University Strategic Planning Council Charge Letter

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November 17, 2014


RE: University Strategic Planning Council

I am writing to ask you to serve on the newly created University Strategic Planning Council. I am appointing a group of individuals who represent a broad swath across the institution and who can think strategically and “big” in their discussions about the many extraordinary opportunities Penn State faces as an institution in the years ahead. It is my intent that, to support your discussions and deliberations, you will broadly seek input from faculty, staff: and students in addition to Trustees, alumni, and others who care about, and will contribute to, defining our vision of the future for Penn State.

The University Strategic Planning Council (USPC) will be asked to think specifically about what we hope to accomplish during the next five years and the accompanying strategies we need to embrace to achieve those goals. In addition, and as critical context, I would charge the Council to think beyond the next planning cycle to consider more broadly where we should be as a university i n 10 to 20 years. With that vision for the future, the Council will help me, and us, develop the Penn State Strategic Plan for the years 2015/l6 through 2019/20.

While continuing to evolve, the new strategic plan is likely to have the following elements:

  • A statement and affirmation of Penn State’s mission as a land-grant public research university in the 21st century;
  • A statement of our core values, determined from our recently conducted Culture and Values Survey;
  • Articulation of a compelling vision that frames the plan;
  • A series of five (or so) university-wide thematic foci;
  • A compilation of foundational principles, that are central to plan execution;
  • A collection of supporting strategies necessary to enable effectiveness, efficiency, and success; and
  • Guidelines for plan implementation.

The five thematic foci that are currently being considered and developed are around:

  • Health;
  • Resources;
  • Education;
  • The Digital Future; and
  • Cultures.

Foundational principles include, but are not limited to, my six priorities of:

  • Excellence;
  • Student engagement;
  • Economic development and student career success;
  • Diversity and demographics;
  • Access and affordability; and
  • Technology and curriculum delivery.

Supporting strategies are currently grouped into three broad areas:

  • Academic infrastructure and support;
  • Business processes; and
  • Outreach and engagement.

Eight working groups have been assembled and charged by the Provost to lead the thinking and development of the thematic foci and the supporting strategies. Other committees have been formed to consider some of the foundational principles (e.g., the enhanced pathways committee to consider access and affordability.) Over the next few months, those working groups and committees will meet and ultimately report their recommendations, so this Council may assimilate, consider, and mold as appropriate into the full plan. These working groups are also charged to reach out broadly across the institution for input and feedback into these areas. We will look for the Council to also participate in leading broader forums to gather input from the Penn State community and beyond. There is much to be done!

This approach is an evolution of the processes we have used in the development of previous University plans, which matured from really being (initially) more tactical to more strategic in nature. As some of you may recall, those plans were frequently based on an amalgamation of the strategies and initiatives identified by the colleges and administrative units. Unit-level plans, which have been developed and submitted by the various colleges, campuses, and academic and administrative support units, will again provide critically important input toward the development of the overall University plan, and are currently being reviewed. That review process should be complete, with feedback to the college/campus/unit heads, by early to mid-December 2014. But the USPC’s role is NOT to provide simply an amalgamation of these unit plans by considering the broader context and environment in which the University will operate in the future, but to create a plan that is more strategic in nature, and one that will enable and empower Penn State to have a real impact on the constituencies we serve. An institution of our size, scope, and reach is uniquely positioned, with focus and deliberateness, to make a profound and measureable difference in the lives of our students, and in the lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and beyond.

The Council may wish to appoint several subcommittees for selected topics that would enlist the help of individuals with specific knowledge and interests outside the membership of the USPC. The USPC will be assisted in staffing its efforts by the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, along with key individuals elsewhere in the institution who are most familiar with University financial resources, staffing, and other critical information.

Provost Nick Jones has agreed to chair the University Strategic Planning Committee. I would like the USPC to develop a draft plan by the end of March 2015 so that we may have the remainder of the Spring Semester of the 2014/15 academic year to receive feedback from members of our Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate, student leaders, our Alumni Council, and other groups of key University stakeholders. This schedule will allow time to finalize the document and be prepared to launch the new plan and the associated strategies at the outset of the next planning cycle beginning with the 2015/16 academic year.

Please confirm with Betty Harper (, senior planning and research associate in the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, your willingness to serve on the University Strategic Planning Council. An inaugural meeting of the USPC will be scheduled in the near future, and a schedule of meetings will be forthcoming following that meeting.

Thank you very much for your willingness to be involved in this critically important and challenging work on behalf of Penn State and its future.



Eric Barron


Cc:         Nicholas P. Jones

Betty J. Harper