University plans next five years

By Riley Roberts

As many students prepare for life after graduation, the University itself also looks to the future. Released in January 2006, a 96-page document known as the Strategic Plan for the Urbana-Champaign campus lays the groundwork for the University’s development and improvement through 2011, though some elements of the plan will begin to go into effect much sooner.

This document, currently displayed in full on the University Web site, represents the most recent draft of a plan that has been under development since March 2005.

“We must . establish high aspirations for this University, focus intense effort on execution of our plans, and secure needed support and resources from our partners,” said B. Joseph White, University president, in a statement earlier this year. “The strategic planning process provides a venue in which we can thoughtfully address these and other issues facing the University.”

Separate strategic plans have been drafted for each campus of the University system (Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield) as well as administrative units and individual colleges.

Chancellor Richard Herman is in charge of developing and implementing the strategic plan for the Urbana-Champaign campus.

According to the plan, Herman’s goals include shrinking class sizes, maintaining or increasing the quality of faculty, building relationships with overseas institutions, increasing the amount of research done and enhancing the diversity of the student body by making the University more accessible to foreign students.

“The plan contains initiatives related to enhancing undergraduate and graduate education, research activities, and local and international outreach,” said Stig Lanesskog, assistant provost for strategic planning and assessment. “As with any strategic plan, the priorities will be continually evaluated to ensure the goals of the institution are being achieved and that impacts will occur in both the short and long term.”

Herman’s initiatives have not met with unanimous support.

When the plan was first introduced, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald and other newspapers in Illinois printed articles, editorials and letters indicating that some feel aspects of the plan make the University system less accessible to state residents.

Policies designed to increase numbers of out-of-state and international students met with particularly strong criticism, as they would raise admissions standards for prospective Illinois students and reduce the size of the freshman class. In response to some of these issues, select portions of the document were revised in order to better reflect the wishes of Illinois residents.

“As with any strategic plan, the priorities will be continually evaluated to ensure the goals of the institution are being achieved and that impacts will occur in both the short and long term,” Lanesskog said.

The most recent draft of the strategic plan for the Urbana-Champaign campus has been completed and will be reviewed for approval at the Board of Trustees meeting in November. Together with the plans of the Chicago and Springfield campuses, this document represents President White’s vision for the University of Illinois system as a whole, and will determine the direction taken by the institution over the next five years.

“I hope that you will join me in thinking about the exciting opportunities that lie ahead,” White said. “With our dedicated, talented faculty and staff, I am confident that the University of Illinois will successfully navigate these challenging times and continue to be one of the great public research universities in the nation and the world.”