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Questions & Answers from 6/21/21 Strategic Plan Town Hall

How do you plan to reconcile the commitment to transdisciplinary education, presumably requiring the coordination of multiple units, with the Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model, which disincentivizes such efforts?

(Provost Paul Jensen): It's a good question, I would say it is probably not accurate to say that RCM disincentivizes interdisciplinary programs. When you look at the undergraduate level, for instance, the RCM model itself provides an allocation mechanism for colleges that are doing programs together. It is important to note that we do have to make sure that we are not as university creating redundant courses in multiple colleges. That is probably one of the things that is driving the question. We have to be careful about that, but I think that model itself provides a good mechanism for sharing revenue across colleges. In addition to that, we have created the ability for schools and colleges to jointly own a program. That will facilitate the creation of more interdisciplinary programs. And at the graduate level, as we re-imagine the model, we have really simplified the flow of revenue so that it's more direct at the graduate level, which is going to make it much easier for schools and colleges to come together to establish sharing agreements. There are actually a number of aspects that will help us achieve our goals of being more interdisciplinary.

Will a remote work schedule be an option once the University fully re-opens?

(Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and COO Helen Bowman) Drexel has had a flexible work arrangement policy, which includes remote work, since 2013. As we prepare for a post-pandemic return, the leadership team has been engaged in discussion on how best to provide increased flexibility and still ensure the University’s goals are achieved. To assist in this assessment, a pilot group was formed to gather feedback on the benefits and challenges of a hybrid workforce. The pilot will run through spring and summer terms; the experiences and information gathered will assist in determining resolutions to the barriers that have been outlined. While we intend to increase flexible opportunities, we need to work though this change together, balancing the benefits of flexibility with the needs of our on-campus students and colleagues.

To what extent should offices/departments incorporate the Drexel Strategic Plan into their strategic plans or initiatives? And if so, how?
And a related question: Why did we not ask each department to create their own strategic plan and then develop a university-wide strategic plan from the overlapping themes of those individual plans?

(Provost Paul Jensen) All units should be incorporating the university strategic plan into their unit strategic plans. When I think about the process that we went through, we had hundreds and hundreds of faculty and staff involved in the entire planning process. So, when looking at the strategic plans of various schools and colleges in the university plan, there's tremendous overlap. The reason for the overlap is that the planning process was so inclusive from the beginning with all the pre-planning. Many of the ideas from the different units found their way into the university strategic plan. It would've been very difficult to start with a large number of individual strategic plans and then create a unified plan. However our process to some degree sort of simulated that in a more indirect way that enabled us to create a cohesive plan, but included input from many, many perspectives.

(Dr. Kevin Owens) I think you're really right. It would have been really difficult to go the other way. First of all, we probably would have been wrong to think that we would have all been thinking the same thing. And there is an advantage to having different points of view. As a culture, we talked about this in the EPC, we must enhance our culture of basically trying different things and looking for success in different ways. And all of us have different viewpoints on how the university works. And to try to meld everybody together, would have been very difficult. But to give each other the chance to try different things could be a strength.

How was the composition of the committees determined?

(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) Several months ago, we did an outreach to our community looking for self-nominations or nominations for various Initiative teams. As the core team started putting together the teams, we really drew initially from those lists. We then identified chairs from those lists in discussing what the charge and the goals would be for some of them. We occasionally would reach out to individuals either from the core team or through the Faculty Senate to try to engage our community. Even after the launch of Initiative teams, when gaps were identified, for example, insufficient representation from a particular college or school, we have been very flexible about membership. We are trying to be as intentional and deliberate as possible about committee composition to reflect all colleges and schools, diversity, as I mentioned earlier, and gender balance. This is also an opportunity for us, and I believe President Fry had mentioned this several months ago, to really look to our emerging leaders at Drexel if they have the bandwidth to serve in that capacity to lead efforts. So, we have really looked at this also as development opportunities for our Drexel community to be engaged in leading efforts. Committee composition has been extremely thoughtful and again, is flexible.

Why was it decided the pilot program would be discounted and not just permanently lower the base price?

(Nadine Ezzat) We absolutely should consider lowering the base price as well. This pilot was done in order to have an immediate impact on the fall term, and the base tuition rate was already locked in for the year. But as part of our analysis for the pilot, if we do find that there's increased interest in the programs at the lower price, we will look at decreasing the base price; the discount was just simply a lever that we were able to quickly implement to impact the fall term.

