This document states a broad strategy for the University of Nebraska at Kearney ("UNK" or "the University"), looking forward to the year 2005 and outlining how the institution can move closer to realizing its vision over the years between now and then. In identifying essential characteristics of the future University, and in stating long-range institutional objectives, the document in effect defines our ambition and is that sense a "visionary" and hopeful statement. It is also, however, informed by the realities that UNK will confront in that period, and its primary use will be to guide University leaders as they allocate resources and decide what to do in particular situations in the years ahead. Having issued this document, the University fully recognizes that "strategy" in the classic sense includes all the decisions and actions that implement a declaratory design, and that the strategic regime elaborated herein must govern those future choices and activities if it is to be truly consequential in leading UNK toward its goals.
Strategy, after all, whether viewed as method or as product, is an indispensable tool of leadership in any setting. By a deliberate analytical process that results in a comprehensive design for action, strategy systematically connects ends, ways, and means and charts a course for the future. It is rooted in a concept of an organization's mission and essence and developed in light of a specific factual context. It establishes directions, defines objectives and priorities, identifies programs and activities that serve the objectives, allocates resources, and adjusts all those decisions or arrangements in light of changes in the planning context and the outcomes of the organization's activities. Any leader, as "strategist," seeks to apply capabilities to perceived needs, and to use resources in ways that build, deploy, and exercise required capabilities effectively and efficiently. In complex organizations, "strategic planning" is a collaborative and iterative process that generates a variety of products, including appraisals of the environment, long-range plans, short-range plans, action plans, guidance for budgeters, budgets, and outcome assessments. Whatever its products, however, the main purpose of such planning is to enable leaders to steer organizations sensibly in the world they face.
UNK embarked on a strategic planning process at the beginning of the 1994-1995 academic year. This document - the "strategic plan" - is the first major product of that process. It outlines the University's vision for the next decade. It sets out the central self-concept and the main steering principles that will guide the University and its major elements in that period. It is a seminal statement, but at the same time it is a flexible one that will be adjusted and refined as the general program it envisions is implemented and tested against the challenges of the future. Perhaps most importantly, it (and its successors) will guide development of the UNK budget and other decisions allocating or seeking resources.
The vision described in this document has been shaped by campus-wide perspectives gathered, assessed, and integrated by the University's Strategic Planning Committee. That Committee, which itself is broadly representative of the institution's major internal and external constituencies, began work in August 1994. Under the Chancellor's direction, it undertook first to reevaluate UNK's Role and Mission Statement. With input from faculty and staff, the Committee rewrote that Statement, and the revised Role and Mission was then considered and approved by the Faculty Senate, the Council of Deans, and the Office/Service Advisory Council. The new Statement is Chapter Two in this Strategic Plan. At the same time that the new Statement was being developed, the Committee also prepared an "environmental scan" - a survey of economic, fiscal, demographic, and other realities that affect the University's ability to accomplish its mission and that leaders and planners must therefore consider. That survey is included in this document as Appendix A. Environmental factors that the Committee deemed particularly important for the next 3-5 years are highlighted in Chapter Three.
In light of the revised Role and Mission Statement and the environmental scan, the Chancellor issued planning guidance to Vice Chancellors, Deans, and directors of major units in December 1994. The Chancellor's Planning Guidance charged those leaders, in essence, to define their elements more sharply than had ever been attempted at UNK in the past, and to outline a future program centered on achieving true excellence within a framework of fiscal austerity. The Planning Guidance is included in this document as Appendix B. It reiterated the University's fundamental commitment to integrated planning and budgeting, and it required addressees to submit draft plans for their elements that developed at least the following:
- A mission statement expressing an organizational self-concept aligned with the revised UNK mission statement.
- Environmental considerations that constitute special challenges or opportunities in light of the entity's mission.
- Long-range objectives - goals shaping decisions through the year 2005 - and Centers of Excellence (programming focal points in which the unit does or should achieve distinction).
- Near-term objectives - steps and benchmarks toward long-range objectives.
- Potential initiatives to use current resources more effectively or efficiently, to realize economies, and to obtain new sources of support.
Draft plans prepared in accordance with the Chancellor's guidance were submitted to the Strategic Planning Committee in February 1995. The Committee then held a series of open hearings at which each planner discussed highlights and major issues with Committee members. The draft plans and the hearings provided the Committee an invaluable picture of the University's starting point as the planning process begins, and of areas in which particular emphasis is needed at the Chancellor's level in order to move toward the distinction to which planners aspire.
Once the hearings on draft plans concluded, the Committee proceeded in consultation with the Chancellor to identify and resolve key questions that had emerged (these planning parameters are summarized in Chapter Three), to develop the integrated overall strategy outlined in Chapter Four, and to work with Vice Chancellors, Deans and directors on their capsule plan statements that appear in Chapters Five through Ten.
In sum, this strategic planning process has made visible key issues of institutional essence and purpose and has involved the entire UNK community in resolving them. In this Strategic Plan, that process has produced an integrated design for action that both affirms central characteristics of the University and its components and delineates areas upon which they will focus particular attention and resources in coming years. It is anticipated that this document, and the plans which Deans and others have prepared for their elements, will be reviewed and revised as needed to reflect changed circumstances, the results of planned initiatives, and shifts in present priorities.
Although publication of this Plan and the associated College and unit plans is certainly a noteworthy accomplishment, in a larger sense it marks only the beginning of leaders' work as strategists. Waiting always ahead is the challenge of choice and the need to apply the steering principles contained herein to particular circumstances that cannot be foreseen with great certainty now. With this Plan, however, the University has made a good start, and in the right direction. We take bearings initially and most fundamentally from the organizational self-concept that follows in Chapter Two - the Role and Mission Statement.