By Sara Tirrito
A “last-minute onslaught” of input is expected, but the Strategic Themes Committee has already begun reviewing the input and developing a system to categorize it by themes, Dr. Mitchell Neubert, chair of the committee, said. The committee began meeting in January and will put together a report of the input to present to President Ken Starr, Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, and the Executive Council in June.
“When we try to interpret that data, our charge really as the committee is just to summarize all the input, not to decide what to include/what not to include or what’s important/what’s not important,” Neubert said.
After the June presentation of the report, a draft plan will be created for submission to the Baylor Board of Regents in November. The draft plan should be available to the public in July, Davis said. Once the board of regents approves the draft plan, the community will again be asked for feedback.
“I think it’s very important for us to be up front about the things that are included, the things that are not included, so that we can honor the work of so many people,” Davis said.
Davis stressed that all of the input will be taken into account and will help the president, executive council and regents as they plan for the university’s future.
“No one should conclude that their voices weren’t heard,” Davis said. “Being a part of informing the process is helping to shape how multiple people think about how Baylor goes forward, so I don’t think anyone should feel like the input they provide, the amount of work they put into this, is going unnoticed.”
The mix of students, faculty and staff on the strategic themes committee will also help to ensure all perspectives are taken into account, Davis said.
“We have such a broad cross section on the strategic themes committee. I think every perspective is going to be represented well enough so that the final report will represent a cross section of perspectives,” Davis said.
The community input phase began last December. Input has been collected from groups on campus that have chosen to submit documents, individuals in the Baylor family who have provided input online and through community input sessions in 16 cities across the country. Distinctions will be made in the report to indicate which group gave which input.
Neubert said the committee aims to be both inclusive and transparent in its work by encouraging participation and being open about its processes.
“We’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible in terms of encouraging people to fill out information and provide documents and then try to be as transparent as possible in saying here’s the process we’re using to work on the data, here are the people involved,” Neubert said. “And then ultimately that synthesis and analysis in some form will be available, too.”
Davis said the Baylor community’s participation in the strategic planning process exceeded her expectations.
“I’m just so encouraged with the level of participation and the seriousness with which people took this request to be engaged,” Davis said. “The work was not easy; preparing these documents took a lot of time. At the community input session — that was a real strategic planning exercise. So we wanted the level of work to reflect the seriousness of strategic planning and I think we were very successful.”
Starr said he is grateful for the Baylor family’s level of participation, calling their input “extremely thoughtful, very helpful.”
“We’ve been overwhelmed in the best sense of the word,” Starr said. “The family has been engaged. Well over, at last count, 2,000 people outside the Baylor campus have been involved. So we’re very grateful for that. Moreover, we’re continuing to receive input by email.”
Although he does not know what direction the strategic themes committee’s report will take, Starr does have one specific hope for the university’s future.
“It remains to be seen,” Starr said. “But it is to chart our future, whatever that should be, and I very much hope that it will be a global future that’s being charted.”