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Robert HolubAccessibility. Quality and excellence. Diversity and inclusiveness. These themes guide our strategic planning process, a campus-wide initiative set in motion over the past three months. This process helps us to reframe our campus vision, mission, values and goals and renew our commitment to excellence. It assesses our current status and lays the groundwork for various contingencies and enrollment scenarios along with the resources needed at each level of maintenance or growth. It prompts us to better understand our environment, to define organizational goals, to identify possible options, to make and implement decisions and to evaluate actual performance. Essentially we ask four questions: (1) Where is UTK now? (2) Where are we going, based on current trends? (3) Where do we want to go? (4) How do we get to where we want to be?

Capitalizing on the talents, expertise, and creativity of our faculty, students, and staff, this initiative involves a 33-member committee representing all three constituencies, with input welcomed from the community at large. This committee meets monthly and provides a forum to raise issues, track progress and sustain momentum toward the desired end result – a sound, coordinated, comprehensive strategic plan, spanning all colleges, professional schools, institutes and campus organizations, and projecting our outlook to 2018.

Various committee members have been appointed to chair 17 subcommittees and to recruit members from the campus population. The topics include admissions; advising needs; financial aid; expansion and improvement of student services, facilities, instructional capacity and interdisciplinary programs for both undergraduate and graduate students; enhanced campus climate; increased outreach in terms of continuing education, economic development and engagement with external organizations, both civic and corporate; research productivity and facilities; and diversity issues ranging from the special needs of the disabled to the intercultural aspects of our global community.

As the state’s flagship university, we must look beyond the horizon and see ourselves as a top-ranked research institution meeting the ever-changing needs of the people we serve. The strategic plan provides us a tool to accomplish this goal. It is the road map to our intended destination. Yet, it is more than rhetoric. It must include measurable goals and objectives. At best, it will evolve naturally into an action plan.

This is a remarkably exciting time of opportunity for us all. We have already made significant strides toward excellence in teaching and learning, in research, and in our engagement with off campus constituencies. The strategic planning initiative will build upon this strong base and help us to move forward faster, taking advantage of the abundant opportunities at hand. Our aspirations and our potential to become a top-tier public research university nationally have never been stronger.

For further details, please visit http://provost.utk.edu/strategic/ and, if desired, submit comments and suggestions.