Feb. 17-18, 2016


This paper summarizes the third set of strategic planning discussions held at the University of North Carolina Asheville. For an overview of the planning process and goals, as well as a summary of the previous discussions, please refer to the Summary of Initial Discussions on November 18-19, 2016; and the Summary of Discussions on January 13-14, 2016. To date over 200 individuals have had the opportunity to provide input to the strategic planning process.

Overview of Feb. 17-18 Sessions

The consultants continued their information gathering efforts, allowing more people from across the UNC Asheville community to contribute to the process, and providing a wealth of information for the Strategic Planning Task Force (SPTF) to consider as it develops the plan.

This paper highlights sessions with the following:

  • Diversity Action Council (9) 
  • Pre-Tenured Faculty (26) 
  • Athletics Department (14) 
  • Trustees (9) 
  • Board of Governors (1) 
  • Student Leaders (12)

These conversations provided additional valuable input on the issues and opportunities facing UNC Asheville. Highlights of each of these discussions are included on the following pages. Each group explored broad topics most relevant for them, and specific content varied based on the constituency and its perspective.

In addition to these discussions, the Strategic Planning Task Force held its second meeting on February 17. This meeting focused on some of the emerging strategic questions that have been identified and need to be discussed in planning.

The consultants also met with the Chancellor’s administrative staff to further refine the planning process and identify specific next steps to keep the process moving forward.

Diversity Action Council

Highlights of the Discussion:

  • What would true diversity look like at UNC Asheville?
    • You wouldn’t have to have the conversation about whether we are diverse. You would be able to look at the students and people who work here and see diversity.
    • We would no longer have to say, “This will be a difficult conversation.” The conversations will be integrated into all that we do, indicating that we understand their importance.
    • Communities will form organically, so students who belong to an underrepresented group won’t feel like they’re alone.
    • The university will have robust and multi-faceted relationships with the diverse communities of Asheville.
    • No one will describe UNC Asheville as a predominantly white institution.
    • Conversations about diversity will address issues of the power structure on campus and what it advocates for. Cultural power tendencies will change and become more balanced. 
    • People who are not of color will be intentional about having the conversation. We should not always assume that when a question of diversity comes up, it is the role of only the person of color to respond. “I want the conversation to be as passionate for others as for someone in those marginalized groups.” 
  • Issues for faculty
    • It is important that those in authority understand and place in context situations involving minority faculty. There are few minorities in senior positions, which can cause issues in such areas as faculty evaluation.
    • It can be daunting for a minority faculty member to have a class of all white students.
    • Until the number of minority faculty increases, we need to be intentional in addressing some of the embedded cultural distinctions.
    • We need ways for minority faculty and staff to have a pathway to confront issues and get resolution. Institutional practices of the past may not be sufficient or appropriate. If an untenured faculty member finds him/herself in conflict with a department chair, s/he needs to have an advocate, someone who 
      understands the issues and the things they encounter that can be traced to cultural misunderstanding. Sometimes legal issues prevent us from resolving things that might have been resolved human to human.
  • What can UNC Asheville do to address diversity issues?
    • Consider the implications of increasing the numbers of diverse people. If you increase the numbers of diverse people, you will also reduce the number of white students, faculty, and staff. What issues will this cause and how can they be resolved? Some groups will be advocating for access and freedom, and others will feel that access and freedom are being taken away. As a community, have we thought about this? Are we ready for it?
    • Look at all liberal arts colleges and see which are the most diverse at all levels—students, faculty, staff, and leadership—and learn from them. 
    • When potential employees come to UNC Asheville, include questions in the interview process to assess cultural competency. Once hired, build the importance of diversity into the role they play. 
    • Use cultural misunderstandings as learning opportunities, rather than occasions for punishment. This will take time, but if there is buy-in from all levels it can be done. 
    •  Require leaders, people in power, to be put into immersive situations where they are not in power. Use internships or other vehicles to expose them to new ways of looking at diversity so they can see things from other perspectives. 
    • Find ways other than traditional diversity training on campus to educate people. New approaches are needed if we want people to be culturally competent. 
    • We need more financial aid money to build the demographics we want at UNC Asheville. If students can see themselves fitting in, they’re more likely to stay. 
    • How can we bring in more students from Asheville, with an emphasis on local marginalized students? 
    • In terms of diverse faculty, we are competing nationally; how can we best attract and retain a diverse faculty? What resources will be required? What will make them want to come to Asheville? What role does the community play? Do people want to live in Asheville? Can they afford to? Are they comfortable with people here? These are all issues we face as an institution. 
  • The planning process
    • The plan needs to build in a powerful direction and strategy for diversity, as well as ways to measure progress and ensure accountability. It should be clear that everyone is responsible for diversity, not just certain people or departments. That requires everyone to contribute to creating and maintaining a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Pre-tenured Faculty

Highlights of the Discussion:

  • Supporting pre-tenured faculty
    • We need to clarify expectations of junior faculty. What kind and quantity of scholarship is expected and rewarded? What level of community engagement? Are there common standards? 
    • For faculty in areas where research requires travel to conferences to interact with colleagues, there is a need for funding, release time, and grants. Without this, faculty in these fields can’t be competitive. 
    • We need more support for faculty collaboration, both inside and outside of the classroom. To do this successfully, we need to account for the work it takes to develop a team-taught class, so that we can truly provide the liberal arts that we value. 
    • More clear direction on assessment. Some junior faculty are told to be assessment liaisons, which takes significant time. What are the expectations? 
    • It is not clear what the expectations are of junior faculty, so it’s hard to know when you should be saying no. Expectations across campus are not uniform. 
    • Chairs need to know how to direct and support faculty so they can be successful. Chairs need professional development support and resources. 
    • New faculty need help fitting into pre-existing structures. 
    • Continue to support the faculty mentoring program and the Center for Teaching and Learning. These are two resources that do a lot to help faculty. 
  • Future 
    • Be part of a bigger movement of social change and transformation, with liberal arts in the service of bettering society. 
    • To attract junior faculty, UNC Asheville needs a set of clear guidelines on what is expected in research and community involvement. There needs to be support from the university for research and service, and increased time for research. 
    • Facilities should be driven by academic needs:
      • Improve facilities so that we can attract the types of students we want and effectively deliver our curriculum. We need more buildings that are built for their specific purpose, tailored for the needs of individual departments. 
      • Facilities should also be designed to support cross-disciplinary work and the overall liberal arts mission.
      • Need more flexible facilities that can accommodate larger groups, to encourage collaboration, bringing classes together. There are few spaces where we can bring two classes together. 
      • Attractive facilities are important for recruiting, particularly for parents who visit campus. We need to have buildings that serve our needs and are appropriate for what is needed, not just for show. 
      • A committee is looking at a performing arts center in Asheville. It would be a boon to the university to have that on campus. 
    • Undergraduate research is a signature strength, and there are opportunities to expand it. There is a need for more summer funding for collaborative research projects of faculty and students. There are also time issues with undergraduate research. If a faculty member is supervising undergraduates doing research, that leaves little time for the faculty’s own research. The time supporting undergraduate research needs to be compensated.
      o Strengths to build on: AVID and Jump Start programs. We need to assess how students are faring after the first year, when they don’t have as much support. How can we build on that to build racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity? 
    • Be clear that we value teaching outside of the department, multidisciplinary and beyond that to interdisciplinary. 
    • Being more family friendly will help with recruiting and retaining faculty. Although there are currently programs in place such as family medical leave, there are opportunities to enhance these services and strengthen support for faculty members who are juggling teaching, research, community engagement, and family responsibilities. 
    • Enhanced housing options for faculty are also important. Property in Asheville is expensive, and it is difficult for junior faculty to afford to buy a home. 
