The importance of community engagement, strong leadership and a focus on students were common themes at the first open forum of Wright State’s strategic planning process, drawing about 50 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders to the Lake Campus to help shape the future of the university.
The Strategic Planning Process Vision, Mission, Values forum, held in Dicke Hall on Feb. 2, was designed to create a dialogue among university stakeholders and generate feedback as part of The Wright Path 2025: Pride, Transformation, Potential. It was the first of many forums that will be held on campus and in the community as part of a nine-month process.
“We will be finding out from you what makes Wright State special and what picture is envisioned for our future,” President Cheryl B. Schrader told the participants. “The most important part of this process is that it will allow us to reconnect with each other and with the community.”
Thirty-three Wright State employees, students and alumni as well as Dayton community leaders have agreed to serve on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. The panel is co-chaired by Schrader; David Bright, chair of the Department of Management and International Business; and Michael Wiehe, director of Wright State’s Applied Policy Research Institute.
Initial comments from participants at the Lake Campus forum focused on the importance of community engagement and innovative leadership as well as the hope that the strategic planning process will result in meaningful change.
The participants then held group discussions at their individual tables and were supplied with pens, markers and booklets for note-taking. They discussed experiences at Wright State related to pride, transformation or potential; experience with resources and leadership; and ideal visions of the university’s future. The discussions were then shared with the entire room and recorded on large sheets of paper affixed to the wall.
Chris Noble, a member of the Western Ohio Educational Foundation board, said she attended the forum because she was interested in where Wright State is going and how the Lake Campus fits into that.
“The discussion was very open. And I think we were all on the same path, or the same wavelength, as far as thinking how important the campus is to the community, meeting the needs of the community,” Noble said. “My hope is the campus continues to be a significant element of the community and that significance continues to increase.”
Lori Martensen, director of the Wright Rural Health Initiative, attended because as a university employee she is interested in what the community is thinking.
“The faculty and the staff can get isolated in your own little world, where you think the university should go. But it’s good to hear other people’s perspectives,” she said. “We want to grow but also keep that intimacy we have here at the Lake Campus. We know the students, see them in the community and have a real tight bond with them.”
Martensen said she left the forum feeling very positive about the future.
“It is a reminder that there is so much potential,” she said. “We do good work, but there is always more we can be doing.”
The strategic planning process will lead to an updated vision, mission and values statement for Wright State, a strategic plan that is directly aligned with university resources, and metrics that can measure the outcomes of those strategies. It will guide decisions at the university on a day-to-day basis. The goal is to deliver a strategic plan to the Board of Trustees by October 2018 for approval.
Kip Wright, president of the Lake Campus Alumni Network, saw the forum as an opportunity both to learn and to provide input. He said it enabled participants to let their hair down and share their thoughts. Once that began to happen, he said, it created a lot of energy in the room.
“We’re all here for the same reason when it gets right down to it. It’s the education of the students,” he said. “And I saw a lot of excitability in that aspect.”
Logan O’Neill, executive director of the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce, said he was excited to hear about the strong support the campus gives to the community and the community gives to the campus. And he said he sees that the commitment to excellence is strong.
“Our local communities are global competitors on multiple landscapes, so we need a university locally that is able to provide global talent,” he said.
Gretchen Rentz, coordinator of Lake Campus community relations and development, said participants at her table talked about how students are at the core of what they do, the caring and welcoming environment at the campus, the supportive community and the importance of strong leadership.
“I’m excited for where this is going to bring the university in general, for the ideas that were shared and the values,” she said. “Not only was it helping to shape the future of Wright State, but it’s also helping to bring us together.”
The strategic planning process will include dozens of public forums, focus groups and workshops throughout the spring, summer and fall semesters. In April, the committee will host an event to unveil to the community the updated vision, mission and values statement and a draft strategy statement. From May through September, the committee will use what it learns during the spring semester to further develop strategy statements, priorities and goals, as well as metrics to measure the effectiveness of the strategies.
As the Lake Campus forum concluded, Schrader told the participants she was heartened by the conversations, saying they will aid the university in focusing on its future.
“They will help us all share values and help us be the institution Ohio needs us to be and the world needs us to be,” she said. “So thank you so much for being the group that starts us off and helps us trailblaze the path that we will travel together.”
Those interested can stay up to date with the planning process by visiting wright.edu/strategicplan.