A central strategic planning process guides the University to deliver on the mission and vision. The strategic plan is born of the University mission and vision and influenced by the following items: SBHE mission, vision, and broad strategic goals; environmental realities; and university assessment and evaluation processes.
Although the committee and strategic plans have had various name designations during the past decade, Valley City State University has effectively and consistently used a committee with broad representation to guide the development of a central strategic plan. The committee and the plan are documented and widely distributed annually via Baselines. This document contains, among other items, the University mission and vision, strategic planning initiatives, University purposes, core values, an organizational chart, and a complete listing of University committees, along with their composition and duties. This scaffolding offers all faculty and staff the opportunity to provide input into major decisions affecting the institution and promotes a broad foundation on which to make them.
Each year the President's Cabinet confers with the Strategic Planning Committee, evaluates the success of the past year's strategic plan, and develops an annual strategic plan draft to further the purposes of the University. This plan indicates the activities the University pursued each year that relate to each purpose, the VCSU office responsible for overseeing the activity, and the progress completed. An annual strategic alignment plan provided to the SBHE aligns applicable VCSU initiatives under the four strategic goals of the SBHE.
Every academic program or division on campus has a strategic plan which is updated each spring as part of the Annual Program Update goal-setting activity required of each academic unit. These plans are "cross-walked" with the University's Strategic Plan, to demonstrate the interrelationship between unit plans and the University plan. In addition, selected administrative and support departments create plans to align with University strategic initiatives, e.g. Information Technology Center project status report or the Library Strategic Plan. Finally, goals within staff annual performance reviews include items that advance University values, unit goals, and strategic initiatives.
The Valley City State University budget represents a plan for how resources will be used to advance the University's mission. The budget planning process involves working with the campus and the System to develop a biennial budget request of the state legislature. Tuition and fees are reviewed annually by the SBHE. Locally, the University manages an annual operating budget planning process as a means to respond to changes and opportunities within the biennial period. Major capital projects are budgeted separately from other operating expenses and budgeting is done on a biennial basis.
In developing the initial operating budget proposal, discussion includes changes to programs or services, especially those related to strategic initiatives. In development of the fiscal year 2010 operating budget, a new budget request process was used. A request was given a higher priority ranking for funding if the reason for the proposed initiative related to the 2008-2010 University Growth Plan or was in response to a mandatory increase required by law, regulation, or accreditation. The development of planning and budgeting for FY 2011 and beyond will be based on mission and objectives identified in the VCSU 2015 strategic plan.
On the revenue side, state appropriation, tuition, fees, grants and contracts, and fundraising are taken into consideration. Then, in consultation with the SBHE, a request is made of the legislature for both capital and operating funding. Following legislative action on the appropriation, tuition is set and confirmed or revised by the SBHE. Finally, the overall budget and the timeline for strategic initiatives are revised to reflect the appropriated revenues.
Several recent examples of this budgeting process include state appropriation for support of STEM education, bonding authority for the Snoeyenbos Hall renovation, and state appropriation for the Rhoades Science Center Addition and renovation. In each case, these requests began as part of the University's strategic planning process, and their funding was either approved (in the case of Snoeyenbos Hall) or appropriated (STEM education and the Rhoades Science Center) by Legislative action.
Valley City State University strategic plans have resulted in significant, intended changes. This is evident in how the campus master plan relates facilities to strategic initiatives, and how it allocates resources to meet the goals of the strategic plan.
VCSU's ability to implement the master's program, add several new undergraduate programs, expand science research in response to needs within the scope of the mission, deliver online programs and services, and partner with other universities to deliver programs in response to community needs has been possible because the University has been able to devote resources needed to achieve these plans. Collectively these new programs have necessitated staffing changes, technology services, library resources, laboratories and equipment. The University has anticipated these needs and has deployed multiple strategies to provide resources, including the following: setting aside new funding, reallocating resources, working cooperatively within the North Dakota University System, and obtaining outside funding.
Changes in the University environment have been significant during the past decade, ranging from the anticipated decline in 18-21 year olds in the region to the flood events of 2009. Throughout these changes and many others, Valley City State University has adapted and reprioritized strategic plans in an effort to advance the mission.
The University response to the flood of 2009 provides the best example of the ability to reprioritize goals due to changing environments without losing sight of long range strategic plans. The flood disrupted city sewer service and forced the closure of the main campus in April, 2009. Faculty adapted and modified classes to the extent the University could go online to complete the Spring 2009 semester instead of closing.
The flood led to many positive changes, including the creation of a new IT data center; parking lot paving improvements, accelerated plans to migrate journal and AV content to electronic format; and the expanded use of technology throughout the curriculum. In turn, these changes advanced several of the strategic items within the 2008 -2009 Growth Plan. For instance, the improvements in the data center and migration of library resources to electronic format supported several of the goals related to online learning and graduate degree programs. The ability of the University to save the semester via technology highlighted the value of this strategic asset to prospective students and helped retain current students. Parking lot paving improvements provided a better first impression for students visiting campus. A year after the closure of campus, the University enrollment increased and significant progress has been made toward nearly all of the strategic goals.
The anticipated decline of 18-21 year olds is a significant concern. Many strategies and goals have been implemented and modified in response to this issue, including the following:
The list of items in Table 5.9 documents additional changes and the University response.
The strategic planning process is central to the University's planning processes, including budgeting, program development, and facilities improvements. The 2009 flood provides evidence that the University is flexible and able to re-prioritize without losing sight of long-range goals.
Strengths: VCSU has a strong history of strategic planning; campus processes and decisions are developed on the framework provided by this plan. The campus is flexible in responding to changes in its physical, political, or academic environments.
Ongoing initiatives: A variety of new initiatives demonstrate VCSU’s ongoing response to change, including the developing relationship with ZJETP in China, the expansion of the Rhoades Science Center and continued planning for facility upgrades across campus, the addition of collaborative programs and new majors that build on University strengths and researched understanding of constituent needs.
Challenges: The anticipated decline in the 18-21 year old market remains a significant concern. The development of programs to support the needs of an older student market and efforts to increase access and flexibility are continued priorities.