our strategic goals and as we share our excellence with the world.”

Over the next few months, staff members will be working with the Survey Research Lab and outside consultants, using phone and face-to-face interviews and online surveys to gather that information.

“People may receive multiple requests – such as a telephone interview and an online survey – to provide their input because they belong to more than one of the stakeholder groups,” said Robin Kaler, interim associate chancellor of public affairs. “But it’s critical that they respond each time because this is their opportunity to help shape the university’s future.”

The goal is to develop a “brand” for the campus, a unique identity that resonates with people and creates recognition of the university as a leader in critical areas such as research and education. This recognition will help the many audiences of the campus better understand the valuable resources and services the university has to offer, as well as the vital link between the campus and society.

One area in which the Urbana campus is lagging behind its competitors is in the amount of corporate-sponsored research. According to a study by the National Science Foundation, the top 20 research universities in the United States receive an average of 6.7 percent of their research funding from industry. At the UI’s Urbana campus, only 2.8 percent of research funding comes from companies; the majority, nearly 63 percent, is derived from government sources. Herman announced earlier this year that he intends to increase to 10 percent the share of industry-sponsored research funding at the Urbana campus over the next three to five years.

Tony Delio, director for business development in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, is working with the Chicago-based consulting firm Hill & Knowlton to identify the university’s key research strengths and will be developing a plan for conveying those strengths to industry leaders in hopes of attracting more corporate-sponsored research.

White and the UI Foundation also are working with the Chicago-based marketing firm Lipman Hearne, which specializes in helping universities and other nonprofit organizations craft brand identities and communication plans so they can better position themselves in the marketplace and compete for students, resources and reputation.

Herman plans to have an initial draft of the campus strategic plan developed by Oct. 31 and to launch the marketing plan that will help the university reach those goals by January 2006. White plans to have the university plan developed by Dec. 31 and to launch the marketing plan associated with it by spring 2006.

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