Implementing the Vision
Effective long-range plans are strategic. While they chart a bold course, they are flexible. They include goals that are aspirational, but also achievable. The best long-range plans are calls to action, focusing on implementation and accountability. They guide future initiatives and allocation of resources.
Built on the visioning committee’s work and report in 2014–15, Missouri State’s long-range plan for 2016–21 outlines the vision, strategic priorities and university goals in each of the six key areas: academic profile, student experience, diversity and inclusion, globalization, infrastructure and funding. The course has been charted. Now the work begins.
Missouri State’s unique character
Since its founding in 1905 as State Normal School Number Four to provide for the education of teachers, Missouri State has held service to the citizens of Missouri as one of its highest values. Moreover, excellent teaching and student centeredness have been priorities for the institution and contribute to the unique character of what is now Missouri State University. We are proud that our faculty and staff work with students, individually and collectively, to help them achieve their academic and life goals.
In 1995, Missouri State’s statewide mission in public affairs was signed into law. The mission asks students, faculty and staff to consider what they learn in the context of their role as citizens. It encompasses three pillars of public affairs: ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement. Faculty and staff have worked to integrate the mission so students understand how their actions affect society at large.
These characteristics constitute the heart of the university and will be advanced in the long-range plan.
Challenges to higher education
Higher education in the United States faces daunting challenges that will influence the institution’s strategic priorities for the foreseeable future.
First among these is increased competition at all levels: for students, faculty and staff, and resources. Competition will intensify in coming years.
Demographic changes will influence how the university operates. For example, first-generation students, who have not traditionally considered themselves college-bound, constitute more than one-third of Missouri State’s incoming class. These students — talented and qualified academically — may lack the background that gives non-first-generation students a boost in navigating college waters. We must not lose this talent!
Among the most influential changes affecting higher education is the decreasing support at the state level. Thirty years ago, nearly three-fourths of the university’s financial support came from the state, with student tuition and private support constituting the remainder. Today, those numbers are nearly reversed – the state provides about one-third of the university’s support. This has substantially increased the financial burden for students and their families as universities are forced to rely on private support. Maintaining affordability is a priority in the strategic plan.
Finally, societal attitudes about the value of a college education contribute to the current climate in higher education. A college education has increasingly become viewed as a private commodity rather than a public good that benefits all society, despite data demonstrating that college-educated citizens make more money, pay more taxes and are less likely to be unemployed or under-employed in their lifetimes.
Student success is the top priority
Student success is at the center of the long-range plan and is the primary reason for the programs, initiatives and goals developed within this plan.
While what constitutes success is defined individually by each student, a sine qua non is that Missouri State University seeks to develop broadly educated persons. The university’s general education statement emphasizes that a university education should do more than prepare students for specific jobs. All students must be able to ask good questions, develop solutions to problems and make generalizations – in short, to think. They also must be able to work collaboratively to solve problems. Moreover, whatever the student’s ultimate degree, the liberal arts provide the foundation on which the student’s education rests.
When students graduate, they must be prepared with skills to enter the job market. They must also be able to adapt to the job market and be ready to change jobs or careers as individual interests and societal trends shape their paths.
Student success also involves the ability to engage appropriately with each of the three pillars of public affairs. Graduates will be leaders in their communities, nationally and globally. They must be able to interact with others whose upbringing, values and culture may be markedly different from their own. They must be willing to contribute their skills, knowledge and experiences to benefit their communities and the broader society.
Communicating about and implementing the long-range plan
This long-range plan provides the framework to guide the work that follows: communicating about and implementing this plan. The plan will be disseminated widely throughout the university community, posted on the long-range plan website and distributed in printed form to all faculty and staff. Members of the university’s top leadership team will be responsible for disseminating the plan and ensuring that the individuals in their units understand and have communicated the plan to those in their units, in preparation for implementation.
The priorities and goals presented in this plan are strategic. During the next five years, each unit of the university will develop the specific goals and tactics that will operationalize the plan, direct how the university will allocate its resources, identify which individuals or groups are accountable for implementation and specify the measures by which the plan will be evaluated.