UMBC’s 50th anniversary coincided with the release of Our UMBC: A Strategic Plan for Advancing Excellence. It is a road map for UMBC’s future in key areas including academic research and scholarship, student experience, innovative curriculum, and how the university connects with the world outside it. UMBC Magazine talked about Our UMBC with Provost Philip Rous, who led the effort, and with two alumni – former alumni board President Bennett Moe ’88, visual and performing arts, and UMBC’s coordinator for student organizations Romy Hübler ’15, Ph.D., language, literacy, and culture – involved in creating the plan.
What principles in drafting the plan created the circumstances for its successful launch?
Bennett Moe: Inclusion was a big part of the plan. The plan from the very beginning was largely based on including a wider array of constituents than ever before.
Romy Hübler: It was three year long process, but it was necessary to figure out what – at the core – people care about. And then come back and share important developments. Share the mission statement. It felt like a constant loop of feedback that was not only collected but then also acted upon.
Philip Rous: What I wanted – and what the community wanted – was a vision for the university that was the community’s vision…. Sometimes strategic plans fail because they are siloed. We wanted to think about the interest of the entire community. One thing about the plan that sometimes people don’t notice is, that when you look at the plan, there is almost zero mention of a specific unit or division…. It reflects the fact that this is a community vision. It also reflects the fact that we understand that to accomplish almost all of our goals, we are going to have to work together across divisions, and units, and traditional lines. That is a very contemporary view of an academic institution. Most places don’t have that view. To do the things we want to do, say, student success, we have to involve everyone.
What should alumni look for as they read the plan? How can they become involved in pushing it forward?
Moe: A lot of our alumni stay in the area. A big focus of the plan is our regional impact. And that’s where our alumni work…. There’s also a sense of pride in how the university has progressed among alumni.
Hübler: Building relationships. It’s a commitment that will become the roots of the change we want to see at UMBC. Mentorship relationships, or creating ways for students to meet with alumni on a regular basis.
Moe: What brought me back to campus was exactly that. It wasn’t just about connecting with students. It was connecting with fellow professionals in my field.
Rous: Typically there are two parts to strategic planning. The plan itself, and then actually moving forward. This plan has recommendations and goals, but it is not explicit in a tactical sense. We know where we want to go, and what is essential to get us there. But this is not exactly a linear process… So there’s still a lot to talk about and to think about as we move along. We’re going to have to bring in a lot of people as we move those conversations forward. Alumni have a very special perspective on the institution, which is why I am glad so many people wanted join us in this process. They have invested years of their lives in our institution, embedded in our fundamental mission of the university. Those are perspectives we would never get if we did not include alumni in the discussion.
Moe: When we started, [the Alumni Association] wanted alumni to have a stronger voice in the direction of the university. The participation of alumni in this process shows that the university wants that as well.
Rous: At UMBC, our alumni are very invested in the same set of shared values of the university – the most important of which is student success – through their experience with the university…. Our alumni have a very great stake in this institution. How this institution evolves, and its reputation, has a huge impact on our alumni.
Hübler: This idea of the university as a community is in a way unique to UMBC…. People who work here and go to school here really feel invested. They don’t only think of themselves but of the community as a whole, and how we can work beyond our silos so everyone can thrive here.
Rous: The title of the plan is “Our UMBC.” It’s ours. It’s our vision of the institution. It’s not the vision of one person, or an outside force telling us what to be…. There’s a sense of a confidence in our own vision and our own path.
— Richard Byrne ’86
Read Our UMBC: A Strategic Plan for Advancing Excellence at strategicplan.umbc.edu