Regaining Momentum: An Agenda for SUNY Oneonta
May 2022 – December 2023
Strategic plans form the foundation of a common agenda for institutions of higher education and are critical to sustained success, however SUNY Oneonta does not currently have a strategic plan. In place of engaging in a comprehensive strategic planning process, and with recognition that the new administration would still benefit from structured institutional guidance, the Office of the President offered a series of community-wide dialogue sessions designed to provide all university community members the chance to identify, discuss, and take note of challenges as well as strategic opportunities currently facing the university. A broad swatch of the university community participated in the dialogues, and the time and effort exhibited by the participants is commendable. The thoughts and ideas that emerged from the sessions form the foundation of this agenda.
Fifteen dialogue sessions where students, faculty, and staff contributed to conversations about the challenges facing the college and the opportunities available to it were hosted at the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester. The dialogues revealed a series of challenges and opportunities facing the college and provided context that serves as the catalyst for this agenda.
- The increasing pressure on enrollment caused by the decline of high school graduates, demographic changes, the shifting expectations of a digitally-oriented generation and high school graduates with pandemic-related educational disruptions.
- The institution has experienced and managed several crises over the last three years, which has wounded our exceptional reputation.
- The institution has recently undergone several administrative and leadership changes.
- For the first time in 10 years, the institution witnessed a significant decrease in the size of the incoming class.
- The institution has seen a slow but steady decline in retention over the last 10 years.
- The institution’s role as a good steward of place has weakened.
- The pressures identified have contributed to a sense of uncertainty, instability and disconnect among students, faculty, and staff.
- New funding available for innovation and new initiatives under the Governor’s 2022 agenda for SUNY
- The College’s strong reputational foundation across the state.
- A network of over 65,000 alumni which that provides significant qualitative and quantitative support to the college
- A history of strong enrollment and retention, allowing the college to weather the recent challenges seen at higher education institutions across the country
- The College’s strengths and proficiencies related to experiential learning, sustainability practices, assistance and educational support for migrant students, high-quality educational opportunities offered in a rural setting, research and scholarship.
- The capacity of the college’s employees, their aptitude and varied technical and disciplinary expertise.
- A strong interest among the community and local leaders for closer collaboration with the college.
- The common themes that emerged from the dialogue sessions were compiled to form an agenda that will be used to guide and align the college’s work across divisions over the next 18 months. This agenda will guide and support institutional endeavors and provide:
- A purposeful list of opportunities that will allow the college to refocus and heighten its commitment to its mission.
- Guidance to help build trust and camaraderie among the college community and foster collaboration.
- A roadmap for the college to evaluate and respond to opportunities for future initiatives.
As was stated in the dialogues, every member of this college has a role to play in its success. Like pieces of a puzzle, every member of the community is an integral to the successful completion of the college’s educational enterprise. Therefore, the implementation of this agenda is a collective endeavor where individuals come together in a structured way to attain the envisioned outcomes. As an agenda, this represents a series of prioritized opportunities for action. This means that the college’s constituents will work collectively to explore, design and implement actions for the opportunities that the institution ascertains are feasible over the next 18 months. This process will always work within the consultative and approval processes required by shared governance, the college’s administrative practices and the SUNY system.
The exchanges during each of the dialogues saw three broad areas of critical focus. This agenda attempts to create an integrated planning approach in which the strategies aimed at community healing and building reinforce student success efforts, and the efforts to support new students will also contribute to the success and retention of existing students, and so on.
- The importance of student success, from recruitment through graduation
- The need to build community within the college and with our host communities
- The importance of making connections and building community through engaged learning, engaged scholarship, engaged service, engaged leadership, engaged decision-making, engaged work and cross-divisional collaboration.
Dialogue participants highlighted several foundational principles that serve as guiderails and help to steer the strategic opportunities outlined.
- The college is facing these challenges from a position of strength. It is comprised of smart, talented and committed employees, it maintains a long-standing positive reputation and it has a history of financial stability.
- A commitment to serve the college’s growing number of students from underrepresented groups, be more inclusive and a true minority-serving institution.
- To escalate the focus on the educational mission of the institution, and cultivate and promote the value of learning, teaching, scholarship and service
- The health and wellness of all members of the college community are a necessary precursor to successful learning and teaching
- The strategic opportunities outlined should build upon the college’s existing areas of distinction and strength, especially its experience, expertise, and history with:
- Experiential-learning and service-learning
- Student development and co-curricular opportunities
- Sustainability practices
- The surrounding rural community
- The education of migrant students
- Establishing regional research centers
- Assessment of expected outcomes is engrained into the initiatives and strategies created to attain the items in the agenda.
