University of Michigan, Institutional ReportingUniversity of MichiganUniversity of MichiganInstitutional Reporting
ADDRESSING 1990 EVALUATION TEAM'S CONCERNS

A major portion of the University of Michigan’s 1989-90 comprehensive self-study was devoted to a review of the strategic planning process that had been initiated in 1986 by then Provost, James Duderstadt. The self-study three years later was seen as an opportunity to evaluate how well the process was working and areas of it that needed improvement. To assess the University’s strategic planning efforts to date, a great deal of information was gathered from those involved in the process--from administrators at the central level to deans and others in the academic units. Thus, the 1990 accreditation evaluation team’s site visit report addressed concerns they had about the strategic planning initiative. The report also contained other kinds of advice for institutional improvement. Their concerns are listed below along with information on how the University of Michigan has addressed those concerns in the intervening years.

Before getting into the specifics, however, it is important to note significant contextual changes in the University since 1990 that affect our ability to assess today whether or not all of the evaluation team’s concerns have indeed been addressed systematically by the institution and what the result has been. For example, former Provost Duderstadt was the chief architect of the strategic planning process that was reviewed in 1990. Since then, however, the University has had four other Provosts who each have had their own goals for and perspectives on strategic planning at the University and how best to carry it out. Similarly, there have been significant changes in the intervening years in the leadership of the academic units and in other central administrators from the President to virtually all of the vice presidents. Finally, there have been significant changes in other processes that are closely intertwined with strategic planning such as budgeting. To some extent, then, the concerns in 1990 were affected by the particular individuals in leadership positions at the time and by other organizational structural factors that characterized the University a decade ago.

1990 evaluation team concerns about the strategic planning initiative:

1) Uneven faculty/staff/student involvement in some units and at the central administration level. Strategic planning seemed mostly to involve administrators. The team saw wider participation as desirable, especially by students who were seen as being conspicuously absent from the strategic planning process.

Because the University of Michigan is a very decentralized organization (perhaps even more so than in 1990), schools, colleges, and divisions initiate their own strategic planning process which they must then coordinate and integrate with those at the central level. Without gathering in-depth descriptive information on how unit-level processes work as was gathered in 1989-90, it is difficult to assess whether current processes promote more involvement by faculty, staff, and students. It is hoped that they do as the involvement of faculty, staff, and students in important decision-making areas of the University is an institutionally-held value.

2) An emphasis on vertical strategic planning. The team saw little evidence of horizontal planning on importance issues and activities that cut across the units.

There is much evidence of a stronger emphasis on horizontal planning today than perhaps was true in 1990. Some recent examples of efforts to develop strategic plans on University-wide issues include: the recently completed work of the Life Sciences Commission, the newly appointed commission on the relationship between the University and the information revolution, the Provost-sponsored 1999 retreat on the future of the faculty, the 1999 task force on educational technology and distance education, and our current reaccreditation special focus self-study on interdisciplinary research and learning.

3) An uneven application of strategic planning across the University. For example, the team perceived that there was less of an integrated and coordinated approach to strategic planning within and across the many large and highly diverse departments in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

As noted above, there is not a single model but rather multiple approaches to strategic planning as it is conducted within the academic units. Again, without in-depth information on the process currently being followed in each unit, it is difficult to say whether the same degree of unevenness in the application of strategic planning noted in 1990 is evident today. Nonetheless, it is felt that the current responsibility-centered budgeting is one mechanism that contains many incentives for units to engage in comprehensive strategic planning processes that help to optimize the resources that they have and their use of them.

4) A slow response time by central administration in reacting to unit strategic plans.

This recommendation addressed the strategic planning process in use at the time, and which has since been changed. The Provost and Deans have a commitment to ongoing discussion and agreement. Rather than using a planning approach that relies on the production of a document once every few years, with a time-lag to eventual discussion, the Deans of the schools, colleges, and divisions have more regular and ongoing contact with the Provost. In addition to annual budget conferences, Deans may submit off-cycle budgets and proposals. Throughout the year, the Provost engages in ongoing discussions with individual Deans, Directors and other leaders regarding the strategic directions of their units. Many of these discussions are in the context of the budget process. Again, it is felt that responsibility-centered budgeting promotes timeliness in units making their strategic plans known and the central administration responding to those plans.

