University of Wisconsin Stout | Wisconsin's Polytechnic University
At UW-Stout, Wisconsin's Polytechnic University, we are inspiring innovation.
At UW-Stout, Wisconsin's Polytechnic University, we are inspiring innovation.
In the summer of 2001, the University of Wisconsin-Stout ("UW-Stout") held a one-day visioning session with its key stakeholders: faculty and administration, students and alumni, education, business, and government leaders. The discussions looked at global, national, state and local issues influencing higher education today with the goal of providing long-term strategic direction for the campus and its stakeholders. UW-Stout was assisted in the design of the agenda, the conduct of the discussions, and the completion of this report by The Greystone Group ("Greystone"), a strategic planning and communications consulting firm located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Arlington, Virginia.
This report summarizes the discussions that occurred on June 11, 2001 at UW-Stout. The discussions make clear that UW-Stout is planning for its future from a position of strength in terms of its programs and its reputation.
Upon completing an analysis of the discussions, Greystone combined the comments with its professional expertise to suggest ten possible directions for the University to consider in the decade ahead. We suggest that UW-Stout should:
We believe these ten recommendations present UW-Stout with opportunities to build for the future. While many of these recommendations may require three, five, or even ten years to become a reality, we encourage the University to conduct annual reviews of these recommendations.
We live in an exciting and dynamic time for both the nation and higher education. We recognize that in today's world of fast-paced change, the appropriate recommendations will also need to change.
On June 11, 2001 the University of Wisconsin-Stout ("UW-Stout") hosted a strategic planning/visioning session for a group of its stakeholders. The purpose of the event was to bring together many of UW-Stout's partners to review global, national, state, and local issues that are influencing higher education today in order to begin to identify both future trends in higher education and the specific role UW-Stout could play in meeting these needs. The ultimate goal was the identification of long-term strategic directions for both the University and its stakeholders.
Almost 70 leaders from education, business and industry, government and the UW-Stout community gathered for the session. Through a joint-planning process between UW-Stout's administration and Greystone's consultants, an agenda was established that sought to achieve these results. Attendees were divided into nine working groups. Following welcoming remarks by Chancellor Sorensen, Greystone's Steve Gunderson began to set the stage by describing the changing role of higher education in today's world. His remarks centered on the "new 2-R's" in higher education - reform and relevance. Dr. Tony Diekema, also of Greystone, then discussed UW-Stout in the context of higher education trends today. He emphasized Stout's success in building partnerships with business and industry, and with other segments of the education community. He encouraged visioning "outside the box" and suggested that UW-Stout may indeed be one of the "best kept secrets" in higher education today - pointing toward a need for better marketing and communications with present and future stakeholders.
The nine groups were then asked to begin discussing the role of UW-Stout in the world of higher education today and in the future. The groups were specifically charged to address the needs for improvement and change rather than to simply focus on Stout's success. A discussion guide developed between UW-Stout administration and Greystone included the following:
Based upon the recommendations articulated at the session, the notes from the discussion groups, interviews with senior administrators at UW-Stout, our own academic research and our professional observations, we offer the following report. In preparing this report, Chancellor Sorensen requested that we both summarize the discussions and identify six or more strategic directions for UW-Stout. We believe this report answers both of those requests.
In designing this project, Greystone engaged in three phases that we believe were essential to successful outcomes in the visioning process:
Phase One included our academic research. In order to guide the development of discussions related to the future of UW-Stout, we needed to understand the issues that challenge higher education generally. In addition, we were asked by Chancellor Sorensen to provide articles for the participants' review that would articulate some of those challenges and issues. It was important to the Chancellor that we challenge the community to create visions beyond UW-Stout's world as it exists today.
Phase Two focused on the design and implementation of the actual visioning session held on June 11th. In preparation for structuring the agenda and the facilitator's guide, Greystone conducted confidential interviews with selected individuals from the UW-Stout community. The purpose of these interviews was to gather insights into the accomplishments, challenges, and general environment surrounding the UW-Stout community. Using the information and insights gathered from the academic research and the interviews, we established the agenda for the June 11th session and prepared a facilitator's guide. UW-Stout then reviewed the proposed agenda and guide to make minor adjustments reflecting the goals for the day. The session was extremely successful and provided outstanding thoughts and ideas from participants.
