By SUSAN JONES
The next Plan for Pitt, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its June meeting, will switch from the six strategic goals in the original plan, which went through 2020, to three areas of focus — the University’s people, programs and purpose.
“Throughout the planning process, our committee members and the leadership team repeatedly found the old six-goal structure constraining,” said Melissa Schild, assistant vice chancellor for Strategic Planning and Performance under Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry. “Many ideas crossed multiple goals, and trying to align them to the old structure created silos that made it challenging to unite concepts and clarify priorities. We took a step back, assessed all of the input without the lens of the prior six goals, and determined that a simpler, broader structure would enable us to bring together the priorities for change in a more comprehensive way.”
The Plan for Pitt 2025, which includes several ideas under each area of focus, specifically asks:
How are we enabling students, faculty and staff to thrive?
How are we achieving excellence in our academic and research programs?
How are we changing lives for the better?
“The Plan for Pitt’s purpose is to serve as a roadmap for action and change in the coming years,” Schild said. “It will build on our strengths and successes, but as a plan for action, it will also focus on those things where we want to improve and make change. The strategic plan is not the end of this journey, it is the beginning. It will be a living document and an iterative process, and we will adjust it over time as needed.”
Schild was hired in September 2019, and her first priority was updating the Plan for Pitt. Everything was moving along pretty smoothly at first. Committees were formed to focus on each of the six strategic goals — advancing educational excellence; engaging in research of impact; strengthening communities; promoting diversity and inclusion; embracing the world; and building foundational strength — and feedback was sought throughout January and February 2020 at 50 meetings with a variety of groups around all of Pitt’s campuses and from nearly 900 responses online.
Then the pandemic hit, forcing Pitt to close its campuses. But it was last summer’s civil unrest, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, that prompted Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to pause the strategic planning process to “give us time to incorporate specific strategies to strengthen our commitments to racial equity and justice,” he said in a message to the Pitt community in June.
Schild said 2020 really highlighted Pitt’s resilience, “and we have made adaptations over the past year that we might wish to keep. For instance, we know that it is possible to function in a hybrid learning and work environment, but, I think, better appreciate the value of in-person interactions and experiences. The year has also revealed areas for renewed commitment. Recently, University leaders wrote that we need to ‘continue to work toward a future where equity, justice and safety for all are the expectation — not the exception.’ The new strategic plan will reflect that commitment.”
Work on the plan resumed in September and a draft framework of the 2025 Plan for Pitt was released in April. Pitt community members are being asked to provide more feedback, after reviewing the draft document, through a short survey that asks:
Are the three focal points in the framework clear?
Do the values reflect Pitt?
Is it obvious how and where we want to grow?
Schild said the survey responses are under review and adjustments are being made to the strategy. “Over the summer and into the fall, we will work across the University to develop implementation plans that outline the specific actions and initiatives that will support achieving the plan’s objectives,” she said.
Chancellor Gallagher said the original Plan for Pitt in 2015 “was kind of a new exercise and this one’s really building on our momentum. A lot of the thinking has matured. I think people are happy with the plan, but they’re excited to move on to the specifics. That’s a good thing. That means that we’re kind of ready to start (thinking about) what does this mean and what are we going to do and how are we going to make it happen. That’s exactly what I was hoping to see.”
Specific initiatives will be developed as part of the implementation planning process, Schild said. “Over the coming months, we expect to work across the University to develop detailed implementation plans that include initiatives and specific actions the University will take to achieve the objectives laid out in the strategy.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.