Strategic Plan 2012-22: Charting a Path for the Future
By Mary Beth Zeman
What will William Paterson University look like a decade from now? The University’s new Strategic Plan 2012-22, adopted last spring, provides the framework for the realization of its new vision: to provide an outstanding and affordable education for students committed to transforming their lives and making a difference in the world.
As members of the University community collaborate to implement the plan, WP Magazine sat down with University President Kathleen Waldron to discuss her perspective on this important initiative.
WP: In March, the University Board of Trustees adopted the William Paterson University Strategic Plan 2012-22. Why is it critical for the University to have a 10-year strategic plan?
President Waldron: It is important to have a strategic plan because the process of creating one requires the University to define itself and to make decisions on scarce resource allocation. Such a plan allows the University to consider its mission, determine if it is serving students to its best capabilities, understand if it is supporting the career goals of faculty and staff, and evaluate its commitment to the external community. We all took a step back, which is critical to developing a plan to move the University forward over the next ten years. For example, we discussed academic programs, student support, post-graduate outcomes, ways to improve accountability to our community and the public, and, most importantly, we discussed our commitment to our students.
WP: Included as part of the plan are a revised mission and vision for the University. How are these statements different and how do they define a William Paterson education?
President Waldron: Both the previous and new mission statements affirmed William Paterson’s focus as a public institution dedicated to educating a wide diversity of students. However, in the new mission statement we focus not only on who we educate but also our responsibility to make sure that education is outstanding and affordable. Our new mission statement also underlines something we have been doing well, which is taking it upon ourselves to make sure our students graduate with a sense of responsibility to their community, to the environment, and to involvement in a multicultural world. Our new vision statement is very straightforward: “William Paterson University will be widely recognized as the model of outstanding and affordable public higher education characterized by rigorous academic preparation and a wide array of experiential, co-curricular, and extracurricular opportunities.”
WP: For the first time, the University has developed a set of five core values. What are these values, what will they mean for our students, and how will they impact our decisions about our
academic and student development programs?
President Waldron: The five core values included in the plan are: Academic Excellence, Creating Knowledge, Student Success, Diversity, and Citizenship. I believe it is important to define what your values are because when you think about developing new academic programs, hiring new faculty or staff, or developing student support, your core values help you make clear choices and solve differences about what people want to do. Our core values define what we believe in; our fundamental beliefs and how we will live and breathe those values. William Paterson University already had very strong values that now have been articulated through the planning process. There was near unanimous consent that these were the values we practice and believe in. Our five core values are very focused on the student, not the abstract institution, but they also emphasize the way we, as individuals, want to conduct our lives. Students are our reason for being, and we will judge our effectiveness by how we educate and engage them. We are truly defined by the institution’s diversity in terms of personal circumstances, thoughts, and ideas. We also challenge our students to be personally responsible citizens, not just voters.
WP: How will we implement the plan? What is the timeframe? Are there any new initiatives that we already plan to put into place?
President Waldron: The Strategic Plan is a document—it doesn’t exist until it is implemented, which is actually much harder than writing it. We currently have five teams comprised of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are focused on specific action items in the plan that are aligned with the plan’s five goals. Each implementation team is headed by a University vice president who has the authority and resources to act on recommendations and implement activities. These five over-arching goals are embedded in the goals of the University’s management team, and also are embraced by the community. We plan to issue annual reports on our progress to communicate about the choices that are made.
As the teams move forward, we already have accomplished a great deal. In terms of our first goal—offering academic programs of the highest quality—we have added thirty-seven new full-time faculty this fall. Our goal is to continue to increase the number of full-time faculty with research and teaching expertise in our excellent programs, as well as for new programs that will offer opportunities for growth and recognition. Last fall we launched our first doctoral program, the doctor of nursing practice, and also added eight new degree programs. We made strategic investments in broadcast production as well as the sciences.
Our second goal is to enable students to move more rapidly toward completion of their degrees even though many of them must also work due to financial concerns. We will make an effort to eliminate obstacles to completion of their program, and provide academic support to students who need it and make sure they get the best academic and financial advice. We have already taken very concrete steps to improve retention and graduation rates, starting with reducing the number of required credits for a bachelor’s degree from 128 to 120, as is normal at most universities. We also offered a basic skills summer session for incoming freshmen, created a new freshman advising program, increased the number of student counselors, and expanded tutoring and academic support services.
Another goal is to provide our students with exceptional opportunities beyond the classroom. This year, we provided support for summer international programs, including a trip to Scotland for an archeological dig (see page 4) and to China to study Chinese language and culture. We’ve also made an investment in our Career Development Center, which is charged with increasing the number of internships for students while they are here and with job placement support for graduating students. We also joined New Jersey Campus Compact, which is dedicated to providing experiential and volunteer opportunities for students beyond the classroom.
Our fourth goal is to enhance the sense of community throughout and beyond the University. We continue to explore opportunities to strengthen ourconnections to the greater community, including the role we will play in the development of the new Great Falls National Historic Park in Paterson (see page 24). We encourage student clubs to engage in volunteer efforts in our local communities and will expand our presence in northern New Jersey. We expanded our alumni outreach with great success using social media and we increased scholarship funding. I am grateful to our alumni for their generosity and donations.
Our final goal is to establish the University as a model of outstanding and affordable higher education. For the second year in a row, we have held our tuition and fee increase to 2.4 percent, which is among the lowest increases in the state. We made a special effort to reevaluate and think about making education affordable for our students, including increasing the number of graduate assistants and providing additional opportunities for students to work on campus. Our solar panel installation is a model for an efficiency that will save the institution millions of dollars while supplying 15 to 20 percent of our energy needs, resulting in savings that can be redeployed for other academic initiatives.
WP: How will you judge the success of the plan and its implementation?
President Waldron: One way we will judge our success is through clearly objective criteria. The University’s Board of Trustees has established a set of twenty-eight specific measures of accountability to monitor our progress in a variety of areas, including enrollment, student retention and graduation rates, student engagement and achievement, the quality of our faculty, finances, fund-raising, alumni engagement, and visibility. Many of these measures are tied to national norms or cohort norms in various categories so we can truly gauge our progress as an institution. We will very carefully evaluate how well we are meeting our goals and will continue to ask the campus community for recommendations and suggestions for improvement going forward. WP