    • We would like to see more presence in downtown Asheville. 
    • Work with students and help them understand the value of their liberal arts education and how to make the best lives for themselves. 
    • Reframe the concept of getting a job to the concept of creating a job. With high unemployment, many graduates need to create their own jobs, and we should give them the tools to do so. 
    • We need a true development office and a different fundraising culture. 
    • Humanities program has many adjuncts, but it’s our nominal crown jewel and should have more permanent faculty and maintain its multidisciplinary nature. 
    • Determine areas where we are “spinning our wheels” and introduce efficiencies to save time and effort. 
    • Streamline the governance system.
  • Graduate programs 
    • Positives
      • There could be exciting connections between graduate and undergraduate courses. 
      • Graduate programs can add significant revenues and faculty lines. 
      • Appropriate for some departments, but not all. In music, graduate programs raise the performance level and are positive. 
    • Concerns
      • Would require more resources and faculty than we have now. 
      • Would they add to our mission or detract from it? 
      • Would prefer to see the resources go to undergraduate research. 
      • Concern it would lead to more adjuncts teaching entry-level courses and the impact that would have on campus culture. We don’t want to create a two-tier faculty, and we want faculty teaching entry-level courses so students stay
  • Cultural diversity 
    • Education should reflect equity and inclusiveness, the willingness to have multiple voices and break down hegemonic barriers. “We will suffer as a society if we are unable to entertain true differences without exploding at one another.” 
    • Continue and expand efforts to recruit both students and faculty of color. 
    • More support in the infrastructure for diverse groups, whether in the student body or part of the faculty or staff. Some institutions have an Office of Diversity or a Chief Diversity Officer. Should we? 
    • Develop more globalized educational initiatives, including recruiting more students who will contribute to cultural diversity and providing support for collaborative efforts with universities around the world. 
  • Community engagement 
    • Community engagement is very important and should have more support. We are a liberal arts institution, and part of that mission is civic engagement. Should community engagement be required? Can the status of community engagement and scholarship be raised? 
    • There are many individuals working with the community, but there is a need for more coordination, collaboration, and communication. 
    • We need to ensure that we are continuing to work with community partners in a sustainable long term way. Community engagement creates unique time demands on faculty. To encourage more community engagement, it will be important to give more merit to the work that faculty do to develop and nurture these relationships. We need to determine how to evaluate and reward the scholarship of engagement, as we evaluate and reward the number of grants, publications, etc.
  • Communication and Branding 
    • Pre-tenured faculty are doing great work, but it is not always recognized. “We’re all a little too humble some days.” We need to tell the stories and communicate throughout the faculty. 
    • We need to share more information about our accomplishments and not undersell ourselves. 
    • As we recruit students, we need to be clear about what we have to offer, and do more to identify and attract the students we would like to have here.
    • We need clear and consistent guidelines about communication within faculty and between faculty and the administration. Junior faculty need to know with whom to communicate and how. 

Athletics Department

Highlights of the Discussion:

