Penn State’s Strategic Planning Process
Penn State has had perhaps the most extensive institution-wide history in strategic management of any major university in the United States. Since the 1980s, Penn State has relied upon planning to strengthen its ability to make careful, informed choices and to allocate resources according to evidence, judgment, and strategic priorities.
Penn State’s planning process currently operates on a five-year cycle and has three primary components:
- Integrated planning
- Unit-level planning
- University-level planning
From 1998-2015, University planning included a separate, but parallel, diversity planning process based on the Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State. Since the implementation of the initial Framework in 1998, Penn State has made considerable strides toward building a truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable institution and in establishing an infrastructure to facilitate effective diversity planning, implementation, and reporting processes. Currently, Penn State is merging its diversity strategic planning into its overall University strategic planning process in order to achieve greater strengths and synergies. Additional information on diversity strategic planning can be found on the Educational Equity website.
Integrated planning brings together enrollment, staffing, and facilities data to support strategic planning and decision-making at Penn State’s campuses. As part of this process, base year and historical data related to admissions and enrollment, staffing, capital projects, capital funding, tuition income, salary expenses, and departmental allotment and wages is provided to the campuses. Campus leaders then work with University Park staff to develop four-year projections to support planning. The most recent base year for Integrated Planning was 2013.
Unit-level planning guidelines come from the Office of the Provost (most recently in the summer of 2013). At the campuses, unit-level planning builds on the foundation provided by the integrated planning process. The most recent set of guidelines asked each of Penn State’s 48 units to provide:
- An articulated vision for the next 5-10 years
- Strategies to achieve the vision
- Plans, progress, and initiatives in learning outcomes assessment (academic units only)
- Strategic performance indicators
- A discussion of progress made and issues addressed related to diversity planning and the seven challenges that guided the University’s Framework to Foster Diversity 2010-15
- A discussion of how recommendations of the Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council continue to factor into unit planning and management
- Information on practices that promote integrity and ethical behavior
- Discussion of how the unit is contributing toward Penn State’s goals for sustainability
- Correlation of strategic initiatives to budget planning
University-level planning lags unit planning by a year and draws extensively upon the unit-level plans as well as other resources in a broadly participatory process. The combination of top-down/bottom-up planning is a fundamental characteristic of strategic management at Penn State. Within common guidelines, each unit defines its own planning approach, implementation strategies, and performance metrics. This hybrid technique recognizes the value of the unit-level planning process in its own right and provides a backbone for University-level planning.
University-level planning is guided by the University Strategic Planning Council (USPC), which is charged by the University President. The 2015-16 through 2019-20 plan is currently in development and will incorporate strategic priorities and supporting strategies including:
- Transforming education and access
- Outreach and engagement
- Organizational processes
- Managing and stewarding our resources
- The digital futures
- Business processes
- Infrastructure and support