Strategic Plan Implementation Report — Year 1 Executive Summary
The Stevens Institute of Technology 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., was developed through a collaborative and inclusive process involving more than 300 members of the Stevens community in 2011 and 2012. The plan was adopted by the Stevens Board of Trustees on August 1, 2012, after having received the endorsement of the Faculty Senate and the Executive Committee of the Stevens Alumni Association.
The plan identifies 43 ambitious goals—some multidimensional and requiring success across multiple areas and some more focused and discrete—in six broad categories:
The strategic plan also identified specific metrics for many of the goals with quantifiable outcomes, along with deadlines by which these goals should be achieved over the 10-year implementation of the plan.
Using the strategic plan’s identified goals and action timelines, President Farvardin, together with the administrative and academic leadership, developed an implementation framework that assigned owners and priority timelines (Immediate/Year 1, Year 2, Year 3) to initiate activities related to each of the specific goals. Either the President, the Provost, a Vice President, or in some cases a combination of these, were identified as the owner for the 22 goals that were deemed Immediate/Year 1 priorities.
Monitoring the implementation of the strategic plan is an ongoing process. Two two-day annual leadership retreats were held in August 2012 and August 2013, along with a planning/review session in June 2013. Participants included the President’s Cabinet, the Academic Council, and other key faculty and staff who are integral to the implementation and/or monitoring of the plan. Each owner provided an update on progress in advance of the retreat, and selected goals were discussed in detail by the leadership team.
In addition to these annual strategic plan implementation retreats, the Vice Presidents and the Provost report updates regularly at Cabinet meetings, and monthly meetings are currently taking place to review progress toward goals assigned to the Provost. Although only high-level progress is contained in this first annual Strategic Plan Implementation Report, the Provost and each of the Vice Presidents has developed and is monitoring progress on a more granular set of objectives that, combined, contribute to achievement of the larger goals. An illustrative example includes the various objectives and activities that contribute to improving the six-year graduation rate. Among these are: developing a new organizational structure; increasing the first-, second- and subsequent year retention rate; improving student selectivity; improving advising and mentoring; and so on. Monitoring of these objectives is taking place in a continuous and methodical process at several levels.
It is important to note that the strategic plan implementation framework provides a guide and sets priorities for the 43 goals identified in the plan. Achieving significant progress is, in some cases, dependent upon having an appropriate organizational structure and experienced leaders in place to execute the plan. Overall, progress in Year 1 has been substantial, both on those goals identified as Immediate/Year 1 priorities, as well as in some areas that were identified as Year 2 or Year 3 priorities. For example, due to new leadership and the award of $7.25 million in funding from the State of New Jersey, significant progress has been made in one of the key "internal bridges" tasks slated as a Year 3 priority, to “have an IT enterprise that is an enabler for our research and educational missions.” In other cases, for Immediate/Year 1 priorities, progress has been slower than expected because of necessary reorganizations and the recruitment of effective leadership.
In addition, the strategic plan must be considered a “living document,” one that, with appropriate review and consensus, evolves to reflect current conditions and new information. It is likely that new goals will be added and that existing tasks may be modified to adapt to changing conditions. For example, one of five overarching “strategic priorities” in the strategic plan was, “strengthened reputation, increased prestige,” which signified the critical importance of improving the recognition and visibility of Stevens across a broader spectrum of constituencies and geographic regions. However, only one specific goal, to conduct “a comprehensive review of current resources and future needs related to strategic communications and marketing,” was articulated in the plan. In future years, more specific targets related to this strategic priority will be identified and measurements reported. In all cases where new goals are added or goals are modified, the ambitious standards set by the original strategic plan document will guide such adaptations, and the adaptations will remain consistent with the stated vision: “to become a premier student-centric, technological research university.”
One critical enabler of progress is the creation of effective, efficient and appropriate organizational structures aligned with the strategic goals and the identification of suitable leadership to carry out the ambitious goals set forth in the strategic plan. During Year 1, substantial progress has been made in this area. New leadership has been appointed in key Cabinet and academic leadership positions (detailed below), and organizational restructuring has taken place to align units’ missions, resources and accountability with the stated outcomes. One of the key units identified in the strategic plan to be realigned was the Office of the Registrar into the Academic Enterprise. Other units and functions have also undergone organizational restructuring over the last year, including Graduate Admissions, Communications and Marketing, Human Resources and others.
