February 2016

Plymouth State University Provost Report for the Month of
February 2016

Julie Bernier

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Welcome to the start of Spring 2016.  I hope everyone had time over the holidays with family and friends, and time to regenerate and return renewed for the semester ahead.  It will be a busy one for us all.

Next Steps in URSA Process and Strategic Cluster Development

At the beginning of January we received the URSA evaluation reports.  These reports, along with the individual program reports written by faculty within the disciplines, will provide us with valuable information as we approach the next step in the URSA process.  With the University Review (UR) portion of the process behind us, we now turn our attention to the Strategic Allocation (SA) decision process.  Over the next month, we are asking faculty to review your program reports and make recommendations about its future.  Faculty and Department Chairs will work with Deans to make recommendations.

Last Fall the President presented a draft Vision statement in support of the Strategic Cluster development.  The Vision statement reads:

Plymouth State University is a visionary institution at the hub of a growing creative community where students, faculty, staff, and alumni are actively transforming themselves and their region into global leaders in distinctive clusters of excellence through interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial experiential learning and innovative partnerships.

The URSA process will help PSU make decisions and create an organizational structure that embraces this bold Vision for the future of the University.  During the Fall we began conversations about Strategic Clusters.  We held numerous sessions to explore ideas to collectively determine on which Strategic Clusters we will focus our work. Strategic Clusters will enable students to participate in interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and hands-on learning to develop skills relevant to the 21st century.

As we approach this next phase, you know from Jim’s communication that the staff gathered for conversations about NCG programs and how to apply the URSA report findings to improve our institutional services and operations and to develop an infrastructure that supports the Strategic Clusters.  We must engage in dialogue to explore where we can gain efficiencies related to enrollment, innovation, engagement, outcomes, performance, productivity, and finance.  The URSA program reports and the evaluations provide us with information to help us consider in what areas PSU must invest time and resources and in what areas we should no longer invest.   Meetings were held last Thursday and Friday to begin those conversations.

On the Credit Generating (CG) program side, we must look critically at our academic offerings and determine where to focus our efforts.  In January, the Deans and I met with the Department Chairs to lay out the next steps in the URSA process for CG programs and how this phase of URSA intersects with Strategic Cluster planning.   Below is an outline and timeline for next steps.

By mid February, Faculty and Department Chairs are asked to:

  • Review URSA program reports written by your department/disciplines;
  • Read CG and Non-Credit Generating (NCG) evaluator reports (provided to campus on January 4th);
  • Review URSA data for your programs in comparison to other like-programs.

The Department Chairs asked for priorities for the decision-making process.  The priorities below were shared with the Department Chairs on January 7th.  We are asking faculty to use these to:

  • Determine which of your programs best and least meet the values and priorities below;
  • Determine recommendations for those programs that “least” meet these priorities;
  • Determine what should be done with each program;
  • Determine whether to revise, consolidate or discontinue.

Priorities for decision-making

  1. Essentiality of program
  2. Sustainability of program (financial and human), or strong articulation of why the university should subsidize the program
  3. Contribution to Vision

Priorities for decision-making (detail)

  1. Essentiality of program
    1. Application to 21st century needs
    2. What is required to be a viable university (including necessity for accreditation)
    3. Importance to General Education & other service contributions
    4. Redundancies and overlap with other programs (opportunities for reorganization)
  2. Sustainability of program (financial and human), or strong articulation of why the university should subsidize the program
    1. Agility/adaptability
    2. Demand/enrollment
  3. Contribution to Vision
    1. Vision for the future of the program and its contribution to the university
    2. Applied learning & scholarship to 21st century realities
    3. Strategic Clusters/Open Lab
    4. Collaboration opportunities

By mid February, share preliminary plans regarding programmatic changes with your Dean. This review and strategic allocation process is essential as we realize we cannot continue to be all things.   To support our new Vision, we must move to a future state having thoughtfully and thoroughly approached university stewardship and invest in opportunities that will have the greatest benefit for students and the broader community.  This means focusing our efforts on high impact activities and streamlining processes in support of the strategic academic clusters. We must organize and implement support systems throughout the institution that will ensure the success of the Strategic Clusters and provide our students with opportunities to transform in our academic and living community.