Why is Drexel more expensive than other programs even with the discount – are we better than them in terms of quality?

(Nadine Ezzat) In terms of competitors, we do believe that we have better quality programming than a lot of the competitors that are in our mix. We can justify being the most expensive by a small margin. But it is much harder to justify being double the price of our next closest competitor. If we are at the top or close to the top but still competitive in terms of tuition, we can talk about our quality, our outcomes, et cetera, that make it worth the additional cost to choose Drexel.

Why is there the absence of the word ‘Excellence’; is that no longer an attribute to be sought?

(Provost Paul Jensen) I think in our RCM work in particular, one of the things we've really focused on is that one of the keys to strengthen financial foundation of the university is academic excellence. It is absolutely the key. We've had a lot of conversations about it. Now what we need to do is increase our yield rate for our undergraduate programs, and it is about excellence. We are trying to build that directly into the model by including measures that are correlated with excellent programming so that colleges will focus on excellence as opposed to just focusing on volume. That is critically important.

What progress, if any, has there been with streamlining the program and course approval process?

(Provost Paul Jensen & Dr. Kevin Owens) This is a critically important issue. Kevin and I can say we personally have had tremendous conversations about this. He and I are both committed to getting something very significant done in the coming months. (Kevin) I want to agree. This has been something that has been talked about a lot over the years. The whole thing that has to do with the course submission, and the course approval process. Some people think of it as being the Faculty Senate process. It is a much bigger process than just the Faculty Senate. Paul and I have been in discussions about changing this for quite a while. We have gotten multiple groups of people together in various subgroups to talk about this. We recognize that this is something absolutely that must happen, and it is in progress.

The Graduate Education implementation team was listed as completed; when will the team be posted and is there a deadline for implementation team completion that you are working to?

(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) The website very recently went live so we are still in the process of populating all of the completed committees. Our efforts now will be to build out the website and populate your questions on our FAQ page.

How is Drexel’s strong history as a university centered on science and technology to be preserved and built upon?

(Provost Paul Jensen) The Strategic Plan mentions areas of focus in health, technology, design and social sciences. These are the topics that emerged from the work of the EPC and build upon the historic strengths of the university. The Provost’s Office is currently working with the schools and colleges to create academic investment plans that will reinforce these areas going forward.

What are the market and cost benefit analyses and ROI analyses planned for doctoral graduate programs within the various implementation teams?

(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) Graduate students drive the research enterprise at Drexel and really contribute as one factor that is critical to our success as an R1 comprehensive research institution. Drexel has formed a doctoral and specifically PhD student working group whose first goal was to address the heterogeneous stipends across many of the programs and graduate students and to implement a minimum stipend across the university. The question of the value proposition and the importance of the doctoral students in driving revenue, grant revenue into Drexel is an important one that will be addressed by the Graduate Education initiative team.

What are Drexel’s thoughts regarding the idea that faculty, especially tenured and tenure-track faculty, should be central to charting the course to the future because the bulk of all the committees seem non-faculty?

(Provost Paul Jensen) As we work through Strategic Planning and implementation, success absolutely requires involvement from all types of faculty and professional staff and Dr. Elisabeth Van Bockstaele has created an inclusive process. If there are faculty who want to be involved, they can absolutely be involved. The implementation work that Elisabeth is overseeing is running in a parallel, coordinated way with already established initiatives out of the Provost's Office and Faculty Senate, demonstrating that Drexel already has an existing infrastructure for implementation. It is a true partnership with no duplication of effort, but a lot of synergy and sharing of the workload to move things forward.

Is there integration of Drexel’s Building and Capital Planning in Drexel Forward and if not, why not?

(Provost Paul Jensen) There is integration; we are, in fact, refreshing the Capital and Master Plans based on the Strategic Plan.

Does it make sense to have a catalog on an annual cycle rather than as a living document?

(Provost Paul Jensen) The Provost’s Office is working with the catalog office to create a mid-year supplement version that will be more of a living document. This is a complicated issue; the catalog will never truly be a living document; it will always have a bit of an annual nature to it. But Drexel has taken steps to make it more of a living document.

Has Strategic Planning planned to address the decline in enrollment numbers in undergraduate, and specifically graduate, students in some programs like COE?