  • What’s really working here and where is UNCA challenged? 
    • Staff are very supportive of each other, and people are willing to jump in and help as needed. We all do a lot of things that aren’t in our job description because we like each other. “A small budget but big hearts have allowed us to win championships.” Coaches could make more money elsewhere, but they choose to be here. 
    • Admissions is doing an excellent job in coordinating recruiting and communicating with coaches. There is a strong level of trust between admissions and athletics. 
    • The Chancellor understands the value of having a Division 1 athletics program, but the university is structured like a Division 3 university, and that can cause friction. Athletics is dealing with external pieces that move faster than internal processes. For example, athletics staff may travel frequently during the year and need to be able to plan quickly for some trips. 
    • The university’s peers are not the same as the athletics department’s peers. Most COPLAC schools are Division 3. 
    • If the university embraced the Division 1 status more fully and communicated it more broadly, this could help recruit students. 
    • Athletics provides a wonderful vehicle for teaching leadership and the ability to function as part of a team. This has great value for students. Many students are away from home for the first time, and we help them make the transition to responsible adulthood and to being leaders. Many alumni still talk of the impact of athletics on their lives. “We do leadership and develop uncommon student athletes.” 
    • Athletics has the potential to bring significant donors and resources to the university. 
    • Athletics is one of the most diverse departments on campus. It would enhance our recruiting efforts if diversity were increased across the university.
    • Administrative processes across the university need to be streamlined. “Too many hands have to touch the same paper or multiple papers before something gets done.” Issues arise around topics ranging from approval of payments and lack of corporate credit cards to redundancy in recruiting efforts.
  • Community engagement 
    • We need to bridge the gap with the community and bring in more fans. Sometimes high school sports get more coverage than UNC Asheville sports. 
    • We need to change the cultural perception of people in Asheville and be seen as Asheville’s university. 
    • There are opportunities to do more with OLLI and other programs, to develop mentors for students. 
  • Future 
    • Athletics needs to be embedded in the leadership of the university, and the strategic plan should clearly acknowledge the value of having Division 1 athletics and the role athletics play in a liberal arts education. 
    • One clear and consistent logo to brand both athletics and the university, rather than multiple logos, which is confusing. 
    • A consistent vision/plan that allows us to promote our value and build pride. 
    • More visible branding for athletics, through signage, graphics, etc. on campus, so that visitors are always aware of the university and the athletics department. 
    • Outdoor facilities that match the quality of the indoor facilities. 
    • Do more to reach the non-athletic student body, and bridge that gap. In addition to encouraging students to attend athletic events, we should encourage athletics faculty, staff, and students to attend arts events and other campus offerings. 
    • Offer summer camps to bring more people onto the campus and engage more of the community so we are more of a “college town.”


Highlights of the Discussion:

  • Comments on the planning process 
    • Review and build on previous plans, but don’t be constrained by them. 
    • Take the external world into account: what does the state of North Carolina want and need? What does the Board of Governors want? How does our plan relate to the UNC 2020 plan? How can we involve them in our planning so that we have a strong support structure? 
    • We need to communicate what we want to do, while at the same time understanding the external opportunities and threats. 
    • Be bold and build on our strengths. Embrace the liberal arts and look at how to infuse the liberal arts across disciplines and into the community. 
    • Understand our value: producing bright leaders who are collaborative problem solvers. 
    • Continue to engage broad audiences and get a lot of input. 
    • We have a great story to tell and we need to do a better job of telling it. 
  • Strengths 
    • UNC Asheville is a strong, high quality institution and can move forward from a position of strength. 
    • Health and wellness center can bring national and worldwide attention. 
    • We are the designated public liberal arts university in the state. 
    • Small size, intimacy, and geography that keeps us small and close. 
    • Quality instruction in small group settings, small class size. 
  • Weaknesses
    • The state of our facilities; lots of work is needed. 
    • We are “landlocked” and it’s hard to build and expand. 
    • Communication, the need to tell our story better and position ourselves. 
    • Insufficient diversity, particularly in hiring administrators, faculty, and staff of color, as well as the LGBTQ community. 
    • We need to think about things like graduate programs and growth. 
  • Opportunities 
    • We are poised to take our place in the community, and have a voice and presence. 
    • We’re located in a growing, dynamic state, and a city in a great location. How can we take advantage of that and use it for positioning? 
    • The knowledge economy, with its emphasis on STEM and the liberal arts, offers opportunities. 
    • Teacher shortage gives us the opportunity to think about how we may be part of the solution. 
    • COPLAC partnership.
    • Changing political environment: we can’t determine who gets elected, but we can forge new relationships with the people who represent us. We need more 
      local champions and relationships. 
    • Burgeoning relationships with UNC partners. They can bring things to our campus and we can take things to them. 
    • Increased local fundraising.
  • Threats 
    • National economy. How can we plan for economic problems? 
    • Public funding in North Carolina. 
    • MOOCs and other online courses may threaten our intimacy and campus environment. 
    • Perception of Asheville as laissez faire, hard to get to, a place to retire or spend weekends. 

