A few months is a short time to come to a consensus on what to do for the next 10 years – especially when you represent nearly half of York University. But on Jan. 21, members of the Faculty Council in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion to adopt a Strategic Planning Framework that contains a mission statement and a comprehensive and clearly defined set of goals and principles that will guide the development of the first strategic plan for the Faculty.
The document itself and the support it has received are significant achievements for a Faculty barely six months old, and is a testament to the commitment, engagement and excitement that continues to build in LA&PS.
|Above: LA&PS faculty, staff and students listen to Dean Martin Singer during a presentation on the Faculty’s new Strategic Planning Framework|
The Strategic Planning Framework is the result of months of collegial consultation and discussion. Its mission statement outlines the purpose and identity of the Faculty while its five core strategic goals and 29 principles will further help to guide the Faculty’s strategic planning work.
The five core strategic goals are:
- A fully engaged student body committed to its own education.
- A renewed faculty complement dedicated to teaching, research and university citizenship.
- Diverse, innovative, adaptive, disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs serving equally individual students and the greater community while fostering new knowledge.
- Strong, flexible, mutually supportive ties with local and global communities.
- A just, appropriate, and transparent distribution of resources to enable the strategic priorities that emerge from the above principles.
Developing a strategic plan was the top priority when Martin Singer (left) started his term as dean of the new Faculty in July 2009. Having just begun to get acquainted with his colleagues and the York community, Singer invited chairs and directors from each of the Faculty’s 21 academic units, key senior staff and the five associate deans (see YFile, June 1, 2009) to assist him.
This newly formed Dean’s Working Group on Strategic Planning participated in nine weekly meetings during the fall term to develop a framework that would constitute the foundation for a formal strategic plan. After more than 30 hours of discussion and debate, the group arrived at a consensus on the initial draft of the framework document through discussions that, as Singer notes, were "collegial, respectful and supportive."
"The document was not and is not a plan; rather, it is a framework that contains guiding principles that will help us to develop a strategic plan," he says. "The working group understood the principles they developed to be relatively abstract commitments that would be capable of being instituted in more ways than one. To this end, an appendix to the framework provides more than 100 corollaries which demonstrate how these principles might be applied in the strategic planning process. Overall, this is a starting point – a place to begin what will be a very consultative and comprehensive process."
In December 2009, the framework document was submitted to the Faculty’s Academic Policy & Planning Committee (APPC) and then subsequently brought forward to Faculty Council on Dec. 10 for review. Students, faculty and staff provided comments and made recommendations to the working group at two well-attended and vocal community forums in early January as well as through individual, committee and departmental contributions, e-mail and personal deputations.
The feedback was brought back to the Dean’s Working Group who reviewed the suggestions for the final, amended document. In the end, the revised framework incorporated over 130 editorial changes.
Left: Professor George Comninel, chair of the LA&PS Academic Policy & Planning Committee
The APPC approved the revised framework and the document was put to a motion to adopt at Faculty Council on Jan. 21. An extraordinarily high turnout of over 150 members of Faculty Council came out to show their support, with approval expressed by department chairs, representatives from LA&PS committees, student councils and college masters.
"I was delighted with the engagement, the debate, and in the end, the strong consensus," notes Singer. "The strength of the mandate shows clearly that we can now move forward. This is where the really hard work begins."
In coming months, Singer plans to meet with each department, school and college in the Faculty to see how the principles in the framework can apply in each unit and to discuss what kinds of activities might support – or, already support – these principles. Combining the information from these conversations with the framework, a 30-page document of statistical data on the Faculty, plus resource and space recommendations, will all help to form a solid foundation for the strategic plan. The plan will also be impacted by the University Academic Plan and the provostial green and white papers. It is the dean’s hope that it will be completed by late spring.
"This process has been, and will continue to be, a genuinely collaborative and collegial effort," says Singer. "I am proud of the Faculty – of members of the working group, of participants in the community forums and of members from each department and school – for their contributions and commitment to helping this new Faculty move forward."
Some of the highlights in the adopted framework include strengthening the student and faculty experience, collaborating more closely with internal and external communities, and providing an undergraduate and graduate experience that reflects diversity, equity, social justice and accessibility. But perhaps the most concise and telling component of the framework is the Faculty mission statement: a clear indication of how the Faculty views itself and a vision of where the Faculty is likely to be in 2020. It reads:
"The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies brings together internationally recognized research, a devotion to effective teaching, and a commitment to diversity, equity and social justice. The range, global sensitivity and intensity of disciplinary and interdisciplinary degree programs are mirrored by the diversity and engagement of its professors and students. The Faculty is dedicated to furthering its already strong research and service cultures and ensuring that all its many researchers bring their scholarship into the classroom and out into the community. The Faculty is particularly sensitive to the aspirations of its constituent communities and the challenges those communities face. To sustain and renew the ideals and practices of the modern university, the Faculty draws upon its own vibrant tradition of self-examination and reflection. Committed to providing access to qualified applicants, including non-traditional and international students, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies melds access and excellence."
The Strategic Planning Framework for the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies is available on the LA&PS Faculty Council Web site. For more information about the Strategic Planning Framework or process, e-mail Didier Pomerleau, executive director, strategic planning, LA&PS, at email@example.com.