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October 1, 2015

Administrators: Time for action on strategic plan

Pitt’s strategic direction has been set and it’s time to take action, Pitt administrators said in a back-to-campus update on Pitt’s strategic plan.

The University’s five-year strategic plan has been defined in terms of five broad aspirational goals. The plan, covering academic years 2016-20, was unveiled at the June 19 Board of Trustees meeting. (See June 25 University Times.)

Those goals are to be a University that: advances educational excellence; engages in research of impact; strengthens communities; builds foundational strength; and embraces diversity and inclusion.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher reiterated that the plan is not designed to distill everything that happens at the University. “It’s designed to articulate a sense of direction — a North Star that we believe is important for this University’s future and for its continued growth and improvement,” he told 300 members of the University community at a Sept. 17 public meeting in Alumni Hall to hear what comes next.

“It’s great to have that sense of direction but if we’re not going to have this end up on a coffee table as a pretty document we’ve got to make it real,” Gallagher said. “We’re at the stage now where we really have to roll up our sleeves and talk about in a serious way what this plan means. What does setting that direction really imply?”

Time for action

Executive Vice Provost David DeJong, who is coordinating the strategic planning process, said: “Having been completely immersed myself in the development in the past year, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to action: And at the core of implementation is action.

“We’re now to the point where we need to define the specific actions we’re going to take to advance these initiatives,” DeJong said. That includes identifying who will be doing what, over what time frame, and how progress should be measured, he said.

“We’re going to talk to you today, but we’re going to talk with you and brainstorm with you moving forward,” DeJong said. “We’re excited that everyone’s back on campus to get that going.”

DeJong said working groups have been formed around the five strategic goals:

— Juan Manfredi, vice provost for undergraduate studies, will lead the working group on education.

— Mark Redfern, vice provost for research, will lead the group on research.

— Rebecca Bagley, vice chancellor for economic partnerships, is heading the working group on building community. She will be assisted by Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development and diversity, who will develop the Pitt community component; Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for community and governmental relations, who will focus on the regional community component; and Ariel Armony, director of the University Center for International Studies, who will head up the global community component.

— Stephen Wisniewski, associate vice provost for planning, will head the working group on building foundational strength.

— Pamela W. Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, will lead the group on diversity and inclusion.

“You’ll be seeing a lot of them in the coming weeks,” DeJong predicted.

In addition to the five working groups, others are working to advance diversity initiatives, he said.

“Early in October we’ll get this fully underway. We’re setting plans now. We’re scheduling events. There will be broad room for participation,” he said, adding that members of the University community also can offer input via a comment form on the strategic planning website,

“It’s time for us all to engage together as we map out our next steps,” he said.


“One of the most important ways this plan works is through alignment,” Gallagher said, asking each area of the University to consider the direction that’s been set as they develop their own plans.

“I actually think the majority of what we’re going to be doing as a community is embedded in these alignment activities,” he said.

While taking the planning process to so many different places is “messy,” he said, “that’s also good news because it means there’s a chance for a lot of people to be actively involved.”

Collective activities are another aspect, he said. “There are some things that transcend and are bigger than any one part of the University and yet impact us all. This plan can be a catalyst for which of those things are most important.”

In addition, the working groups have been contemplating potentially high-impact “signature initiatives.”

Gallagher said the plan’s momentum and community’s enthusiasm have continued to rise.

“These things can be met with skepticism; they can be met with indifference. … But I really think that if we do this the right way, this can be a powerful set of common goals that we share, that we will actually lean on and improve.

“They are not things that I think are static: It’s a way of us deciding those collective things that make us all better. And if we do it that way, I really think that this messy but collective work will really pay great dividends.”

Creating an ecosystem that supports success

Provost Patricia E. Beeson elaborated on how Pitt can become the institution it aspires to be. “It became apparent to us that for the University to continue to become stronger, to continue to be a more impactful institution, what we really were talking about was creating an ecosystem in which the faculty, the students, the staff can all attain excellence,” she said.

“A great University ecosystem is one that’s going to allow individual graduates to meet their personal goals, be they professional goals, their life goals or their academic goals.
“It’s an environment that allows our faculty to teach effectively; it allows our researchers to maximize their creative potential, and it allows our staff to excel in the work that they do to support the excellence of the University,” said Beeson.

“It’s an environment that is focused on the lifelong success of its students. It’s an environment that supports collaboration inside and outside the University. It’s an environment that uses evidence-based practices to support student engagement and learning. It’s an environment that’s creative and innovative,” she said.
“It’s a diverse environment. It’s one that features a strong culture of mentorship for staff, faculty and students. It pays attention to individuals and supports their success. It’s a safe and welcoming and supportive environment.

“It’s an environment where information flows freely, one that is rich in data that is used to inform our research as well as our operations, and it’s an environment that is flexible and active and agile: That means that we have support structures and bureaucracy that’s aligned with our mission; that our business operations and our administrative environment are instruments that help us achieve success, and that they’re efficient and use state-of-the-art technologies,” said Beeson.

That ecosystem reaches beyond the walls of the University into communities locally and globally, she said. “It’s also an ecosystem that supports our students — not just during the time when they’re here physically with us, but throughout their lifetimes, we’re supporting our graduates in their success because they’re part of our University.”

Like Gallagher, Beeson noted that the strategic initiatives aren’t designed to capture everything that’s done at the University, but rather to “focus on those things that we need to do to strengthen the whole institution and to move us forward as we try to do research of high impact, we continue to educate students who go on to successful lives and we continue to advance the region and the world that we call home.”

Additional details on the strategic plan and a comment form are posted at

Some dates set for sessions on plan

Engagement sessions targeting various University constituencies have been scheduled and plans for University-wide town hall meetings are in the works as implementation of the University’s strategic plan gets underway, David DeJong, executive vice provost, told the University Times.

•Faculty: DeJong is scheduled to discuss the plan at Faculty Assembly’s meeting at 3 p.m. Oct. 6 in 2700 Posvar Hall.

• Students: An engagement session with students is set for 5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 6 in the William Pitt Union ballroom.

• Staff: An engagement session sponsored by the Staff Association Council is set for noon-1:30 p.m. Nov. 6 in the WPU ballroom.

• PBC members: In addition, sessions that will focus on how individual units can align their plans with the strategic plan have been tailored for members of planning and budgeting committees (and the equivalent entities in areas that have no PBCs), DeJong said. The three invitation-only sessions are set for 10 a.m. Oct. 7 and 1:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in 2500 Posvar Hall and 2 p.m. Oct. 9 in 2700 Posvar Hall.

Details have yet to be finalized for University-wide town hall-style meetings that will be linked live to Pitt’s regional campuses. Two or three sessions are planned in the coming weeks but dates have yet to be set. The town halls likely will take place later in October and possibly in early November, DeJong said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow    

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 3

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