Board of Governors

Highlights of the Discussion: 

A conversation with a member of the Board of Governors highlighted the relationship between the strategic plan and the evolution of the UNC system and its new leadership. In discussing hopes for the future of UNC Asheville, the following topics were identified: 

  • Focus on the liberal arts mission and how to provide affordability and access in the changing world of higher education and in a changing technological environment. 
  • Make the case for the liberal arts and capitalize on the fact that young business leaders are promoting the value of a liberal arts education. 
  • Make the case for public liberal arts and its ability to transform students, particularly first generation students. 
  • The world of higher education is changing, but so too is the world that students are entering. At UNC Asheville, students learn to be trainable and to be leaders. 
  • Connect the plan to the UNC system plan and goals, and communicate with legislators so that they understand what UNC Asheville is and offers to the state of North Carolina.

Student Leaders

Highlights of the Discussion:

(Based on notes by Robert Straub)

What works well and where does this institution struggle? 
  • Student involvement 
    • Getting students involved from freshman year 
    • University does a good job giving undecided students a choice of majors 
    • Professional staff is helpful and helps push students 
    • There are people who don’t know what is going on and staff needs to reach out. The university could do more to reach out to those who don’t want to get involved 
    • University offers a lot of options to students, immense amounts of activities 
    • As we grow, need to be thoughtful about supporting students
  • Communications 
    • University struggles with communicating with students, needs to do more than just email 
    • University needs to promote Dean’s and Chancellor’s Lists 
    • University has made it a priority to talk about sustainability 
    • University uses too much social media when promoting events 
    • Needs to improve collaboration between departments 
    • University should use more word of mouth - invite people personally 
    • Be aware that students do not always have smart phones/technology 
  • Diversity/student body 
    • University needs to do more outreach to under-represented students 
    • Need more education about other cultures/traditions 
    • Need better diversity training 
    • Lack of under-represented students is a problem when trying to teach about other cultures/traditions 
    • Need to engage commuter students better 
    • Need to improve the way the school deals with students that do not adhere to a gender binary 
  • Decision making 
    • University struggles with the excessive amounts of bureaucracy involved in creating and maintaining student organizations and other student groups 
    • How are major financial decisions made - students are not privy to the reasons behind them
  • Athletics 
    • Athletic department needs to be more diverse (staff and athletes)
    • Athletics needs to do more outreach to the rest of campus 
    • Athletics needs more adequate facilities 
    • It is good that university is not a sports center school 

What would you like to see happen in the future? 

  • Keep the university small and personal 
  • We could grow up to 5000 and still stay small 
  • Need more physical space 
  • We have room to grow but we need to add staff, faculty, physical space in order to add students 
  • Students who know things have worked really hard to be educated and they need to be heard; more students need to have a voice in decisions that are made 

Are there advantages to growing the campus? 

  • Principles for growth 
  • We need more space but need to keep classes small and campus personal 
  • There is not enough space unless we grow 
  • It is okay to share but not at the expense of others 
  • It would allow more classes to be offered - no more every other year classes. It would allow more physical resources 
  • Grow our physical space before we add students 
  • There needs to be intentional agreement that sustainability is a part of any growth 
  • We should not grow at the expense of sustainable features 
  • We need a master plan 

Other comments

  • More funding to student organizations 
  • Too many hoops to become and maintain student organizations 
  • Students take the money they are putting into their education seriously 
  • We need to maintain the academic rigor 
  • Students feel that sometimes faculty feel that they need to cater to students 
  • Faculty and staff need to challenge students (and staff) more 
  • Teach both sides of politics 
  • University needs to make sure that they are consistently advising student in terms of classes and major options