Ten years from now, what will Stevens look like? What will be the university’s role in society and in what areas will it be a leader?
With an energetic and ambitious new president, the current Stevens community is dedicated to defining the university’s future. Led by a steering committee appointed by President Nariman Farvardin on Oct. 3, its plan of action began to take shape on Nov. 30 during a Town Hall meeting that drew nearly 200 attendees to learn about progress on the development of the university’s Strategic Plan – a road map for Stevens’ ascent over the next decade that will be presented to the Board of Trustees at the end of the academic year.
“With the involvement of the community, we feel confident that in ten years we can be the great school we think we can be,” said Dr. Dinesh Verma, Dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises and co-chair of the steering committee with Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science. “This plan is an opportunity for us not to be bystanders but to ensure that we actually do the things that need to be done to get there.”
Critical to the creation of the Strategic Plan is input and feedback from the entire Stevens community. The steering committee hopes to draw on the collective wisdom of the university’s many diverse constituencies, including trustees, faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni. These constituencies are represented on the 20-member steering committee and also invited to participate in Town Hall meetings, in-person focus groups and online discussions that have already begun and will continue to take place throughout the year.
“We hope to create a sense of shared direction and vision of where we’ll be in ten years, building excitement inside the university and invigorating those who care about us on the outside,” said President Farvardin.
The Nov. 30 Town Hall meeting was the first in a series and reported an early-stage, high-level outline of the Strategic Plan. The plan will focus on four primary dimensions – undergraduate studies, graduate studies, research and scholarship, and culture and governance.
“We cannot be all things to all people,” said Dr. Bruno. “We need to be strategic about what we try to accomplish and the areas of change we decide to pursue.”
For each dimension, subcommittees will work to identify strategic objectives, enablers and goals, ultimately creating an action plan that will allow Stevens to achieve excellence in everything it does – from its educational programs, to its research and innovation activities, to the values it instills in its community, and even to its impact on the state, region, nation and world.
The subcommittees will also conduct periodic strategy assessments, so that even after the Strategic Plan has been finalized and approved, Stevens can track progress against goals over a ten year period, enabling the university to build on successes and adapt when things aren’t working.
But while the Strategic Plan will include short-term goals that can be achieved and measured within five or less years, its purpose is to be transformative.
“This is not about incremental change,” said Dr. Bruno. “We have a campus-full of people who are not only open to change, but impatient with the status quo, and that brings a real opportunity for us to chart our own future.”
One of the key prerequisites of the strategic planning process across all four dimensions is the identification of the values that the Stevens community aspires to espouse in the future, as values must drive not only the organizational vision but also process, plan and action. Data collection and analysis about values – i.e. what the Stevens community hopes to stand for – is already well underway, primarily through focus groups that included more than 300 students, alumni, faculty, staff, administrators, corporate partners and trustees.
Michael Steinmann, Associate Professor of Philosophy and a member of the steering committee, presented initial findings at the Town Hall. He boiled down the research into seven core values that will drive the development of the Strategic Plan:
- Stevens values excellence and academic rigor in all areas (faculty, students, administration). It represents and promotes a culture of innovation, creativity and scientific advancement.
- At Stevens, science and technology have a societal focus. They are pragmatic, relevant and impactful with respect to the challenges of today’s world.
- Based on its tradition, Stevens has a long-standing commitment to honor, integrity and accountability that is proudly continued into the future.
- Stevens promotes the personal growth of students, both through a student-centric environment and a well-rounded education. It prepares them to assume leadership roles in the real world and to serve a purpose larger than themselves.
- Stevens creates a collaborative environment, both across the various disciplines and in working intensively with partners in government, corporations and academia.
- Stevens has a global orientation and maintains international partnerships in all areas; it is a place where cultural diversity and intellectual freedom are valued.
- Stevens is a close and vibrant, but also respectful and socially responsible community of faculty, students and administration.
Driven by these aspirational values, the steering committee is optimistic about what the next decade will bring.
“Our committee believes it is Stevens’ time,” said Dr. Bruno. “If you look at the challenges we face as a global society, we as a small, tech-centric university can solve those challenges and our community came here with the desire to solve them.”
Stay abreast of the latest developments and activities related to the Strategic Plan at www.stevens.edu/strategy.