Chapter 5 - Criterion Two: Preparing for the Future

The organization's allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.

Valley City State University has a long-standing history of strategic planning that relies, in part, on informed analysis of societal and economic trends, not only within North Dakota but also beyond its borders. While operating within the broader context of the North Dakota University System and accountable to the State Board of Higher Education, the institution retains its own identity and designs initiatives in congruence with its vision, mission, goals and priorities.

The current North Dakota University System Strategic Plan covers the timeframe of 2009-2013. Its vision and goals are as follows:

Vision: Leading the nation in educational attainment through access, innovation, and excellence.
  • Goal 1: The North Dakota University System is accessible, a view held by all North Dakotans.
  • Goal 2: North Dakotans recognize that the North Dakota University System is affordable at a level that can be sustained.
  • Goal 3: The North Dakota University System increases the overall vitality of the state through exceptional education, research, training, and service.
  • Goal 4: The eleven institutions comprising the North Dakota University System work together to achieve the vision effectively.
Progress toward each goal "will be assessed through objectives that are specific, measurable, and actionable with assigned responsibility and timeframes. The majority of these stated objectives are directly linked to the required accountability measures outlined in SB 2038 adopted during the 2009 legislative session" (NDUS Strategic Plan, 2009). Each year the University System office publishes a document indicating annual campus performance for the accountability measures required by state law; campus planning is shaped in part by the System goals and relies on accountability measures data to measure progress toward those goals.

Strategic Planning

Over the past decade, VCSU has operated under three strategic plans. The first, published in Fall 2001 and intended to shape planning process from 2001-2007, was based on the Cornerstones of the North Dakota Roundtable report, which was adopted in July 2000 by the State Board of Higher Education, and responded to legislative changes that allowed each campus to keep its tuition revenues. The Fall 2001 Strategic Plan document provides a full background of the context in which this plan was developed and the campus process and data used.

In 2006, the campus began a new planning process that focused on VCSU’s need to improve recruitment and retention as full-time enrollment began to drop. The resulting Growth Plan in 2007 identified a series of actions that would achieve results (growth) by 2010, to include marketing of selected majors, articulations with several two year campuses, the addition of several intercollegiate men’s and women’s athletic programs, increased scholarship funding, and the development of the new graduate program. Funds were set aside specifically to support marketing efforts of designated majors and articulation development with Wyoming community colleges.

In developing this plan, members of the Executive Team visited with each academic unit to identify growth opportunities. Information from these meetings was used by the Executive Team to draft the initial version, while the newly formed University Council, made up of division chairs from each academic area, the Executive Team, and leadership from key offices (such as the Registrar), reviewed the later draft versions of the Growth Plan, and met monthly during the next year to report on its implementation.

The current strategic plan, developed in 2009-2010 by a specially appointed committee with broad campus representation, maintains the campus focus on enrollment growth, while bringing attention back to the need for facility improvements. VCSU 2015 provides a framework for growth and improvement over five years. During the first year of its implementation, the Success 2015 committee has reviewed the plan, met with those responsible for each action, and established baseline data where pertinent. This committee will continue its oversight and annual review as the plan is revised and updated.

To build on the individual program efforts encouraged so successfully by the 2007 Growth Plan, the VCSU 2015 plan requires each academic area to develop strategic plans and complete annual program updates to document goals, decisions, planning, and results. All academic units completed their strategic planning processes during Fall 2010, with their first Annual Program Updates (which establish baseline data and provide planning updates) due in Spring 2011. These planning processes helped support some of the budget requests presented in Spring 2011’s annual budget review.

The University uses a wide range of tactics to assess current functions and future challenges. A coordinated strategic planning process from the president to divisional units ensures integration of the mission and purposes of the University into individual work plans and goals. The self study has confirmed that an integrated planning process facilitates productive work patterns. Such integration of purpose, coupled with a ubiquitous computing environment, facilitates communication processes. The University's effectiveness is predicated on its ability to assess and communicate in ways that afford strategic and timely decision-making.

Appropriate communication and integration of purpose have enabled constructive responses to the ever-demanding changes before small universities in general and specifically to the unique demands before a small, rural, public liberal arts university in North Dakota. The "Decade of Transformation" section in chapter one of the 2001 Self-Study Report aptly depicts the versatility and effectiveness of the University through the last decade of the twentieth century. The institution remains well positioned to seek the next level of excellence because the campus culture that allowed VCSU to respond so well in a turbulent decade continues to make the campus vital and responsive.

Core Components