Phase Three represents Greystone's summary and analysis of the June 11th visioning session. As this report indicates, the amount of information, advice, and ideas offered during the visioning session was significant. This report represents only a summary of the highlights from that day. Through our professional experience, we have assembled this information into two parts - findings, and recommendations.
In the development of most reports to clients, Greystone usually creates three sections: findings, conclusions, and recommendations. However, because this project represents more of a facilitation and report process, as opposed to traditional research and strategic planning, we believe it is more appropriate to develop our recommendations based upon the findings rather than insert our conclusions of what the findings mean.
The following findings are themselves facts or statements without interpretation. If our reporting was done properly, and we believe it was, no "finding" should itself be disputable even if it is, say, disagreeable. Findings are not what we thought or wanted to hear, but what we learned, what we were told. It is significant, and a tribute to UW-Stout, that so many of the findings are positive. You begin this process of planning for the future with a solid foundation and a strong reputation.
Recommendations represent the action steps that we encourage UW-Stout to consider as it moves forward. Recommendations combine the original findings, our professional analysis of their significance separately and in combination with other findings and facts, and our best professional judgment on the steps you should take to improve your future. Chancellor Sorensen requested that we develop no fewer than six such recommendations from the results of the visioning session. That was easy. As you will see, we have offered additional recommendations for your consideration.
Throughout the discussions on June 11th, the groups echoed a number of common messages. While these messages may/may not constitute specific findings and/or recommendations, they are important in setting the environment for strategic planning discussions. Many discussion groups cited the messages listed here both verbally and in written reports. They include:
The various discussion groups addressed the implementation of UW-Stout's vision and mission statements in different ways. Some were specific while others were more generic. The following points summarize the key strategies suggested during these discussions:
Chancellor Sorensen requested that Greystone identify six or more strategic directions for UW-Stout in the decade ahead. We are offering ten recommendations for your consideration. Eight are focused on specific action items while the remaining two are more "thematic" in context. We believe the following recommendations can be achieved at any time during the decade ahead. However, we caution the University community to recognize the pace of change in both today's world generally and higher education specifically. While all of these recommendations can be part of a credible strategic plan for the decade ahead, and could not all be implemented quickly, we encourage you to consider reviewing the recommendations annually to determine their continued viability.
As you consider these recommendations, we must begin by emphasizing the exemplary quality of the institution you are privileged to serve. As part of our research, we looked carefully at UW-Stout's history. It is an institution of long and sound heritage. It has received stable and strong leadership over time. It begins this process from a position of strength and integrity. Accordingly you can begin to creatively address the issues and opportunities of the future with a degree of risk-taking and visioning many institutions cannot afford. This is, for you, another great opportunity within the outstanding history of your campus. We encourage you to move forward boldly and with confidence.
There is much about UW-Stout that seems to be best characterized as a "hidden jewel" in American higher education. Your vision and mission statements articulate better than most such institutions what you are attempting to do. And while "career education" is clearly a niche you have developed successfully, it does not, by itself, differentiate you from other campuses within the University of Wisconsin System. This is even truer on a regional and national basis.
But if "career education" was the term of the past decade, then "workforce preparation" reflects the agenda for the decade ahead. A focus in this area provides the basis for UW-Stout to enhance its partnerships with K-12 education, business and industry, and certainly the technical college community. It allows you to develop programs geared to seamless lifelong learning, and ongoing professional development within the four-year higher education context. In many ways, you can and will become the "lifelong learning" center of the Midwest for business and industry, and through them, for the American worker.
We are suggesting that you consider amending your vision and/or mission statement to reflect this goal. (We suggest you consider this as a new "section A" within your mission statement.) We also encourage you to establish both internal and external planning protocols to define and implement appropriate strategies to achieve this status and recognition. But for this to happen, you must direct as many of the programs as possible within your campus to enhance your desired niche, your desired image and reputation, and your marketing. Many of the recommendations that follow suggest specific steps that will assist in achieving this recommendation.
