A Strategic Planning town hall meeting was held in the Sykes Theater on Nov. 29. The title of the presentation was “Building on Excellence: New Strategic Plan for WCU.”
The purpose of this town hall meeting was to bring members of the faculty, students and alumni together in order to discuss plans for the university’s continued success.
According to the Strategic Planning page on the WCU website, the plan was developed in 2001 and updated in 2007. Originally called “The Plan for Excellence,” the university is now seeking to build on that plan after examining the successes of WCU over the past decade.
“We are not planning on excellence anymore. We’re building on excellence,” WCU President, Dr. Greg Weisenstein, said.”We are taking a look at our environment and seeing how that’s changed, how we’ve changed,” Weisenstein emphasized. He mentioned how new marketing strategies are in place and that they have been successful. WCU has a commercial on the radio and has appeared on billboards throughout the area.
Dick Swain showed the Strategic Planning page on the website and talked about the different surveys that have been distributed and future surveys as well. “We want to have things that we can assess,” Swain said.
One of the documents on the website is an overview of the original plan. According to the overview, “The Plan for Excellence” contains seven priorities that have guided WCU over the past 10 years. They are meeting the educational and cultural needs of the region, making student success the institution’s defining characteristic, improving diversity, investing in the professional development of faculty and staff, diversifying physical and fiscal resources, developing an environmentally sustainable campus, and internationalizing the campus.
Dr. Roberta Snow, Chair and Professor of Management, talked about how the plan captures what the university has been historically and what it will continue to be according to the mission statement. The committee is utilizing WCU’s mission statement in order to address concerns and make improvements.
Instead of presenting different issues that have come up, Swain and Snow invited audience members to share ideas and ask questions about where the university is going and how it can be made better.
One professor brought up the question, “are students benefitting from going to college or just increasing their student loans?” Class sizes have increased 33%, and it is affecting the student/teacher ratio negatively.
Because of the growing number of students there is concern about the facilities being too small to hold the different organizations that need to meet and hold events. In addition to the organizations needing space, remediation for students was brought up and space would be needed for that as well.
Another member of the audience stood up and mentioned that Main Hall needs to be replaced with a building “that’s more pleasant to look at, teach in, and be in.” Improving air quality in the older buildings like Main Hall was addressed as well.
Academic quality was another issue that was presented during the discussion and many audience members were in approval of the idea. According to one of the teachers and the academic policy, students can graduate with a D- as a grade in a required class or in a class that’s a prerequisite for another. He wants to see this raised to a C-. “Students shouldn’t get into courses that they don’t have background in.”
Because of the increasing number of graduate students and the fact that, in this economy, many students hold jobs and do not have a lot of time for classes or homework, online learning is being discussed so that students can learn on their own time. Professors would do their lectures via web cast. One teacher called it “on demand education.”
An issue that has come up many times is the fact that WCU is not present on the different community colleges in the area. Many students transfer and find that the courses they’ve taken at their community college will not transfer into WCU and they are forced to stay longer than they have to in order to graduate. Giving students advising on site at the community colleges will hopefully clarify what courses will transfer and which will not.
Snow and Swain want more people to be involved in the changes that will be made to WCU. The ultimate goal is to create a better learning environment and students and faculty are encouraged to participate in discussions and surveys.
Some students are being proactive in the community and sharing their ideas at different programs and events.
“Having the strategic plan starts good conversations and reflective thinking about ways our university is living up to its values, principles, and ways we can improve it,” second year student, Christine Mackin said.
Snow encourages students to e-mail her or Swain about questions posed in the different surveys. She emphasized that the issue on parking is being addressed so students should try to think about other issues.
For more information on the Building on Excellence plan, visit the website at http://www.wcupa.edu/sharedvision/strategicplanning/.
Students and faculty can also e-mail opinions and suggestions to Snow at email@example.com and Swain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margaret Weaver is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at MW678077@wcupa.edu.