Other noteworthy progress made during Year 1 includes:
Central to Stevens’ strategic plan is the growth and increase in selectivity of its undergraduate student population. As stipulated in the strategic plan, over 10 years, the undergraduate student population will increase by 60 percent, from approximately 2,500 to 4,000 students. Achieving these dual goals—increasing the size while simultaneously enhancing the academic profile of the undergraduate population—requires a leader with expertise in all aspects of enrollment management. Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Marybeth Murphy joined Stevens in April 2013, building on significant momentum in undergraduate admissions. In Year 1 (Fall 2013), undergraduate enrollment exceeded its target of 2,626 by 65 students (143 students more than Fall 2012), while exceeding the selectivity target of a 40 percent acceptance rate (actual was 38 percent in Fall 2013). The median SAT scores of the Fall 2013 cohort were on par to slightly below target.
The Vice Provost for Academics position, responsible for undergraduate and graduate academic matters and student success, was created, and Dr. Constantin Chassapis was appointed to this position. Improving student success, increasing retention and graduation rates, advising and mentoring, as well as teaching and learning, are within the portfolio of the Vice Provost for Academics. A thorough analysis of the organizational structures reporting to the Vice Provost for Academics is underway, as is the development of a comprehensive student success strategy. An early warning system to identify at risk students has been established and the Calculus course has been revamped, both contributing to a university record of 96 percent freshman-to-sophomore retention rate. In addition, student advising and mentoring has improved, and student support centers have been established in each school.
A related development is the reorganization of the Graduate division. Formerly, responsibility for graduate student recruitment resided in the Office of Admissions and required significant involvement from the Academic Enterprise. In the Spring of 2013, Graduate Admissions, Graduate Student Life and Graduate Academics became a part of the Academic Enterprise. Ms. Shobi Sivadasan was appointed Associate Dean of Graduate Admissions. New protocols, strategies, infrastructure and IT tools are being implemented to advance this critically-important initiative. In Fall 2013, full-time master’s and doctoral students increased by 12 and 6 percent, respectively, and overall graduate enrollment grew by 3 percent over the prior year. The quality and selectivity of the graduate student cohort also improved. Stabilizing and growing graduate enrollment remains among our highest priorities.
Dr. Mo Dehghani joined Stevens in 2013 as Vice Provost for Research. A policy review and needs analysis is currently underway. The preliminary FY15 budget includes an allocation of research support to academic units and principal investigators based on their success in securing research funding in prior years, and specific criteria and guidelines for administering this allocation are being developed. In addition, research expenditures increased from $25.6 million in FY12 to $30.9 million in FY13. The Center for Complex Systems was established, as was the Center for Healthcare Innovation. In addition, in early Fall 2013, the Systems Engineering Research Center contract renewal, totaling $60 million over five years, was completed.
Dr. Christos Christodoulatos was appointed Vice Provost of the newly-reorganized Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE). During the last year, OIE has: restructured and rebranded Research and Entrepreneurship Day as the Innovation and Design Expo; established the Scholl Lecture Series by Visiting Entrepreneurs; enhanced the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Summer Scholars Research Program; created an I&E mentorship program for students and faculty; developed an I&E orientation workshop for new faculty; established a faculty committee on research and entrepreneurship; developed an entrepreneurship minor; integrated I&E in Senior Design and in the Design Spine; developed and piloted a two-semester senior Innovation course and an Entrepreneurship course; updated the Ph.D. curriculum to increase emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation; and aligned the I&E Doctoral Fellows Program with funding/resources in five strategic priority areas.
A number of efforts have combined to advance toward the goals articulated in the areas of culture and governance:
Based on a recommendation from the President’s Commission on the Advancement of Women at Stevens and a goal articulated in the strategic plan, a Cabinet-level position of Director of Diversity and Inclusion was created, and a nationally-known pioneer and researcher, Ms. Susan Metz, assumed this position in January 2013. Since that time, several foundational programs have been established to create a stronger network and communication system for women and underrepresented groups. Training programs on best practices to ensure a diverse applicant pool have been established. In addition, Stevens received a prestigious, five-year National Science Foundation grant to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers at Stevens, and serve as a national model.
Other initiatives have been established to increase transparency and shared governance structures and processes:
- Establishment of twice-per-semester meetings between the Faculty Senate and the Cabinet, with agendas jointly developed, to address issues of interest and concern to the Senate and to the faculty body. In addition, monthly meetings between the President and the Chair of the Faculty Senate provide more frequent opportunities to discuss issues and concerns.
- Creation of guidelines for the review of academic units and academic leadership, with the first committee charged in Fall 2013.