There is a great desire for UW-Stout to enhance its existing reputation for partnerships with business and industry and with the technical college community, emphasizing your commitment to career education. Throughout the breakout sessions of June 11th, many people raised the hope that UW-Stout would expand its programs to include worker and manager forums and seminars, year-round programs and events, expanded use of distance learning in communications with business and industry, and similar steps reflective of a significantly enhanced role for the institution. All of this suggests that UW-Stout should consider developing and promoting a "National Clearinghouse for Workforce Preparation." This is consistent with goal #1 - making UW-Stout the nation's premier institution in workforce preparation - and is probably an early and essential step in achieving that goal. Likewise, your stakeholders want increased partnerships and collaboration. They are ready to support you in this effort. While one of the goals of such a clearinghouse is to serve the greater Stout community, the primary goal is to enhance UW-Stout's reputation and name. We believe this could serve as a valuable tool in achieving both, while also increasing the brand and/or niche identification you are seeking.
In developing a clearinghouse, the primary investments would focus on building the library and information and in developing the mission and plans for such a clearinghouse. Once established, we believe it could serve many beneficial purposes such as:
Consistent with the two earlier goals of creating the premier institution of higher education on workforce preparation and creating a clearinghouse on Workforce Preparation, we also recommend you establish a "Center for Workplace Learning." The primary focus of this comes from many of your stakeholders who advocate programs that target students in the workplace, especially those who went straight from high school into the job market, and those who need lifelong learning. In contrast with the first two recommendations, which emphasize the traditional role for higher education in workforce preparation, this recommendation seeks to extend the partnership of UW-Stout into today's workplace.
To enhance the fulfillment of your mission, the availability of your academic programs, the quality and effectiveness of your advanced technology and distance education initiatives, and the expanded marketing of your varied curricula, we encourage you to develop a "Convenience University" within UW-Stout.
While this could be developed in numerous ways, the concept suggests that students would register, enroll, and complete (at least partially) selected programs offered in this manner (e.g., on the web, TV, etc.). The programs would be designed for maximum student schedule flexibility and convenience, and would increasingly facilitate teaching and learning by the use of advanced technology and distance education. These efforts will convey a powerful message, which suggests that the University is striving to serve an expanded and more-diverse student population in unique ways, and that it is on the cutting edge of both technology and consumer responsiveness.
UW-Stout is known for its strong placement success. UW-Stout is totally committed to career preparation. UW-Stout seeks to enhance its role in lifelong learning, especially among its alumni. Accordingly, we suggest you develop career enhancement and continuing education (including CEUs) courses - perhaps offered during the summer when your campus community is beautiful and the dorms are available - at a minimal charge that assist graduates within the past 5-10 years to return to campus and update their skills. Such a program would enhance your image as a university serving the active learner community, your relationships with business and industry, and your desire for more aggressive marketing.
While not directly stated, throughout the discussions on June 11th, evidence kept reconfirming the commitment of your stakeholders to UW-Stout. There exists a culture of servant ownership rare within the higher-education community. Yet, many of these individuals from business and industry, education, and government are not UW-Stout alumni. Accordingly we encourage the creation of a Stout Associates Program. Structured like an alumni association, associates would, through membership, become a part of the UW-Stout family and avail themselves of several educational, cultural, and programmatic opportunities. We would encourage the creation of this initiative through a partnership of your existing alumni association and your programs most focused on business and industry.
Consistent with earlier recommendations, but not as high a priority to us, would be the creation of a Center for Global Marketplace Development. As we heard your stakeholders advocate for an enhanced global perspective, an increased commitment to diversity, and a commitment to build on your technological resources and your historic mission in career preparation, we concluded that a Center for Global Marketplace Development would be a perfect fit for UW-Stout. This would allow you to enhance your partnerships and collaboration with multi-national corporations as you conduct the necessary research and design the appropriate role for such an entity. Certainly, in combination with the other recommendations, we believe you will find significant opportunities to combine these recommendations into a series of programs and educational activities that complement and enhance all of UW-Stout's academic work.
