Since the last PAB site visit, the department has been engaged in a series of planning efforts that collectively constitute a strategic planning process for the MUP program and the department as a whole. These exercises are organized around seven key planning areas or foci: 1) Curriculum, with separate processes for the MUP, MIPM, and Undergraduate programs; 2) Governance & Administration; 3) Faculty Hiring and Promotion; 4) Research & Scholarship; 5) Student Recruitment & Support; 6) Diversity; 7) Advancement. Rather than involving all faculty at all times in all seven areas, we are instead relying on workgroups to develop the processes, goals, recommendations, and measurements (as appropriate) for each area. The workgroups meet regularly throughout the academic year and, to ensure faculty buy-in, report back to the full faculty at regular intervals during bi-monthly faculty meetings. This also ensures that the recommendations and goals from the workgroups are coordinated and mutually supportive. All workgroups involve a mix of faculty, staff, and students and, where appropriate, also involve alumni and/or members of our Professionals Council (PC). All final products are then debated by the full faculty and adopted by vote as formal departmental policy. Although this process may be different from the Strategic Planning structure envisioned by the PAB, we find that, unlike past Strategic Plans and planning processes, the products are more relevant, responsive, and inclusive and that people are more engaged in the planning process and more committed to the final recommendations.
To date, we have accomplished the following:
1) Curriculum (MUP): For faculty and MUP students, this is among the most important and hardest working planning group in the department. Driven by student responses, changing conditions in the local and national planning profession, faculty hires and retirements, feedback from the local professional community, and shifts in faculty interests, the department has been engaged in strategic discussions for two years over changes to its core curriculum and specializations with the goal of implementing the changes beginning in AY 2019-20. To this end, the faculty has been engaged in a multistage planning process driven by four broad goals: A) Refine and refresh the core; B) Increase flexibility and choice within the specializations; C) Increase and embed diversity and equity within the curriculum; D) Strengthen and increase essential planning skills training; and E) Improve curricular support mechanisms (including class scheduling, advising, and on-line access to information and documents). Each of these elements has a further set of sub-goals. For example, refining and refreshing the core (A) also includes i) revising the thesis/professional project requirement; ii) strengthening the diversity & equity focus; iii) eliminating curricular overlap; iv) strengthening the use of data and theory; and v) revising and standardizing studio learning goals and pedagogy. Many of these subgoals also impact the work of other groups. For example, changing the thesis requirement and core courses impacts Governance & Administration (Area 2) which, among other things, is focused on developing new faculty workload and teaching allocation policies, and Diversity (Area 6), which is focused in part on increasing the capacity of faculty to teach on subjects related to race and equity. To date, the curriculum group has completed a new framework for the MUP core which, after considerable debate and input from a full spectrum of interested groups, was unanimously adopted by the faculty in Spring 2018. Next year, the work group will build on this framework, focusing first on developing more fine-grained learning goals for the core, and then turning to other elements, including the thesis requirement and a proposal for a more flexible specialization structure. A separate committee (but with overlapping membership) has also developed a set of learning goals and procedures to help standardize outcomes, scheduling, and expectations for studios, and staff have identified several goals and actions to improve class scheduling and the on-line distribution of key MUP documents.
2) Governance & Administration: This area has less to do with the MUP and more to do with departmental processes overall. There are three strategic goals in this area: 1) Maintain or increase governance and administrative transparency and inclusion; 2) Assess and increase workload transparency and equity; and 3) Build and maintain the administrative personnel and systems required to thrive. All three of these goals include sub-goals and specific actions and measures including hiring new staff, developing new modes of communication, managing and sharing data, and developing new policies and practices (such as around work load). Many of these are underway now or will be started next year.
3) Faculty Hiring & Promotion: This area has largely been put on hold until after many of the curricular goals are identified, however those related to temporary faculty – such as endeavor to hire temporary faculty of color – are being followed. Likewise our goal to establish a new fund to support visiting faculty of color is being pursued by the Advancement group (Area 7). Goals related to faculty promotion (including measures to make the faculty review process more effective) and faculty professional development ( including trainings on instruction, diversity, and grant management) have been developed and are underway.
4) Research & Scholarship: This relates more to departmental goals than the MUP program except as it may impact faculty teaching. To date, our strategic planning process around research is developing concurrently with the creation of a broader college-wide research strategic plan.
5) Student Recruitment & Support: In relation to the MUP program, the strategic goals here are closely tied to the strategic goals for Diversity (Area 6) and Advancement (Area 7), and are being carefully considered by the Curriculum group (Area 1). Work in this area is being driven by five main goals: 1) Increase the size and quality of the applicant pool; 2) Increase the matriculation rate of the applicant pool; 3) Increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the program; 4) Increase the number of students who graduate within two years; 5) Strengthen the sense of community within the MUP program and among MUP alumni. To date, many of the specific actions that we have put in place to reach these goals (for examples see the sections below) have not yet “moved the needle”, but we are hopeful that as we build and expand on these efforts we will begin seeing tangible results.
6) Diversity: This is the second most active group in the department and primarily relates to the MUP program, although the work of this group also informs the department as a whole. The primary guiding document for this area is the departmental Diversity Plan which, as mentioned in more detail below, was adopted by vote this year by the faculty after nearly three years of development and consultation with faculty, staff, students, alumni, professionals, and university experts and administrators. It is currently a model for the college (and the first of its kind in the college) and is driving or informing many of the other strategic planning efforts in the department.
7) Advancement: This area is supported by a departmental advancement team made up of alumni, members of the Professionals Council, and staff. The department has established an Advancement Plan which supports the MUP program directly and indirectly. The advancement plan focuses on student support, research support, faculty support, and departmental support and contains specific programs, strategies, and funding targets for each area. It also contains goals for developing the advancement infrastructure for the department (much of which has now been built). MUP advancement goals focus primarily on building scholarship endowments and raising funds to support the Equity Fellowship which we use to support underrepresented minorities. To these ends we have raised more than $500,000 in endowment funds for MUP students and have established a new “corporate giving” model for the Equity Fund that has produced new partnerships with local firms.
In all of these areas, strategic planning will continue even as many of the actions and goals are being met. Our intention is to make this a “living process”, not just a living document, that will help us achieve but also continually refine our vision for the department and the MUP program.