5) A need to clarify the future scope and nature of strategic planning at the University of Michigan, how the planning of the central administration is related to unit planning, and how strategic planning is related to budgeting.

The importance of linking strategic planning to budgeting is emphasized in the annual memos sent out to Deans in preparation for the budget and planning process. In this, Deans are asked to:

"…summarize the most important changes that you anticipate in your unit over the next few years. This narrative should discuss new areas of growth, areas of expansion, and should also discuss areas that you intend to de-emphasize. The point is to provide a summary of what you see as being most important for the Provost to know as we engage in joint planning for your unit."

The annual budget and planning process is driven by programmatic vision. The budget conference for each unit focuses on aspirations and needs over the next several years, and on anticipated sources available to meet these plans.

Other advice on institutional improvement offered by the 1990 evaluation team:

6) Greater attention should be paid to integrating the curricular and co-/extra-curricular experiences of students so as to create a better total learning environment.

Led through the Office of Academic Affairs, in collaboration with Student Affairs, University leadership is paying close attention to integrating curricular and co-curricular activities. Maureen Hartford, Vice President for Student Affairs from 1992 until 1999, and E. Royster Harper, currently Interim Vice President, have supported a number of significant changes. Efforts to integrate curricular and co-curricular activities have been guided by the findings of studies such as the First Year Experience project and the Michigan Study. Two examples of new programmatic efforts that have been launched are the expansion of living and learning opportunities (e.g., Women in Science and Engineering, the Michigan Community Scholars Program) and the Community Service and Learning Program. Deans and faculty have been brought into planning for living/learning communities, which are academic programs with a residential component.

7) The Michigan Mandate must continue for the next decade or so for lasting change to result. Greater attention is needed to the retention of minority faculty and students to stop the past "revolving-door" phenomenon. The University also needs to incorporate issues of diversity and pluralism into the general curriculum more and to get greater involvement by majority students in those courses.

Although recent attacks on affirmative action programs throughout the country and at the University of Michigan have raised questions about systematic efforts such as the Michigan Mandate to increase diversity, the University of Michigan‘s commitment to diversity has not waned. If anything, it has been strengthened by the dialogue that has taken place on campus in recent years in which a variety of perspectives have been expressed and considered. Last year, for instance, the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and the Dialogues on Diversity (http://www.dialogues.umich.edu/) program of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies co-sponsored a University-wide theme semester, "Diversity: Theories and Practices," which included over 100 courses offered in 14 of the schools and colleges. The Evaluation Team was correct in that lasting change can only result from continuous efforts in this area because American society itself has not evolved to the point where there is no longer a need for programs like the Michigan Mandate. In the past decade the University has made significant progress in both the numbers and the retention of minority faculty and students. The specifics on this are noted elsewhere in this report. The University has also made substantial progress in incorporating diversity and pluralism into the curriculum. For example, in 1991 faculty in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts approved a new race and ethnicity degree requirement that applies to all undergraduates in that College. As of December 1999, there were more than 200 courses offered inside and outside of LS&A that had been approved to meet the race and ethnicity requirement. Since LS&A provides a great deal of service teaching, many undergraduates in other academic units besides LS&A are also able to take advantage of these course offerings.

8) A need for more systematic ways of involving faculty and students in the internationalism initiative.

In 1993 the Regents established the International Institute which is responsible for the coordination of research and training in international, comparative, and area studies within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, as well as between the College and other academic units across the University. One of the purposes in creating this umbrella organization was to expand faculty and student involvement area and international studies. In 1999, the Provost created a new position, Vice Provost for International Affairs, whose responsibilities include bringing closer coordination among the schools, colleges, and divisions of the University.

9) A need for more systematic attention to improving the general education component of all undergraduate programs.

There have been many initiatives undertaken by the academic units in the last decade to assess and improve the general education component of undergraduate programs. Several of these efforts have been initiated by faculty in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, which is the University’s largest undergraduate college as well the main provider of general education service teaching to undergraduates in most of the other undergraduate units on campus. More information on these efforts is presented in the "Michigan Assessment Project" which is found in the section on Criterion 3 in this report.