The University of the Virgin Islands engages in a strategic planning process every five years. The University’s current Strategic Plan, VISION 2012, will end on September 30, 2012. The process to develop a new strategic plan to cover the period 2012-2017 commenced in October 2010 with an initial dry run of the process to ensure the adoption of a collaborative approach to planning that is consistent with the University’s philosophy of shared governance. This approach allows for full consultation with internal and external stakeholders prior to presenting the draft plan to the Board of Trustees for approval in June 2012. In addition to other University institutional effectiveness requirements, the strategic planning process is also driven by the new Title III cycle which begins on October 1, 2012, the need to maintain a current strategic plan as required by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the University’s Capital Campaign.
As part of the inclusive process to develop the plan, the following steps were taken by the University:
- Retained a qualified and experienced consultant with expertise in higher education planning to assist in guiding the process and offering an external view to refining the plan in concert with internationally accepted best practices for such plans.
- Conducted a series of constituency-focused planning sessions for faculty, staff, administrators, and students to include organizing for the task, guidance on identifying stakeholders, data gathering and engagement, planning assumptions, and concept paper writing, among others.
- Established a Planning Task Force (PTF) with representation from all internal stakeholders comprising of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and other ex-officio personnel appointed by the President. The PTF agreed on the common themes from information gathered and presented by all constituency groups and followed a process to develop a draft of the new strategic plan within established timelines.
- The PTF conducted additional data gathering and engagement activities (including conducting an external environmental scan) with external stakeholders in an effort to capture external views of the preferred picture of the University’s future.
- The draft plan was submitted to the University’s formal shared governance process prior to being submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval.
- The new Strategic Plan 2012-2017 will be officially launched in fall semester 2012.
Collaborative Strategic Planning
The University elected to use a collaborative approach to develop Strategic Plan 2017, Pathways to Greatness. The benefits of this approach are more extensively articulated in Appendix B, the following guiding principles undergird this approach to planning:
- Meaningful engagement of institutional stakeholders through face-to-face interaction and discussion.
- Open and transparent sharing of information obtained during the planning process with everyone.
- Effective facilitation/consultancy to help tap into and build the capacity of the internal stakeholders and guide the planning process.
- Observation and use of external trends in higher education to avoid institutional stakeholders becoming too inwardly focused.
- Engagement of external stakeholders including alumni, community leaders, and business-persons. Their inclusion helps create a plan that responds to the pace and complexity of change and to different stakeholder-interests. (Sanaghan, 2009)
The collaborative approach also increases the chances that the plan will gain wide support during the implementation phase.
The initial approach to engaging stakeholders during the development process began in October 2010. A cross-section of leaders from all internal constituencies brainstormed a number of ideas that provided part of the data on which this plan is built. In July, August, October, and December of 2011, a number of data-gathering sessions were conducted with faculty, staff, students, members of the Board of Trustees, and alumni. The views and opinions of the general public and key public officials, obtained through public meetings and focused interviews, are also reflected in the plan.
Planning Task Force
The PTF was created from the inside out. Stakeholder groups named their representatives to the PTF and the President named a few key administrators to serve on the PTF. All persons were in turn appointed by the President and given a charge to facilitate and lead the development of the strategic plan. The PTF was both a “thinking” and a “working” group. It consisted of 32 members (faculty, staff, students, and administrators) and was co-chaired by a faculty member and an administrator.
Pathways to Greatness was developed on the following planning assumptions:
- the economic outlook for the Virgin Islands will continue to be flat for the immediate future but (entrepreneurial) opportunities for diversification of the economy through technology based global export of services will increase in the medium term.
- inflation will on average exceed 3 percent annually (USVI Bureau of Economic Research, 2012)
- unemployment will remain above 8 percent
- higher education costs will outpace inflation
- government appropriations to the University will remain flat or even drop to lower levels
- costs of energy will continue to rise
- costs of Internet access and voice communications will drop
- the disparity between the highest and lowest levels of income will increase and the percentages of people at the extreme levels will increase more quickly in the territory than nationally
- costs of training and professional development will drop as technology based options increase
- the growing diversity of the Virgin Islands population will exert a strain on the social services sector
- the aging population will have a significant impact on education across the territory
- crime and other social ills will remain on the radar of government and society
- the growing Hispanic population will significantly impact the ability of education and other social services to provide for the needs of this population group while the continued growth of the political and economic power of the group will increase its demands and the efficacy of those demands
- women will outpace men as the seekers of higher education opportunities at an ever increasing ratio
- available connectivity bandwidth to the Internet in the territory and at UVI will increase
- online programs and other distance learning opportunities will constantly increase beyond present levels in availability and the percentage of higher education delivered by these modalities will continue to increase
- the level of student college-readiness in general will hold steady for the immediate future and technological skills and expectations among entering students will continue to increase
- new technologies will continue to challenge faculty and staff who are unable or unwilling to absorb new innovations
- employers will continue to demand more technology-skills from graduates
- information services will be increasingly based in the cloud and servers/services sited at UVI will decrease
- dependence on radio connections between campuses will decrease and the reliability of UVI information services will improve
- distinctions between telephony and computing will continue to blur and mobile access to information services will become widespread
- the percentage of the general population and of students born in the territory will continue to decline
- the number of persons with special needs will impact the ability of government and educational institutions to respond to their needs
- more adults or non-traditional students will seek to access training and retraining opportunities
- part-time students will continue to represent a significant portion of the total University enrollment
- adjustments in population ethnicities will continue to broaden as more people of differing ethnic backgrounds make the Virgin Islands their home
- the growing developmental needs of the community and pressures on external institutions to expand their markets will initiate the entrance of other colleges and universities into the Virgin Islands market
- recruitment drives by mainland institutions (particularly those in the US Southeast region) will continue to lure high performing Virgin Islanders
- colleges throughout the Caribbean region will continue to expand their program offerings and recruitment reach
- the growing trend of Virgin Islanders enrolled in online degree programs will continue to increase
- the market advantage of U.S. based education will continue
- technologically enabled collaborations among institutions will increase and partnerships will become more important both in products and services and in obtaining funding
- governmental interventions will seek to regulate the higher education industry and pose a real threat to regional accreditation
- financial aid availability regulations will become more complex as federal, state, and local governments grapple with growing budget deficits
- legislators and other funding bodies will increasingly demand greater accountability of financial resources
- funding to institutions will be increasingly linked to performance indicators, including retention and graduation rates
- the costs of regulation compliance will increase
- financial risks associated with privacy and security responsibilities will increase