Strategic planning uncovers problem areas

Ben Fitch

The strategic planning sub-committees are in the midst of discussions that will shape the superstructure and infrastructure of Washburn holistically-possibly changing the course of the university in the next five years.

The five sub-committees: academic programs, asset stewardship, enrollment management, learning environment development and student life meet individually with representatives ranging from deans, directors, regents and faculty to students. Two of the total 45 members are students: Angel Romero and Garrett Love.

Thursday, the learning environment development sub-committee held an open forum in which any member of the Washburn community was invited to voice their opinion about the future of the school.

“Learning environment development deals with all the physical aspects of the university,” Gordon McQuere, chair, said, “which would be buildings, programming and landscaping.”

During the forum, several faculty members voiced their concern about a variety of topics. Representatives from the physical education department said they have gained nothing from the Whiting renovations, and that there should be a process by which the space is shared realistically.

Signage was another topic of discussion during the forum. Some faculty said there was a lack of directional cues provided for campus guests.

The role of ISS was a reverberating topic as well.

“ISS has to be answerable to academic programs,” said a faculty member, “there is a lack of understanding.”

Cal Melick, Mabee librarian, said the problem with technology support has implications towards enrollment.

“When it doesn’t work or fails, that message goes everywhere,” Melick said. He said students expect a standard of quality when they use the technology at Washburn, and, often times, their high schools have better technology support.

John Hunter, theatre professor, is a member of the Endowment Association. He said Washburn lacks a student culture, which is vital to the university.

“The inclusive atmosphere needs to change,” he said. And the solution lies in Greek life because it helps students identify with the university. Furthermore, it strengthens relationships with Washburn alumni, who are vital because of the returns and endorsements that the university enjoys, said Hunter.

“The Bod culture could be reestablished. There are examples all over this country.”

Concern for the WTE was expressed as well, simply because many new students don’t know that it exists. Mandatory orientation was brought up as a solution during the forum.

Vice President Robin Bowen gave a presentation during the academic programs sub-committee meeting, Friday, during which she said the WTE was an important university program. In terms of marketing, Bowen said she wants to convey the idea of a private education at a public price, which includes smaller class sizes and the “perception” of an added benefit.

“The WTE is an added benefit,” she said. “Getting rid of it makes no sense to me. Why not capitalize on something that we have already?”

Many topics will be common to several sub-committees.

Carol Vogel, chair of the student life committee, said there is a great deal of overlap, and the strategy is to be as general with information gathering as possible.

“We are trying to get broad student input,” she said. “The student life committee will address students more than the others.”

While the student life sub-committee has not held an open forum, they have circulated a 1,000 participant survey through the English department. The survey featured five questions-the first two were default to every survey, and the remaining three were randomly assigned. All of the questions were qualitative and sought to provide insight into what students desired from their education.

“Data gathering comes in and then we look at trends,” Vogel said, “the results were expected to come back on the ninth, but it was changed to the twenty-third. We are always in favor of more student input. I think where student input will be helpful is on the draft.”

The sub-committees will compile drafts from their findings that will be presented to an executive committee. The executive committee will then present the information to the Board of Regents. The Regents will review the information and possibly enact policy.

Bowen said the information will go back and forth between the executive council, sub-committees and Board of Regents several times before anything comes of the findings. She said she expects the final document to be done by April.