Group mulls planning input

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

A new committee will sift through strategic planning input to determine prevalent themes and priorities to be included in Baylor’s next strategic plan.

Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, announced that the strategic themes committee will examine input gathered from community sessions and input shared through the strategic planning website.

The 23-member committee began meeting Jan. 25, when Davis first charged it with the task. The members will create a report to be presented to President Ken Starr and the Executive Council in June.

Davis said she is confident in the members’ abilities to understand the ideas in the input they analyze and identify the common themes without letting their personal preferences affect the report. The members were recommended by deans and other vice presidents who were confident in their abilities to analyze input without bias.

“Their deans and vice presidents indicated that they had that skill set; several of them are actually trained in conducting focus groups and other kinds of small group communication, which naturally requires those kinds of skills,” Davis said. “For others, it’s really just reputation that they have created for themselves around campus.”

Members of the committee were chosen from various areas of the university, ranging from the Mayborn Museum Complex to the Honors College to the School of Music.

“We wanted to have a good cross section of representation on the committee because when you read what somebody has written, no matter how good a committee member is going to be at not substituting his or her own judgment, we all come to the table with different experiences and a different lens through which we view the world,” Davis said. “By having a good cross section, we can ensure that everyone’s ideas are being considered fully and not just from one perspective.”

Dr. Burt Burleson, university chaplain and member of the strategic themes committee, said he believes the committee contains a broad range of representatives from across campus.

“I think what you’re seeing in this from the very beginning is how we get there is as important as where we get,” Burleson said. “The way that we gather and interpret and dream together is going to be as important as what we finally come up with and if we get to the end of it with a product that has caused more pain than unity, we haven’t succeeded in this.

“Elizabeth Davis is really working hard to make sure that everybody feels like they have a voice in this and that they actually do have a voice.”

Dr. Mitchell Neubert, associate professor and The Hazel and Harry Chavabbe Chair of management, was named the chair of committee.

Neubert said he hopes to see the committee provide “fair and accurate representation of the input that the stakeholders have given.”

“My goals are more about the process, not about the content,” Neubert said. “The content will hopefully speak for itself.”

Although the amount of data the committee will be analyzing presents a challenge, Neubert said the committee will have some software to help in the identification of themes. The members have also already started becoming familiar with the data gathered so far, he said.

Davis said she is grateful to the committee members for their work.

“The committee’s work is a very important part of the strategic planning process, and it is requiring a tremendous investment of time,” Davis said.

“I’m thankful that they’re willing to engage to this degree when it comes to planning for the future of Baylor University.”