- Administration of an annual faculty and staff survey, gauging the community’s perceptions of progress. The third faculty and staff survey was conducted and the results were shared with the community in Fall 2013.
- Creation of an annual benchmarking report, detailing progress compared to five peer institutions, which is reported to the community each fall.
- Administration of the first “Excellence in All We Do” survey, gauging the community’s perceptions of effectiveness and responsiveness of all units on campus.
- Once-per-semester “Conversation with the President,” an open forum for faculty and staff to hear a report of progress and ask questions.
Mr. David Dodd, an experienced information technology (IT) professional in the higher education sector, was recruited and joined Stevens in Fall 2012. A strategic plan for IT has been developed, a reorganization of the unit has been completed, and $7.25 million in funding from the State of New Jersey has been secured to enable the launch of two major initiatives: the Unified Communications and Collaboration Environment (UCCE) and the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). New technology systems are also being implemented for student recruitment and enrollment (undergraduate and graduate), as well as a state-of-the-art human resource/payroll system and a new student information system. In addition, significant progress in upgrading technology in learning spaces on campus has been achieved: In 2012-2013, 19 classrooms received new technology. Business continuity and disaster recovery significantly improved, and most mission-critical systems now have backup/contingency plans in place. In addition, the Stevens Drupal web infrastructure has been reconfigured to overcome significant problems. Stevens has now received a certification of "health" for our web presence, and it is now cloud-hosted by an external vendor.
Increased financial controls, more deliberate and conservative budgeting processes and other measures have resulted in a stronger fiscal position after the first year of implementation of the strategic plan. The "liquidity index," which measures the sufficiency of cash and liquid assets to cover a portion of the university's annual total operating expenses (where a threshold value of 1.0 indicates a healthy level of liquidity) improved from 0.2 in 2012 to 0.36 in 2013. A further measure, the “composite financial index,” is a combination of several metrics into a single measure of overall financial health, where 3.0 is the threshold value. Stevens’ computed score changed from 1.59 in 2011 to 1.06 in 2012 to 4.52 in 2013. Other significant indicators, such as reliance on a line of credit, have also significantly improved. In each week of FY13, the university had an improved cash balance compared to the prior two years. A $4.8 million net operating surplus was recorded at the end of FY13, a substantial increase compared to the prior two years.
The “growth plan” articulated in the strategic plan, to increase the size of the undergraduate population by 60 percent and the graduate population by one-third, necessitates a careful review and meticulous planning process to accommodate the associated instructional, research, residential, student life and administrative needs that will accompany this growth in our population. During Year 1 of the strategic plan implementation, the university embarked on a master planning process to understand the implications of growth on the spectrum of space needs. A proposed master plan will be released for input and comment to our own community in 2014 and to external communities soon thereafter. An experienced Vice President for Facilities and Campus Operations, Mr. Robert Maffia, joined Stevens in Fall 2013, and will lead this effort going forward.
Achievements in development and alumni relations during Year 1 were significant. The President’s Initiative for Excellence, a three-year, $30 million fundraising campaign, exceeded its goal one year earlier than its 2014 deadline. Total gifts and pledges in FY13 were $26.3 million, a 91 percent increase compared to the prior year. The largest single gift in Stevens’ history, $10 million, was donated by Greg Gianforte ’83 toward the construction of a new Academic Gateway building. During FY13, Stevens received commitments for three endowed full professor chairs (compared to only six endowed chairs total for the university). In FY13 gifts to endowment increased by 400 percent over the prior year. New strategies are being implemented to dramatically increase alumni engagement and improve the low participation rate of alumni in giving programs.
Stevens elevated the chief communications and marketing officer role to a Cabinet-level position and hired its first Vice President of Communications & Marketing, Mr. Edward Stukane, in February 2013. The university’s fragmented approach to communications and marketing has been overhauled, and a new Office of Communications and Marketing, reporting to Vice President Stukane, and an Office of Academic Communications and Marketing, reporting to the Provost, with a dotted line reporting structure to Vice President Stukane, has been established and staffed. Efforts are underway to support three institutional objectives: (1) increased recognition of Stevens across a variety of constituencies, enhanced academic reputation and improved prestige; (2) communications and marketing support of undergraduate and graduate student recruitment; and (3) enhanced communications in support of development and alumni engagement goals. National rankings such as Stevens’ #3 placement in mid-career salaries and #9 in ROI, along with Stevens’ 4th place finish among international competitors in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, increased Stevens’ visibility on the national stage.