Report to the Board of Trustees - Aug. 2018


Thank you Mr. Chairman.

The 2018 fall semester begins on Aug. 27, less than two weeks from today. This is a time of great hope and excitement for our students and colleagues. I know this feeling well because I have spent almost my entire life in school.

But this time is also a season challenge.

Among other things, we will implement the new 4-day core, 5-Star Friday initiative and welcome new esports teams to campus. But even these challenges are sure to be overshadowed by interest in the results of Academic Program Review. At the risk of sounding coy, I’ll defer any comments on that topic, as it will be covered in depth during the “new business” portion of the meeting.

Instead, I want to focus on what comes after Academic Program Review, and its sister process, Administrative Activities Review, which will be completed very shortly. In fall 2018, The University of Akron will begin a strategic planning and budgeting process.

The diagram before us sketches out a proposed planning and budgeting process. An earlier version was included in our report to the Higher Learning Commission last year. This slide is slightly modified to help clarify the steps.

This framework was subsequently accepted by University Council and influenced the development of the current university budget.  Since this proposal is the closest thing we have to a planning and budgeting process, we will use it as a guide this fall.

8-15-18 budget chart

You’ll note that steps 1 & 2 call for yearly review and revision of the strategic plan by the entire enterprise, led by senior administration. This diagram was designed with the assumption UA would have a strategic plan that would be updated as a prelude to creating the next year’s budget.  

Unfortunately, we don’t have an actionable strategic plan—so our first order of business is to assemble one.

As you’ll see on the far left side of the diagram, all aspects of our community – academic, academic-support, and auxiliary – will participate in this process. And fortunately, much of the heavy lifting in terms of data collection is already done, thanks to the Academic Program Review and the Administrative Activities Review.

Once we put flesh on the bones of this diagram, we will be on our way to creating an actionable strategic plan by December 2018. The process begins with a common set of assumptions that establish the context and realities of our circumstances. These assumptions will include the results of APR and AAR.

The planning will begin, as it should, at the unit level, and then work its way up to the deans and vice presidents, and then to the President’s office and the Board of Trustees. The focus of the plan will be how to conduct the university’s business in 2019/2020 as effectively and efficiently as possible. But the plan will also project such activities forward to the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 academic years. This initial plan is unlikely to be perfect, and so we will seek to perfect it when we repeat the process next year—but this time we will have a plan to work with.

Which takes me to the second-half of the process, Steps 3 thru 5,that will take place in the winter and spring of 2019. I would like to pause a moment to emphasize a point: the left side of the slide involves planning…and the right side involves budgeting. The right side tends to grab our attention because budgeting involves money. But in a genuinely effective process, it is the left side – the planning – that is more important.

The plan determines our goals and plans. The budget should be about how we resource the plan.

The new strategic plan will inform our budgetary decisions for the 2019-2020 academic year, and perhaps beyond. With a strong, coherent strategic plan in place, there is good reason to expect this budgeting process, which begins in January, to be completed much earlier than in the past. It certainly will have extensive input from all the campus constituencies.

Suffice to say, we have a great deal of work ahead of us and it will be continuous throughout the academic year. None of this effort will be easy.

But as the author of Ecclesiastes once observed – and was later plagiarized by both The Byrds and the Indigo Girls – “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” This will be a season of planning, a time to set our university on clear path toward a bright future.

Next week, I will join some of our newest students at Move-In Day and help welcome them to their new home for the next nine months—and we hope for several years. For those students, and for all of us, this season of challenge is also a time of great hope and excitement.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  That concludes my report.