Few topics were as consistently raised during the visioning session as the need for much more aggressive marketing on behalf of UW-Stout. Your campus will remain a "hidden jewel" without a commitment to marketing and careful construction of a marketing strategy. Your stakeholders are especially conscious of this need. We encourage you to assemble a Marketing Task Force, to bring in the proper outside professionals to work with the task force in conducting a full review of present programs and budgets and then engaging the University community - including a diversity of stakeholders - in designing a new and carefully coordinated strategy. We believe that such a strategy can and should include significant commitments to both paid and unpaid advertising based upon your rich history, your sound reputation and the results of your strategic planning.
In so many ways, with your commitment to technology and a career education focus, this becomes an essential part of your strategic future. It is imperative that UW-Stout have a reputation for access to and utilization of the latest technology in the education experience of its students. You already have much of that technology today. Keeping up with "state-of-the-art" will be the challenge. You need to enhance your marketing of this significant benefit inherent in the UW-Stout experience, and you need to make your commitment to cutting-edge technology a part of every marketing speech, brochure and all other material. This message must go to your business and industry associates as well as to your potential students.
Because we recognize the cost of this commitment, we encourage you to make technology equipment a significant and recurring part of your capital budget, and also an increasing component of your Development program. Stakeholders see this as so obvious that it is important for UW-Stout to repeat its commitment to state-of-the-art-technology often. You can do this in your discussions of lifelong learning, workplace experience and preparation, adult education, distance education, collaborations and partnerships, new program development in career education, math/science advances, faculty productivity and both student and faculty recruitment and retention.
Although it is clear that UW-Stout already does a respectable amount of partnering in a variety of its career education programs, we believe the potential for much more is both evident and advisable. Stout's stakeholders want it, and they can contribute significantly to making such partnerships work to UW-Stout's advantage in a host of arenas (program development, technological advancement, fund development, etc.) publicly and privately.
Some focused visioning and strategic planning in at least three areas seem self-evident from the June 11th session: a) business and industry, b) K-12 education, and c) the technical colleges of the Midwest. Such partnerships and collaborations should be looked at as long-term efforts that will be mutually beneficial, but with UW-Stout's enhancement as a first-rate educational institution as your primary goal. The stakeholders gathered on June 11th certainly would welcome such efforts, and they could be effective partners in further visioning and planning. A few examples of the benefits of such partnering and collaboration come quickly to mind: economic development and cutting-edge career education locally and regionally for business and industry; new teaching and learning methods in technologically advanced environments and outcomes-based assessment for elementary/secondary education; and state-of-the-art technology and career education program development and implementation for the technical college community. Such developments also enhance the branding and niche development we have advocated above.
In creating these recommendations, we have been sensitive to the limited resources available within the University of Wisconsin System today. Accordingly, we do not believe any of the recommendations require major new capital investments. They do require continuing capital investment in state-of-the-art technology, but primarily they require the investment of faculty and staff time in planning and coordination within the UW-Stout community. Often they will require external partnerships in both the development of the concepts and the identification of potential funding for these efforts; for example, the development of the Clearinghouse and/or Centers recommended. We believe that these efforts present new and enhanced opportunities for developing initiatives with the corporate community, with selected foundations and other philanthropic organizations, and with federal or state government agencies.
Our goal, consistent with the Chancellor's request, was to provide strategic directions for UW-Stout programs in the future. We believe the recommendations herein offer the greatest potential for success - building on your strengths, expanding your areas of expertise, and extending your reach to those who most properly would benefit as participants in the UW-Stout experience. Each of these strategic directions now can move systematically to the next steps of planning and development. Each will - if implemented - enhance your reputation and mission. Yet, and equally important, the lack of progress in any of these areas will not diminish your existing programs and image. You may, however, miss some strategic opportunities and lose momentum in a rapidly changing higher education arena.
You start from a position of considerable strength. Clearly, it is our considered judgment that you can afford to take some carefully calculated risks that will enhance your position on the frontiers of higher education in tomorrow's world. And to move forward on any of these recommendations will enhance your contributions to the community, the state, the nation and the world.
We stand ready to discuss any of our findings or recommendations with you. We have been honored to serve as your partner in this process and look forward to doing even more in the future.