Oct. 5, 2016

Chancellor Mary Grant hosted a meeting of leaders of the UNC Asheville community, including members of senior staff, deans, and department/division heads from across the university, as well as campus members of the Strategic Planning Task Force. Approximately sixty people participated in the meeting. Strategic planning consultants Elaine Kuttner and Jane Fisher of Cambridge Concord Associated provided meeting facilitation and documentation.

Future Vision for UNC Asheville

Chancellor Grant outlined some of the desired characteristics for UNC Asheville in 2027, the 100th anniversary of the institution’s founding. These include:

  • The #1 public liberal arts university in the country (currently 8th), a leading institution within our peer group of COPLAC schools.
  • An institution that lives up to the brand of the #1 college for impact in the country.
  • A campus that reflects the diversity within the state and the nation, having boldly pushed past the barriers to achieving this.
  • Improved graduation and retention rates, with a first year retention rate in the high 80s.
  • An institution known for community engagement, recognized by the Carnegie Foundation and the Campus Compact.
  • An institution known for excellence and for making a difference for students, in the state, the nation, and the world.
  • Sufficient and diverse resources to invest in our dreams and potential, with integrated structures that allow us to deliver on our vision.

To achieve that vision, some of the questions to be addressed include:

  • How do we bring the strategic plan to life?
  • How do we collapse real or perceived boundaries and barriers between and among different parts of campus? How do we team up across the institution?
  • How are we living the values of our plan: diversity/inclusion, innovation, and sustainability?
  • How do we instill sustainability in all that we do so that we can sustain excellence, sustain resources, and more?
  • How do we measure success by our own definitions? And how do we address identified gaps or needs? 

First Group Session: Participants were asked to look at each strategic direction and its strategies and consider some of the kinds of initiatives and actions that would need to happen to move forward, as well as who might need to be involved, etc. The report out asked groups to identify those initiatives/ideas that excited everyone at the table, and/or interesting ideas to consider.

  • Academic rigor, in particular identifying ways to integrate a high impact experience into every student’s first year, to help address retention issues. The high impact experience might be service learning, research, internship, mentoring or coaching, and preparation for study abroad or service learning.
  • Academic rigor, with a focus on an experiential transcript for all students throughout their time at UNC Asheville. This was seen as an initiative that would involve everyone on campus in some way.
  • Looking broadly to define our institutional identity and marketing it. If we develop excellent first year experiences, we can market that. If we integrate meeting the university’s needs with the needs of the Asheville community and region, we can better utilize our presence to bring in the community.
  • Self-assessment, understanding where we are today and defining ways to build on our strengths. This would begin with assessing all that we are doing now and understanding where the gaps are.
  • Evolving culture, looking at the choices we face, such as whether we want to be a large university or a small one, a traditional school or more alternative. How do we make the decisions that will position us to be the #1 public liberal arts institution in the country?
  • Pressure to balance support for new programs with ongoing support for existing programs that have been deemed successful.
  • Program for transitional housing for faculty and staff.
  • Ensure that undergraduate research or other high impact experience is a requirement, and that students are expected to have one or two of these experiences before they graduate.
  • Student success and the need for mentorship and support of students. How can we use all 700 employees to support the students who need help, and to coordinate activities for maximum impact?
  • Collaboration is everyone’s job.
  • Community engagement needs a physical space downtown to connect our campus with the community and the community with the campus. We need to meet the community where they are.

Second Group Session: Participants were asked to identify one initiative and use the template to define and flesh it out. Note: this was an exercise designed to allow participants to work with a draft template and experience developing an initiative and action plan. While many good ideas were identified, the output should be considered as examples of the types of initiatives that may be utilized to implement the plan. No decisions have been made; the examples are presented to further aid in the process of identifying and developing initiatives.

