SEMO staff calls for focus on basics during forum

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Professors and staff at Southeast Missouri State University called for a greater emphasis on infrastructure at a strategic planning forum Wednesday.

Participants clapped loudly when a member of facilities management suggested going beyond "cosmetic changes" and focusing on basic plumbing and electrical work.

"Instead of having buckets catching water all over campus, this physical aspect needs to be dealt with," said Ed Buis, director of Kent Library.

Jean Miller, an academic adviser, said "filthy" buildings need to be cleaned if the university wants to have "state-of-the-art facilities and technology which are competitive with any in the world," the fifth priority on the university's draft strategic plan.

The university is drafting the plan to guide its decisions and goals over the next three to five years. On Wednesday, more than 100 students, faculty and staff gathered to sound off on a draft of the plan. They focused on the university's mission statement, strategic vision and five priorities.

Most of the priorities are broad, general statements such as "Southeast must find ways to fund its operations at a level sufficient both to carry out is current mission, and to initiate innovative programs and services."

Each priority -- academics and student experience, human capital, strategic communication, funding, and infrastructure -- has a related set of goals or objectives, which are slightly more specific but still broad. For example, the goals under funding are to "enhance private fundraising" and to "explore more broadly and enhance corporate and foundation relations."

Dr. Gerald McDougall, dean of the Harrison Business College and a member of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, said university divisions will use approved priorities to set measurable goals for their divisions over the summer.

The strategic planning process began in the fall, with the board of regents holding a daylong planning session. In February 130 professors, students, community members, legislators and staff participated in a forum to voice their opinion about the university's standing and visions for the future.

University officials and members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, 11 people elected to represent their college or council, used the responses from the February forum to develop a draft of the plan.

Participants Wednesday consistently stressed the need to add a greater focus on faculty. Dr. Pat Ryan, institutional research director, suggested adding an emphasis on attracting and retaining staff to the strategic vision, which currently states the university "will be 'the university of first choice' for students and employers." Dwight Prater, an administrator in the IT department, mentioned twice the need for more parking for faculty.

Communication was another area that brought a heavy flow of comments. Dr. Hamner Hill, a philosophy professor, asked why communication was limited to strategic communication, saying internal communication is a significant issue. Dr. Walt Lilly, a biology professor, said more emphasis should be placed on developing a reputation before marketing that reputation.

The university should be careful about making "claims" about top-notch facilities or technology, making sure the statements are not seen as "puffery," said Dr. Skip Smith with the Department of Management and Marketing.

Hill and several other participants stressed a desire for University president Dr. Ken Dobbins to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment, which calls for universities to invest in renewable energy and promote conservation.

The plan draft now moves to the board of regents, which will meet May 9 to consider approval of the five priorities. Members of the planning steering committee will accept further suggestions about changes to the draft through e-mail, they said. A list of members can be obtained at www.semo.edu/board/stratplan_committees.....

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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