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Strategic Plan Forum Draws Crowd

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
April 1, 2009

Perry Smith, UNH Photo Services

A standing-room-only crowd attended Tuesday’s strategic planning forum held in the 5th Floor Reading Room of the Dimond Library.

When the strategic planning committee was assembled in the fall of 2008, it was not yet known that the economy would take such a downward spiral. President Mark Huddleston acknowledged it may have left some wondering if now is the time to undergo a strategic planning process.

Yet, as it turns out, now is exactly the time the university should be mapping out its five-to-ten year future.

“At no time is it more important to plan than at times like these,” Huddleston told the crowd. He then quoted Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

“UNH is skating to where the puck is going to be,” Huddleston said.

Perry Smith, UNH Photo Services

Tuesday’s forum offered the university community the opportunity to learn more about the strategic planning process and to ask questions and make comments and suggestions. During the next two months, further input will be collected and then three to five strategic initiatives will be rolled out at a roundtable in late May, Huddleston said Tuesday.

Several committee co-chairs accompanied Huddleston on stage, including Provost and Executive Vice President Bruce Mallory; Senior Vice Provost Lisa MacFarlane, who is staffing the group; Faculty Senate Chair Marco Dorfsman; Faculty Senate Vice Chair Paula Salvio; and UNH senior Alissa Marchant, who co-chairs the student experience working group.

Two key issues raised during the forum were interdisciplinary learning and the need for diversity to be part of the strategic plan. While some committee chairs noted diversity wasn’t something they had talked about in their group, all agreed it is a necessary addition.

Theatre Professor David Richman, who is in the teaching and learning group, spoke to the issue of interdisciplinary learning, saying “the more the better.”

“If it’s going to work, we need to change the culture,” Richman said. “We need to encourage, even reward interdisciplinary learning across the colleges.”

When he asked if leadership would help and support changes to make interdisciplinary learning a way of life at UNH, Huddleston said, “I am committed,” adding that it is the curse of academia to have become so compartmentalized.

“The alignment of what students learn and how the university is organized is a challenge,” said Mallory. “Promotion and tenure track standards should encourage interdisciplinary learning.”

Dorfsman, co-chair of the globalization work group and an associate professor in the Department of Language, Literature and Culture, said his committee had discussed interdisciplinary learning opportunities at length in an attempt to find a way to bring experiential learning, internships and research together as a signature of UNH.

One way to look at the strategic plan, Huddleston said, is to think of the strategic initiatives it will identify as a guide, adding not all ideas will be integrated. An effort will be made to involve students, he noted, adding the university will respond to what students want or need.

Click here to view the video http://bbvideo.unh.edu/content/forums/strategic1.wmv after 2:30 p.m. For more information on the strategic plan, including each working group’s white paper,  visit http://www.unh.edu/strategicplanning.

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