Example 1: Engaged learning experiential transcript

  • Definition: Build on existing models to create an experiential transcript that would capture the full student experience, including community service, internships, and other external activities.
  • Outcomes: This would result in higher retention and graduation rates, increased student satisfaction, and greater community engagement. Students will be more likely to undertake community service, engage in leadership, or do internships if they know that these activities will be recognized.
  • Action plan: Assess successful programs in use at other universities (Elon); establish a cross-disciplinary structure; define categories to be included and organize them around our core values; develop a process for approving activities and certifying their completion; define requirements for graduation; select and implement software; develop a web presence that will allow students a Google searchable identity.
  • Collaboration: Cross-disciplinary structure should involve representatives from all areas of campus. No one part of the university would own this, but everyone would be a partner; decision making would be collaborative.
  • Timeline: Start now.
  • Finances/resources: Major cost would be software, plus staff time. This would be a good place to utilize student workers. It would also be helpful to aggregate the data and report on how many students are doing high impact programs.
  • Core values: Categories would be organized around the core values. This also addresses questions of sustainability of one’s education and experience.

Example 2: Community outreach and engagement via mobile and downtown presence

  • Definition: Establish new means of reaching out and connecting with the community, allowing us to more fully engage with Asheville and the region.
  • Outcomes: By 2022, UNC Asheville will have a bigger presence in Asheville and will be more fully engaged with the community.
  • Action plan: Three action areas: 1) A UNC Asheville mobile unit to support marketing/ communication at local events, service projects, and a mobile meeting space to allow us to meet the community where they are. 2) A downtown presence/space where we can invite the community to meet with students and do undergraduate research, service learning, etc. 3) Establishment of the Odyssey Center as a UNCA community center on Broadway, including a performing arts center and an aquatic center. This would offer cultural enrichment activities to which the community would be invited; youth programs bringing our students and K-12 students together; and a performing arts center.
  • Collaboration: This project will require involvement by the entire community, including community partners. Collaborators will range from finance to facilities to health and wellness to academics to admissions. Someone will need to coordinate and manage resources.
  • Timeline: Mobile unit by 2017; downtown unit established 2017-2019; Odyssey Building by 2020.
  • Finances/resources: Estimated financial investment of $6 million.
  • Core values: We will be able to reach more diverse locations, more diverse parts of the community, and young people will see UNC Asheville as a viable option for the future. This will build social sustainability and contribute to economic vibrancy and friend raising.

Example 3: Performing arts center

  • Definition: UNCA on Broadway, using the Broadway property to develop a performing arts center that meets all of our criteria and is aligned with our master plan.
  • Outcomes: Revenue source; stronger connections with Asheville; enhanced community engagement.
  • Action plan: Define academic needs in the arts; determine specific needs—academic space, performing space, loading docks, etc.
  • Collaboration: All academic areas involved, as well as advancement, community outreach, athletics, and more.
  • Timeline: Start now, with a goal of completion in 7 years.
  • Finances/resources: Could use this to get the community involved, portray this as a regional hub for Broadway. Eventually it would be a revenue generator. As with other initiatives, if we pursue this we need to also look at things that we no longer need to do as a university, or things we could do more efficiently.
  • Core values: Sustainable and innovative use of property. Would allow us to expand diversity of offerings.
  • Comments:
    • Our teaching and learning mission must lead any decisions about use of property and other valuable resources.
    • To reflect and support UNC Asheville’s mission and areas of focus, this would need to be a performing and visual arts center
    • What is the balance between supporting our performing (and visual) arts programs and being a facility that would attract big shows to Asheville? Are those two areas of focus compatible?

Example 4: Require service day for first year students/require graduates to do 100 hours of community service

  • Definition: Revisit the concept of a required service day for students as part of the first year experience and start a graduation requirement for students to have done 100 hours of community service, internal or external. 25 hours of that service should be done in the first year.
  • Outcomes: Stronger connections between our students and the community; give students more marketable experiences to aid them after graduation; improve retention rates, as retention can be linked to students’ ability to connect to community.
  • Action plan: Create service experiences that are ongoing, so that students become engaged during their first year and continue through their time here. Determine how to operationalize, and also define ways to have faculty and staff involved and recognized. Identify an appropriate reflective practice for service experiences.
  • Collaboration: Require that a certain number of hours be done within the major, so academic experiences are linked to service. This would also involve reaching out to partner institutions and involving them in providing opportunities. Engage staff across the institution; staff get 24 hours of community service leave that many employees don’t currently use.
  • Timeline: ASAP.
  • Finances/resources: Will require resources for coordination and management.
  • Core values: This sort of service can create a socially sustainable community and also impact retention and graduation rates. It also supports a broad range of abilities and learning styles.
  • Comments:
    • Need to consider unintended consequences, the impact on students who have to work and already find it difficult to complete their academic requirements.  We need to deal with socioeconomic disparities
    • Hours could be completed during the summer, not necessarily during the academic year
    • Can organizations in this area handle 100 hours/student plus staff and faculty involvement? What is the capacity?