Curricular changes may take place in phases.  For example, you and your colleagues may determine program consolidation or discontinuance for a particular program.  This should occur immediately through the curricular process with a timeline for moving existing majors through program completion.   Other changes, particularly those that support the Strategic Clusters, may take the next several months and in to next year to be developed and move through the curricular process.

Next Steps with Strategic Clusters

The President has asked that we begin to think about the Strategic Clusters as a means of organizing the University.  Over time, this will mean organizing programs and people within clusters rather than within departments and colleges.  We see this as a 5-10 year process to have the Strategic Clusters fully developed and the reorganization realized.  That means, at least for next year, academic programs will remain within current departmental organizational structures.  To that end, we need to begin thinking about every program as belonging to at least one Strategic Cluster.  Based on the conversations from the Fall and this January, we have settled on 7 Strategic Clusters (below).

PSU Strategic Clusters (7)

Strategic Clusters are communities of disciplines that work together. Every academic program will find a primary home in one of the other Strategic Clusters. Individual faculty may belong to more than one Strategic Cluster.

  1. Exploration & Discovery
  2. Justice & Security
  3. Tourism, Environment & Sustainable Development
  4. Health & Human Enrichment
  5. Arts & Technology
  6. Education, Democracy & Social Change
  7. Innovation, Entrepreneurship

By mid February, we should identify in which Strategic Cluster, every program belongs (primary and secondary Strategic Clusters if appropriate).

The Strategic Cluster Communications Team has been developing a website – ready to be launched this week.  By the end of February, the Strategic Cluster Steering Committee will determine faculty to serve as “Strategic Cluster Guides” for each Strategic Cluster who will bring together those individuals whose programs and interests most align with that Strategic Cluster to develop a description and statement of goals for the Strategic Cluster (March).   We envision 3-4 faculty members per Strategic Cluster to serve as Strategic Cluster Guides who will work with Strategic Cluster faculty, support staff, and administration to develop Strategic Cluster identity and consider projects and activities (April/May).

The Strategic Cluster Steering Committee is actively engaged in developing a model to assist PSU in the implementation of the Strategic Clusters.  We are creating a Strategic Cluster implementation team, called Cluster Enablement Support Team (CESP), that will directly support the success of Strategic Clusters and will be responsible for planning, coordination/governance, and enablement of Strategic Clusters.  Faculty member Ross Humer will be the team leader and the Steering Committee will be identifying 4 other team members to lead this process.

An open meeting will be announced in the next few weeks to:

  • Review and explore the implications of the Strategic Cluster Initiative;
  • Discuss the process of developing the teams described above;
  • Discuss the Strategic Cluster implementation model.

Summary Timeline

URSA Strategic Clusters
February 1

February 12





February 19


Department Faculty review URSA evaluation and program(s) reports and make recommendation to Dean regarding program(s)

Faculty Open Session with Deans and Provost to discuss next steps
Early decisions brought to Curriculum Committee

Strategic Cluster website launched

Faculty determine primary Strategic Cluster home for each program




Steering Committee determines Strategic Cluster Guides (3-4 per Strategic Cluster)

Open Session Strategic Cluster planning

March Continue curricular changes

Begin conversations about General Education themes in support of Strategic Clusters

Strategic Cluster Guides begin conversations. Develop Strategic Cluster description and goals

Consider alternate time block schedule to accommodate Strategic Clusters/Open Labs and curricular revisions

Begin conversations about General Education themes in support of Strategic Clusters

April/May Begin conversations about curricular changes in support of Strategic Clusters Develop Strategic Cluster projects and activities

Begin conversations about curricular changes in support of Strategic Clusters

Summer Implement organizational changes in support of Vision Implement organizational changes in support of Vision
Fall 2016 Begin implementation of Strategic Cluster projects and activities and planning for curricular integration
Extended Orientation for First Year Students

Beginning this Fall we will have an extended 3-day Fall Orientation, called “Panther Days” for new incoming first-year students to help acculturate students to university life and prepare them for what is expected as a new college student.  Panther Days will begin on the Friday prior to the start of the Fall semester.  First-Year Seminar classes will hold their first class meeting during these days and ALL PSU classes will begin at 8:00 am on Monday morning.  The full revised Fall Orientation schedule will be shared in the coming weeks.