After months of brainstorming, team meetings and focus groups, the Division of Students unveiled its strategic plan March 15 at a launch event in the Underground Restaurant on York’s Keele campus.
York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri joined Vice-Provost Students Janet Morrison as she, Brendan Schulz, executive director of strategy and planning, and Sheila Forshaw, executive director of resources, both from the Office of the Vice-Provost Students, debuted the plan.
More than 280 staff and community members attended the launch event
“Congratulations to each of you for your hard work in making this strategic plan a reality,” said Shoukri in his welcoming remarks. “As many of you have heard me say, the central role of this University is to ensure the success of our students. Everything we do is rooted in this commitment. I am proud that you have developed a plan to make sure our students have the best environment for learning.”
The large room was set up with six round tables and each guest was a given a puzzle piece upon entry and asked to find the table with the matching puzzle colour. There they joined their teammates from units within the Division of Students (Admissions, Career Centre, Centre for Aboriginal Student Services, Counselling & Disability Services, Recruitment & Awards, Registrar’s Office, Sport & Recreation, Student Community & Leadership Development, Student Client Services, Student Conflict Resolution, Student Financial Services). A few teams, quickly catching on to the game afoot, began immediately to strategize and test their puzzle-making skills.
“Thank you to all of you for the important part you played building this plan,” said Schulz, “and in the spirit of building the plan, we are hosting a competition to see which of the six teams can put their puzzle together the fastest and win a prize.”
Six teams of 50 staff members worked on puzzles amid much laughter and shouted instructions
Backed by the theme music from the game show “Jeopardy”, Forshaw blew a Sport York whistle and launched a flurry of activity as the teams went to work constructing their puzzles. The noise level in the room rose as teams chanted and cheered each other on. On screen, a ghostly puzzle image gradually solidified and, amid laughter and shouted instructions, the puzzles took shape. When completed – Team Yellow first, Team White second and Team Purple third – the puzzles revealed the vision, mission and values of the Strategic Plan.
A completed puzzle, showcasing the division’s vision, mission and values
Vice-Provost Morrison then debuted the Strategic Plan to the audience.
Titled “Strategy for Success,” the five-year plan will take the division to 2018. The plan’s vision is: “Partners in Student Success.” The division’s new mission is: “To advance York University’s mission by providing services, programs and facilities that foster academic success, student development and an engaged community. We support and inspire students to contribute as global leaders.”
“During the workshops and planning sessions,” said Morrison, “we heard loud and clear from all across the division that we must be engaged partners in student success. The values we agreed upon, echoing and supporting the institutional Brand values and those within the University Academic Plan, are respect, accountability, excellence, care, innovation, inclusion, and collaboration.”
Janet Morrison, vice-provost students, outlined the plan to those gathered for the launch
Morrison then outlined the key strategic priorities of the plan. “There are four key strategic priorities. The first is strategic enrolment management, with a goal that by 2018 York will have achieved optimum enrolment through a strategic, planned approach that aligns with the University Academic Plan. The second is the first-year experience. We are committed to ensuring all first-year students have access to programs that support their personal transition to York and foster their continuing success and engagement.”
The third strategic priority, said Morrison, states that by 2018 the division will provide the financial assistance that every student needs to meet their academic goals. The final priority focuses on student leadership and career development. “By 2018, we will offer co-curricular programs and services that empower our students to seek out and engage in leadership and career development opportunities. We pledge to make a difference and support student engagement at York University.”
Supporting the plan, she said, are three important enablers, or pillars, that guide the priorities. ‘The first is building our culture by living our values, as experienced by our students, clients, partners and ourselves. The second is employee engagement and development. And the third is organizational effectiveness and awareness. Our goals and priorities will be measured over the five-year plan using a balanced scorecard approach.
“To live the plan, we must actively challenge and champion it. It is aspirational, ambitious and comprehensive,” Morrison said. “We are charting the course for an adventure. As Winnie the Pooh once said, ‘When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen’. So let’s pull on our big boots and get started!”
As the event drew to a close, each team posed for a group photo in front of their completed puzzles and staff were given a bi-fold brochure, featuring the vision, mission, values, priorities, enablers and benchmarks to post at their desks. The completed puzzles will be framed and hung in key student-service areas as visual motivators for staff and students alike. The Vice-Provost Flickr stream features photos of the event and a short video was created to celebrate the energy, enthusiasm and puzzle-solving skills of the divisional staff.
Morrison’s closing words are a powerful reminder of what’s at the heart of the plan: “The Strategic Plan is a tool to further our commitment to excellence and I can’t tell you how much I respect your exceptional commitment to York University.”