Example 5: Financial literacy course and training

  • Definition: Increasing financial literacy and fluency from practical to political to philosophical, for the university and the greater Asheville community.
  • Outcomes: Students will understand the power of money and its role in social disparity/privilege; how money works and for whom; financial decision making and how it impacts a lifetime of success. Greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and financial liability, and increased community engagement.
  • Action plan: Create a course for students; build on that to create a professional development offering for faculty and staff who have budget responsibility; build on that to create an offering for community members, working through Leadership Asheville.
  • Collaboration: Multi-divisional, multi-departmental, including academic affairs, student affairs, finance, financial aid, community engagement, student success, OLLI, human resources, and more.
  • Timeline: Phase I curriculum development, 1 semester; Phase II transition for faculty and staff, 1-2 months; Phase III for the community, one year.
  • Finances/resources: Will require release time for faculty to develop curriculum and to retool for professional development.
  • Core values: Enhances sustainability. Financial health is part of our larger concept of a healthy campus.
  • Comments
    • Could we offer to potential students so they understand scholarships, the role of financial aid, etc.?
    • Excellent continuum of money smarts; good for student success going forward

Example 6: Coordinated mentorship program

  • Definition: Establish a UNCA mentorship office with staff to train all employees to serve as mentors; and coordinate mentorship opportunities, including for students and community members.
  • Outcomes: Every student will experience a meaningful mentorship experience during their time at UNC Asheville. This could be a tool for recruiting and could help increase retention and graduation rates.
  • Action plan: Assess current offerings. Build on existing programs of mentorship and coaching. Provide training for mentors. Host small group workshops, field trips to show liberal arts in action, and more.
  • Collaboration: Addresses student success and community engagement.  This program would cut across all departments and divisions and engage people from across the campus and the community. Faculty, staff, and students would all work together.
  • Timeline: Need to develop a formal assessment of how to implement such a program, along with specific goals.
  • Finances/resources: Will require staffing, some student workers, physical space, and communication resources.
  • Core values: Addresses diversity/inclusion, innovation, and sustainability. Needs to be sustained throughout a student’s time at UNC Asheville.
  • Comments:
    • This could go beyond traditional advising to include mentoring and coaching, creating a variety of different relationships
    • Faculty and staff have a wealth of experience that often doesn’t translate directly to students. Would allow faculty and staff to think about their relationships with students in different ways. Looking at everyone as an educator/mentor/coach is a powerful statement of our identity as an institution
    • There may be opportunities to provide other space and formats for students to interact with faculty and staff

Example 7: New faculty/staff housing initiative

  • Definition: A number of different programs, including acquiring properties near the campus through public-private partnerships, and offering housing at reasonable rates to faculty and staff who are relocating to work at UNC Asheville; supporting a “tiny house park;” having a house with several rooms for short-term stays for invited guests; more faculty residing in residence halls.
  • Outcomes: Enhanced community among faculty and staff; stronger faculty and staff retention; more diverse faculty and staff; incentives to offer more evening and off-hour programs; and improved communication between faculty and students who live in the same space.
  • Action plan: The Provost and Residential Housing Office would lead the effort, with the Provost determining how this incentive might be used to enhance recruiting. Terms would need to be defined, including criteria for qualification, a process for deciding who has priority, and how long people could rent the houses.
  • Collaboration: Different options would involve different departments, ranging from the Provost’s office/faculty to student affairs, from finance to property management, as well as the various staff and faculty departments whose members benefit from the housing.
  • Timeline: This is a 10-year initiative to reach a goal, starting in the fall of 2018.
  • Finances/resources: The assumption is that properties could be acquired through public-private partnerships. Over time, the income generated by the properties could be reinvested to expand the program or invested in other ways to further increase incentives.
  • Core values: If having faculty closer could result in more evening and off-peak offerings, it would result in better use of our facilities, less commuting, and enhanced sustainability. These incentives might also help attract more diverse faculty and staff. A large property branded as UNC Asheville would increase visibility and communicate a welcoming attitude.

