Key Messages

For 2020, Planning Is Our Plan

Shared Jan. 1, 2020 via email to college employees

Happy New Year!

I hope you share my optimism for 2020. January always feels like a fresh start. I look forward to building on the work we did — and we accomplished a lot — in 2019.

First, we affirmed the three values at the core of the college: inclusivity, service and sustainability. From these, a new mission emerged: We nurture a community where students grow intellectually, thrive socially and live purposefully. Our mission is why SUNY Oneonta exists and it will guide us toward our vision: to become an exemplar residential community offering relevant educational experiences.

With all of this in mind, I am pleased to present an update on our strategic plan. As I mentioned last month in Notes from Netzer, the OKR (objectives and key results) exercise that began over the summer revealed that we don’t have enough information to frame the kind of strategic plan the college is accustomed to having.

I don’t view this as a setback. Recall that after pausing to reflect our mission, we updated it. This was time well spent. Now, we are taking the same thoughtful approach before implementing any strategy. In the short term, that means that our strategic plan is planning, the first step of which is to gather data to know with a higher degree of certainty where several fundamental areas of the institution stand. This activity, which I’ve called “housekeeping,” will inform our thinking about resources, structure and initiatives. The choices we make based on housekeeping will set the college’s strategic direction.

As a corollary to housekeeping, over the last few months we have strengthened our assessment and institutional research functions. New positions in the Division of Strategy, Planning and Effectiveness have improved our ability to sift through information, gain actionable insights and take action more quickly. Greater agility will be increasingly critical to the overall health of the college, especially in enrollment and retention, where we face the challenge of changing demographics.

More importantly, agility will enable the college to transition away from static strategic plans. While the idea of projecting three to five years of activity may give us comfort, it does not align with the realities of our industry. For instance, technology that allows colleges to pinpoint students’ needs is reshaping higher education. So is the public call for greater accountability. To be successful, our institution must be able to respond to change brought about by both internal and external forces.

A strategic plan styled after those of the past wouldn’t help SUNY Oneonta adapt. It wouldn’t position us to foresee and then capitalize on an opportunity. We cannot be leaders if we cannot innovate, nor can we fulfill our vision.

This will take a more entrepreneurial approach, one rooted in continuous strategic thinking, rather than a set plan. An exciting example of this came from the Division of College Advancement’s OKR exercise in July. While we’re not quite ready to discuss this in public yet, I promise we will be soon. Until then, let’s focus on planning on other fronts and getting 2020 off to a great start!

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