The New Year brings an abundance of top 10 lists. From songs and movies, to news stories and technology, Google “2013 top 10” and you’ll be inundated with one reflection after another of this past year. There are even “not top 10” lists, cataloging the worse moments in sports, politics, or fashion. Don’t worry, I’ll resist the cultural pressure to suggest a list for the Rubenstein School. However, I won’t be bashful about listing my #1: We have a strategic action plan!
This past year was filled with meetings, brainstorms, hallway chats, drafting, and re-drafting. What began with a charge from our Board of Advisors and a kick-start from Dean Mary Watzin and the Regenesis Group, has been forged into a three-tier strategy and action steps to help guide our School in the years to come. The first tier is wrapped around our education mission – strategies to advance our curriculum, evolve our programs to meet societal needs and expectations, and ultimately prepare our students for successful careers and life paths. Advancing integrated research frames the next tier of strategies, where sharpening focus through capitalizing on synergies and partnerships is the overarching theme. And foundational to both teaching and research excellence is a third tier of strategies on community engagement, maximizing the relevance and impact of our work.
The commitment and courage to ask tough questions and pose paths forward wasn’t easy, and certainly isn’t finished. Strategic planning has brought needed focus to our collective efforts in a time of transition for our University and School. Implementation of core strategies is already underway, including curriculum reform for both our undergraduate and graduate programs, design of a new online masters program in sustainability leadership, advancing integrated research in our McIntire-Stennis Forestry Research program, and building new partnerships through student internships with state agencies, non-profits, and the private sector.
Writing a strategic plan isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. We’re treating this as a living document, so please send comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next dean will most certainly put their stamp on our course, as will new faculty and staff, and an ever-changing cast of students, partners, and alumni. Implementation will involve testing these ideas, keeping what works, and re-working what doesn’t.
The New Year will certainly bring new challenges and opportunities for our School and University. I look forward to facing them together with bent knees, open mind, and strategies in place to carry us forward.
Jon D. Erickson
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources