Roughly 200 faculty and staff attended a retreat hosted by the Provost’s Office last week, providing input and receiving an update on planning underway as the university transitions from its previous strategic direction to the next.
Dal Provost and Vice-President Academic Teri Balser is leading the planning process, as the university looks to generate the next set of recommendations and initiatives that will inform our activities during 2020-2024.
At Thursday’s retreat, Dr. Balser provided an overview of feedback received from the Dal community as the university enters its next planning cycle. She highlighted some of the central ideas that emerged over the course of more than 35 meetings with more than 600 people across the university over the past six months.
“The goal is to leverage the knowledge, expertise and lived experience of the faculty, staff and students, and involve people at a broad level in creating a strategic framework," she said in remarks at the retreat.
Suggestions from this first phase of planning — the listening phase — can be bundled into three key themes, said Dr. Balser: climate, culture, diversity; being a relevant and modern university; and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the university.
Within these different buckets, critical questions have already started to emerge around topics, such as what it means to be a strong regional research university in a rapidly globalizing world and how to create a welcoming and inclusive campus for all.
Underpinning it all is a focus on creating a “unique strategy” for Dal that takes advantage of “our collective brilliance,” said Dr. Balser.
“What should Dal’s strategy be given who we are, where we are, what our strengths are, and how we want to proceed and engage with the world as well as the region?” she said. “That’s what should inform our strategic plan and that’s what it would mean to have a strategy.”
Attendees at last week’s retreat were also given an opportunity to provide input through activities intended to kick-start the second phase of the planning process, which will happen over the summer months and continue into the early fall. This phase will centre around “learning circles”: small groups of people that meet to read and discuss topics of mutual interest and, in this context, allow individuals to get involved in the planning process through an area tailored to their interests and expertise.
Following that, formal teams of faculty, staff and students will engage in a third and final planning phase structured around self-study and analysis to address broad critical questions and generate high-level recommendations for Dal’s incoming president, Deep Saini, to consider once he starts his term in January 2020.
“We don’t want a top-down plan. We don’t want a central out kind of plan,” said Dr. Balser. “We want something that’s collaborative and supported by the highest levels but driven by the people who are actually doing the work. I think that’s really critical.”
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