It’s been more than a year since President Michael Driscoll took the helm of IUP. And with the question of who is to steer the ship having been answered, the matter now before the university is, “Where is it heading?”
Driscoll would like to know that himself.
So to help pin a destination on the map, he and his administrative team huddled with faculty, staff and students on Monday for a daylong planning session that was dubbed the Strategic Visioning Summit.
The summit was meant to bring different members of the university together so they could collectively vet a draft of a strategic vision statement. At 271 words, the draft statement attempts to define what IUP is, its reason for being, and the values it holds most dear.
Dozens of IUP community members spent the day reviewing the language contained in the draft and the themes it embodies.
Timothy Moerland, provost and vice president for academic affairs, called Monday’s work a good start on a solid foundation. He said that for him the discussions confirm that there is a unity of vision among community members.
This sort of thinking about what the university is and what it should be had been called for even before Driscoll arrived at IUP in 2012, bringing about the oft-repeated phrase, “IUP can no longer be all things to all people.”
So if IUP is then to be some things to some people, then what are those things? And that’s what Monday’s work was meant to help answer.
Work on the vision statement has been ongoing, having started last fall. But the university began really digging into the project when Professor Michele Papakie and a public relations class took up the task of talking with the university community to help it get a better sense of itself.
The work lasted through the spring semester and into the summer. And by the time they were done, they interviewed more than 450 people. With the help of some software, they analyzed the information they had obtained, finding that there were 10 prominent themes.
Administrators then took input on the themes and incorporated them into the draft statement that was reviewed Tuesday.
Those who participated broke off into groups and looked at the language in the draft and the ideas it embodies.
The review was comprehensive.
For instance, in a list of values contained in the draft, it states that one is providing education in appropriate locations throughout western Pennsylvania. But some said they thought that to say southwestern Pennsylvania is too limiting and doesn’t speak to the university’s statewide, national and global reach.
In another example, some questioned whether the statement that IUP values “knowing our students by name” effectively communicated the point, which is that at IUP students are known as the people they are, not as numbers.
Driscoll said the plan is to have a final version of the statement prepared toward the end of the semester and have it approved by the Council of Trustees and the University Senate before the semester is out.
He said the university will use the statement as a guide as it plans for the years ahead and as it undergoes the self-reflection required through its Middle States reaccreditation.