Example 8: Increase the AVID program

  • Definition: Find ways to increase the number of scholarships that UNC Asheville awards through the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program.
  • Outcomes: Increased support for AVID scholarships will build campus diversity and inclusion and should also help improve retention and graduation. A successful program will also enhance UNC Asheville’s visibility.
  • Action plan: Need to define program goals and determine strategies for raising additional funds to support more AVID scholarships.
  • Collaboration: This program would require collaboration among academic affairs, student affairs, financial aid, and human resources. In addition, there are opportunities to partner with high schools and other community groups.
  • Timeline: ASAP. The program currently supports fewer than five scholarships/year and we need to define a goal for the future.
  • Finances/resources: It is estimated that it would take about $1 million/year to run this. This program could be very attractive to potential funders.
  • Core values: Strong support for building diversity/inclusion, since AVID is a college readiness program that supports students who have potential but may not have the financial or family support to further their education.
  • Comments:
    • One area where scholarships can have a significant impact is to provide funding for room and board on campus; students on campus get more engaged
    • Scholarships might also be tied into student’s service and leadership on campus

Example 9: Mission driven space utilization

  • Definition: Mission driven space utilization will look at both short-term impacts, such as the renovations of Owen and Carmichael Halls, and longer-term as we grow and move forward with our strategic plan.
  • Outcomes: Increased dining and parking facilities; potential for enrollment growth; opportunities to rethink primary instructional loads and whether there are opportunities to use facilities more efficiently and effectively; potential to serve more non-traditional students for whom mid-day classes are problematic; less stress around parking and getting to campus.
  • Action plan: Short term determine how to manage when properties are being renovated. Long term look at academic requirements and academic scheduling and identify opportunities for new and innovative use of facilities and resources. Evaluate summer programs and how they might be made more efficient.
  • Collaboration: Will require all departments and divisions to work together to define short and long term goals for facilities and space that will best support UNC Asheville’s mission and strategic plan. Academics must drive decisions, in the context of the mission. Faculty, staff, and students will all need to collaborate. Externally there are opportunities for collaboration with local businesses such as hospitals that might provide classroom space and/or serve as off-campus parkers.
  • Timeline: Construction projects will begin in April 2017, so short term solutions are needed ASAP. Other efforts are ongoing.
  • Finances/resources: In addition to the renovation costs (already budgeted) resources will be required to provide parking and a significant investment in software and institutional research to support scheduling changes.
  • Core values: Sustainability is at the core of good facilities use; finding innovative ways to use our buildings and facilities contributes to sustainability. Changes in class schedules could provide opportunities to serve more non-traditional students.
  • Comments:
    • Need to remember that tight, focused schedules can be positive for students who work and need to compress their class time
    • There may be opportunities to create incentives for students to choose different schedules
    • Transfer students often inquire about evening classes
    • Would more Friday classes keep more students on campus, thus contributing to the sense of community?

Closing Remarks

Chancellor Grant thanked the participants for their ideas and hard work and challenged them to think about how to replicate this type of conversations in their areas in order to further engage the broader UNC Asheville community. She identified the challenge of working within existing structures, while at the same time encouraging collaboration and integration across boundaries. She also emphasized that UNC Asheville currently does many activities, and the challenge is to move from separate activities to integrated initiatives, thus increasing the power and impact of what we do and helping us achieve our goals as an institution.

The senior staff will review the results of the workshop, revise the implementation planning template as needed, and communicate more information about next steps.