New Students (recruitment)
- Develop a set of micro-credentials and/or certificate programs that allow students to explore interests and document skills and experiences that will help them make use of the complete array of learning opportunities available at the college
- Construct a college-wide set of learning priorities that integrate academic and co-curricular student experiences leading to varied skills and proficiencies.
- Complete the general education curriculum reform so that it responds to the SUNY requirements and, more importantly, creates a vibrant academic experience for our students.
- Continue to foster the hiring of diverse faculty and staff by strengthening the college’s inclusive search processes.
- Develop a plan that commits to allowing all SUNY Oneonta students to complete at least one experiential learning opportunity.
- Support academic departments, Deans, and academic affairs leadership to engage in continual review of the college’s academic portfolio, so as to ensure a curriculum that is relevant and dynamic for students of the future.
- Restart the discussion about an Honors Program that recognizes the mission and values of SUNY Oneonta
- Design a scalable plan to increase the number of international students enrolled at SUNY Oneonta and the number of SUNY Oneonta faculty-led international opportunities.
- Develop a purposeful plan for the development of a robust continuing education portfolio with focus on early college experiences, workforce development and micro-credentials.
- Finalize the next facilities master plan and create an outline of how our future facilities will be both attractive and conducive to the teaching, learning, scholarship, work, and community building that occur in them.
Existing Students (retention)
- Develop and/or strengthen a purposefully designed array of retention initiatives, both for the short and long term that focuses on the needs of our diverse student body, including:
- Establishment of a cross-divisional structure to address retention
- Appraisal of the current advising/mentoring/engagement models and development of adjustments and new strategies that let all students benefit from a relationship-rich educational experience
- Implementation of a first-year experience.
- Drafting and offering workshops on inclusive pedagogies/curriculum/teaching.
- Adoption of a common student development model that builds and strengthens student engagement and augments the co-curricular retention strategies.
- Development of a communication campaign and activities that focus on creating a sense of belonging among key student populations, especially those from marginalized groups
- Adoption of an early warning system and communication platform to support individual student success.
- Exploration of mechanisms for scaling-up strategies used by our access and opportunity programs that have proven student success metrics.
- Create an outline and plan a system to integrate career development services with the academic curriculum
- Increase access to experiential learning opportunities by minimizing barriers created by administrative processes
- Continue to build and strengthen the linkages between the college’s academic mission and its strong alumni base.
- Begin to establish a campus-based internship program that associates on-campus positions and experiences with academic attribution.
- Continue to increase the size and strengthen the impact of the student emergency fund
The College Community
- Establish a college-wide schedule of meetings, during common hours that enables employees to explore, discuss and give input on college issues, learn from each other, and socialize together.
- Continue to focus on the college’s recent efforts to improve internal communication.
- Discuss and design consultative forums that complement governance and allow all campus constituencies to contribute thoughts and feedback contributing to the strategic direction of the institution.
- Complete the work set out for the Labor/Management Taskforce on equitable compensation.
- Increase support for efforts that promote the physical, mental and social well-being of all campus constituencies.
- Develop a plan to engage all employees through leadership development, improved onboarding of new employees, mentoring opportunities, and mechanism for expanding service opportunities of all employees.
- Broaden opportunities for student/faculty/staff interactions that engender a sense of belonging and purpose for all college community members
- Focus on efforts that will reiterate the institutional value of inclusivity, by
- Revamping the Tapestry of Diversity and Inclusion Award Program
- Creating clear support opportunities for faculty and staff from underrepresented groups
- Planning a staff oriented PRODiG (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth) program
- Strengthening the Bias Act Response Team’s ability to diminish acts of bias
- Expanding the college’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education program for employees and students
- Design strategies that celebrate and financially support scholarly accomplishments, program excellence, and employee expertise.
- Continue to grow opportunities for engagement between students and alumni.
- Establish a college community advisory board and advocacy group.
- Expand the college’s presence and role in the city and town of Oneonta as well as other areas of Otsego County.
- Develop a regional plan with key community stakeholders that will allow the college to contribute to regional economic, cultural and community development and integrate the college’s expertise using
- a network of student internships
- applied scholarship
- promotion of arts and culture
- support of business and entrepreneurship
- its research centers and
- continuing education and workforce development opportunities.
- Expand the college’s regional leadership through established collaborations and key partnerships with local and regional research centers, health care systems, human service organizations, and educational institutions.
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