Next Plan for Pitt will build on the original six goals

Melissa Schild


With the University’s first five-year Plan for Pitt set to reach its final year in 2020, the administration is gearing up for a new round of meetings to discuss what Pitt should be focusing on in the next five years.

Melissa Schild was hired in September as the assistant vice chancellor for strategic planning and performance in the office of Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry. And for the next year, updating the Plan for Pitt will be “the big thing on my plate.”

“The current plan for Pitt, a lot of work went into it, a lot of good thought, and we are going to start with the current six goals,” said Schild, who previously worked on planning and budgeting in the U.S. State Department. “They’re a good foundation, a really good jumping off point for us to evolve the plan so that we can get more focused and specific. … We would like to delve into these goals and more clearly define what success looks like, what the outcomes are, and what concrete things we can tackle the next five years.”

The six goals in the initial plan were:

  • Advance educational excellence
  • Engage in research of impact
  • Strengthen communities
  • Promote diversity and inclusion
  • Embrace the world
  • Build foundational strength

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said this is a perfect time to take a fresh look at the Plan for Pitt, since there are several new administration leaders and deans. “I don’t want to lose momentum,” he said. Instead of looking at what can we do, Gallagher said, we should asking, “What do we hope to accomplish? What would change at Pitt if we’re successful.”

The process starts, he said, by listening to the community. Outreach to everyone at Pitt will be a key part of developing the next five-year plan, Schild said. “What we want to do is have a lot of focused targeted sessions, workshops, focus groups,” she said. “We want these conversations to be open to faculty, students, staff and alumni to participate. But we want them to be structured so that we can get to some really concrete ideas about how to make the Plan for Pitt very actionable.”

The details of focus groups and workshops are still being worked out. Schild said the Plan for Pitt website will be updated to include events as they are scheduled and to show comments from the meetings. People also will be able to submit comments, questions and ideas through the website.

A steering committee — with stakeholders from all of Pitt’s campuses — is being formed now that will shepherd the development of the new plan, and there will be committees established for each goal. Schild also is getting help from the provost’s office, specifically Lauren Winters, assistant to the provost for special projects.

“January, February and probably early March will be the big push to gather information, to go out and talk to people,” Schild said. “Then we’ll work with the goal committees to start … identifying what are common themes we’re seeing, what are some priorities that seem to be bubbling up. … They will be responsible for teasing out what are the key objectives that we want to achieve for each goal.”

By summer, she hopes to have a draft of the plan done, and then by fall, roll out the new Plan for Pitt 2025 to the Board of Trustees and the rest of the Pitt community.

“I think an effective strategic plan helps the University prioritize resources … and effort; prioritize how we collaborate with each other and with external partners,” Schild said. “In an environment where time, energy, thought and money are all limited, it can help the University decide where we can get the biggest bang for our buck … where we can make the most impact with all the resources that we have.”

In getting the word out about the process to develop a new Plan for Pitt, Schild wants people to “be involved. I want them to know that it is open, and I want them to know that it really is important for the future direction of the University. If we do have strong participation and involvement from students, faculty, staff and other interested parties, the strategic plan will be something that everybody can use as a foundation for moving forward, and that puts us in an even better position to make a big impact as a university.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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