Strategic plan will seek wide input

Barbara Black

A “strategic planning process” has been going on for the past year to identify the best ways to move the current academic plan to a strategic one. Starting in September, the process will go university-wide, and the input of faculty, staff and student representatives will be crucial to making the plan successful.

“Let me give you some context for this,” Lajeunesse said in an interview last Friday.

“I felt when I came here in [in 2005] that I needed to reassure those who provide funds to us that we had a clear understanding of how we could fulfill our mission and mandate. An academic plan had been developed, but it needed to be reflected in a plan with strategic objectives, and this, with the understanding and support of the community.”

The academic plan, called Moving Ahead, identifies several challenges: strategically manage enrolment; strengthen academic programs; revitalize the professoriate; strengthen the research profile; internationalize teaching and research; and continue to provide a first-class education.

In addition, in order to meet its objectives, the university must explore approaches to increase revenue, expand international exposure, strengthen the university’s reputation and optimize management.

The first step was to gather data and establish metrics to guide the process. Under the responsibility of Brad Tucker, Director of Institutional Planning, and in wide consultation, a series of measurements have been identified. These will allow us to benchmark the university with our peers and measure our progress as the strategic plan unfolds. We also retained the services of consultants Deloitte & Touche to identify new inspirational ideas from universities around the world.

As well, Patrick Kelley, Executive Director of Administration & Human Resources for the JMSB, was mandated to establish and coordinate workgroups that would meet to discuss specific aspects of the strategic plan. Some of the areas the workgroups have been discussing include partnerships and internationalizations; strengthening ties with the community; responding to the need for lifelong learning; achieving financial stability; using new technologies; broadening recruitment and retaining students; and making Concordia a fulfilling place to work.

Each of these workgroups includes several faculty members, and some include staff members. The workgroups are chaired by a blue-ribbon group of citizens who have agreed to lend their considerable expertise to the university.

They include Camille Limoges, a former deputy minister who is highly respected in the research community throughout Quebec and Canada, Isabelle Hudon, a rising star in the business world and current president of the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, and Phyllis Lambert, the iconic architectural conservationist and philanthropist.

Over the summer, the reports of the workgroups will be synthesized, and their recommendations prioritized. Then Concordians at large will get involved.

“We will have a reasonable draft [of the strategic plan], and then we’ll broaden the input to include the whole university community through town halls and other means.” Lajeunesse referred to a similar process conducted at Queen’s University as a successful model to follow. “I foresee tough choices, but we’ll set criteria to make them,” he said.

The only thing he regrets about the strategic planning process is that it has taken as long as it has, but he noted that the broad extent of the consultations made delays inevitable, adding “I’d rather see it done well and in a collegial fashion than done too quickly.”

Asked whether the plan is being driven by a corporate model of efficiency, Lajeunesse said, “The implication of the corporate sector is very positive, [but] it’s a matter of degree. I would strongly resist academic decisions made by non-academics. That to me is critical.”

As for those who are afraid of change, he promised to be open and transparent. “When we explain how the plan will benefit the whole community — and how all constituents fit in because they have been part of the planning — they will be reassured.”

The recommended actions are not likely to be radical, he added with a smile. “We don’t need electro-shock! This university is not in crisis. We just need to adjust our practices, and identify where better to deploy our resources.”