On the Record: David Graham 

Strategic planning an opportunity to be heard

One of my “dream goals” is to make strategic planning exciting.

Odd, you say? Consider this: Of all the phrases we hear at the university, probably none is more naturally yawn-inducing than “strategic planning.” Yet, few activities have more potential to have a huge positive impact on Concordia.

When we feel overwhelmed by preparing to teach our next class, admit our next student, process our next purchase order, or answer our next phone call or email, it’s hard to see why we should get involved in some “top-down strategic planning exercise,” especially when we can’t always escape the feeling that the big decisions have already been made. Let me assure you that they haven’t, and it’s not.

Our academic mission is far and away our most important task. I believe we should all be deeply involved in making sure it’s front and centre in the planning process. Planning happens whether or not we choose to take part. Doesn’t it make more sense to be involved than to be disengaged? Planning definitely has an impact on what we all do; the priorities we set in the next few weeks will help us make rational and fair decisions about where to put our resources when difficult choices have to be made. Finally, planning is quite simply a terrific opportunity to have a say in making Concordia the kind of place we want it to be.

So what has happened so far? About two years ago we began a planning process with ever-increasing academic and community involvement. Committees were struck, reports produced, and, last fall, the Senate Committee on Academic Planning and Priorities synthesized it all. With the encouragement and close personal involvement of then-President Michael Di Grappa, we consulted Faculty Councils and Senate, held open meetings and gathered abundant feedback. In parallel, Vice-President Louise Dandurand, her team and the Faculties put a lot of work into producing what I think is a terrific strategic research plan. It’s no dry or dusty document, but one through which our institutional life blood courses. For the last few months, we’ve been working to define our “institutional academic signatures”; not just research, but the programs and outreach activities that make us proud to be what we are. This collective effort is feeding the current planning process with academic ideas and direction, but we need to hear even more from everyone.

Here are half a dozen ways you can get involved now:

1. Learn. Download and read the documents;

2. Assess. Decide for yourself whether the proposed directions are the right ones for us;

3. Speak up. Attend an open consultation, submit a comment on the web page, or take the web survey;

4. Engage. Discuss the process or the plan with colleagues and make a departmental submission;

5. Act. Fill in the sample action plans with the things that you think need to be done to make Concordia the kind of place you want it to be;

6. Talk to me. I’m delighted to accept invitations to debate all the reasons why I believe academic faculty and staff absolutely have to be involved in charting our course for the next decade.

What comes after this semester, you ask? Our President is deeply interested in hearing your views about such matters as employee relations, faculty recruitment and retention, and the student experience. Expect to see a small number of presidential panels struck to look into the main outcomes from this semester (another reason for your voice to be heard right away). Expect to see a draft plan submitted to and discussed by Senate, by the Committee on Academic Planning and Priorities, and by Faculty Councils. That process of collegial discussion will be essential as the final plan is shaped prior to submission to the Board of Governors for endorsement late next spring.

Want to hear more on this topic? Invite me to visit your unit! So much is strategic that may not seem so at first blush – defining our “institutional signatures,” the deliberations of the Provost’s Working Group on Teaching and Learning and the projects that the Vice-Provosts have under way to promote the recognition of our most outstanding students and faculty, and the recruitment and retention of even more new colleagues. Concordia’s academic faculty, staff and students are the most important people in my working life, and I know our academic units have terrific ideas about making Concordia a better place. Your views mean a lot to President Woodsworth and to me. Make them count. Make them heard!￿


Concordia University