SF State seeks community input on draft strategic plan

What are San Francisco State University's values and how can they best be realized? A diverse group of students, faculty, staff and alumni has spent many hours grappling with these questions, working to put ideas about SF State's future into words.

President Les Wong points into the crowd as he facilitates the official launch of the strategic plan in November 2013, with a board listing ideas for the plan behind him.

President Les Wong participates in the official launch of the strategic planning process in November 2013.

After more than a year of collaborative thought, discussion and debate, the Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee has developed a draft of the University's strategic plan, a document that outlines SF State's core values and its plans for growth and improvement.

"We're answering fundamental questions about the nature of the institution in a time of change," said Professor of History Trevor Getz, chair of the Academic Senate and, with President Les Wong, co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. "This plan will articulate a shared vision and allow us to figure out where to put our resources, how to do a better job for our students and how to communicate about who we are."

Students, faculty and staff are invited to a public forum Oct. 21 to offer feedback about the draft strategic plan, which Getz said the committee is eagerly awaiting. "Consultation, transparency and shared governance are important parts of the University's heritage and reflect the very values that are expressed in this plan," Getz remarked. "But more than that, there is a great deal of wisdom throughout the University. We don't want to miss out on all the good ideas people have -- even for entirely new initiatives -- just because they aren't part of the committee."

The draft strategic plan pinpoints five key values for the University: Community, Resilience, Courage, Life of the Mind and Equity. "We wanted to identify values that make SF State unique," said President Wong. "Core values of courage and resilience aren't typically found in a university's strategic plan. These values speak directly to our history of furthering social justice, and how that has been and will continue to be accomplished here."

Each value is elaborated with aspirations, objectives and specific initiatives that describe both why and how it will be realized. These values also are accompanied by a list of provocations -- questions for reflection about how the core goals are to be achieved and what could impede them from being reached.

"It's structured as a document that can guide us to where we need to be, and it also contains its own critical thinking," Getz said. "We want to express the flexibility to notice our shortcomings and address places where we are having trouble reaching our goals."

For the past year, Coordinating Committee members explored major themes for SF State's growth and improvement, such as student success, academic excellence, physical infrastructure, campus climate and institutional support, seeking community input through meetings with faculty, students, staff and the public. Social media strategies were implemented to elicit feedback, resulting in thousands of posts, texts and tweets.

In June 2014, committee members presented their theme reports, which were reviewed and debated in what Getz called an "epic two-and-a-half hour meeting." Through this process, the committee determined the values, objectives and initiatives that now make up the draft plan.

"What's been enjoyable is reconciling and embracing differences," said Associate Professor of Africana Studies Dawn-Elissa Fischer, a committee member. "This process is dynamic and inclusive. Parts from everyone in our community are present to make up the whole."

After the draft is introduced for discussion at next Tuesday's meeting, a final period of input and revision will take place. "We want to be aggressive about anything we may have missed," Wong said. "Our objective is to ask our community 'Do we have it right? How does the plan need to be changed?'"

Committee member Miguel Guerrero, a senior majoring in environmental studies, said they made a good effort to consider student needs. As a student, Guerrero said, "I had a big responsibility to speak up. But I'm hoping that we can reach out to students and get even more input."

The strategic plan is scheduled to be finalized and made public by the end of the fall semester. In January 2015, the plan will be presented to students, faculty and staff through meetings and activities to ensure that they have the chance to review it and understand how they can incorporate its vision into campus activities.

The plan's term length remains undecided. Shawn Whalen, Wong's chief of staff, anticipates the plan will "put us on good footing" for a minimum of five years, but said that its flexibility as a "vibrant, living document" can adapt to changing circumstances, and perhaps remain in effect for 10 years or more.

"Make Your Mark: A Forum on the Draft Strategic Plan" will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Gymnasium. Students, faculty, staff and the SF State community are welcome.

-- Beth Tagawa