(Provost Paul Jensen) The Provost’s Office will continue to meet with the College of Engineering (and all the schools and colleges) to discuss enrollment and other important topics. The goal is to define how the Provost’s Office and the schools and colleges can collaborate to address these challenges.

What is the expected output from each of the committees, and what will the process be for actualizing the committee recommendations/decisions?

(CSO Elisabeth Van Bockstaele) Paul has been accompanying me and members of the core team when we meet with various Initiative teams to discuss the strategic plan, to discuss prioritization, review the questions that I referred to earlier in our presentation. We don't want to be prescriptive, but we do have some goals of trying to have what we call ‘quick wins’. These are efforts that could really move the needle to ensure Drexel’s success and are prioritized. Each initiative team outlines three priorities, for example. If they require some consultant work, meaning benchmarking data, we obtain that data for them. In some instances, there will be some investment funds needed for particular programs as we move forward. If there is a strong business case for a particular pilot in which there needs to be an investment, we need to have a transparent and equitable way of submitting those requests through the Initiative teams.

Below are brief answers to common questions around strategic planning topics.

What is a strategic plan?

We recognize that for some professional staff and faculty, this might be your first involvement in an institution that is executing a strategic planning process. A strategic plan is an organizational strategy and vision document. It provides a roadmap for identifying and achieving key priorities over a period of time. For a comprehensive university such as Drexel, composed of multiple schools and colleges, centers, institutes and partnerships, it also can enable a diverse range of faculty, professional staff and other constituents to follow one compass or “north star” to achieve unified goals. Ideally, a strategic plan is a “living” document that can be adapted and improved upon as conditions change and as challenges and opportunities emerge.

Why is Drexel executing a new strategic plan?

The Drexel 2030 plan was drafted against a backdrop of changing trends in higher education, specifically demographic declines in high school graduates and international students. It was made more urgent by the closure of Hahnemann Hospital and the acquisition of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, the pivot to remote instruction during the pandemic, and nationwide calls for racial equity.

The plan provides a blueprint to retain and grow Drexel’s distinctiveness, to best prepare students for continued success in changing and evolving professions, to support high-impact, use-inspired and translational research endeavors that address the most urgent challenges in society, and to ensure overall efficiency and effectiveness.

The Drexel 2030 plan was created to identify primary focus areas where future success is essential: enrollment; efficiency and effectiveness in mission delivery; and new markets and diversification of revenue. The plan, to be implemented during a nine-year period, from 2021 to 2030, will inform priority-setting and decision-making across the University around those priority areas.

How were the strategic priorities and team members selected?

In 2018, Drexel leadership launched the planning process and began assessing goals and structure. In 2019, an Executive Planning Committee (EPC) was created to oversee the process, consisting of twenty additional members of Drexel leadership who intentionally represent a full cross section across academic and administrative areas, including the Faculty Senate.

Drexel 2030 Strategic Plan Timeline [PDF]

Incorporating broad input from across the University, as well as analysis of peer institutions, demographic trends and broader challenges facing society, the EPC identified strategic priorities for the plan, as well as initial members of the implementation team. In 2020, planning was adjusted and expedited in response to the pandemic and increased anti-racism efforts in society, and to incorporate work done by various Drexel task forces on those issues.

What are the key goals of the Drexel 2030 plan?

The plan seeks to maintain and grow Drexel’s success, impact, visibility, reputation and distinctiveness during a time of change and disruption in student demographics, consumer attitudes toward higher education, employer hiring trends and societal challenges that require research-focused and more transdisciplinary solutions. As always, student success will continue to remain Drexel’s central focus.

During the implementation process, each team has been charged with identifying success metrics for its specific area and will continually measure, refine and communicate those results.

Overall, as primary areas of focus, Drexel seeks to continue to pursue and grow: 1) enrollment success; 2) efficiency and effectiveness in mission delivery; and 3) new markets and diversification of revenue.

To achieve those goals across academic and administrative units, under each of the three primary areas of focus, 12 initiative teams will specifically examine and provide recommendations regarding student success and retention; graduate education; marketing and external communications; internal communications and digital infrastructure; research administration; pricing and financial aid; operations; housing and facilities; program and curricular innovation; undergraduate online teaching and learning; continuing education and lifelong learning; and partnerships. (The video included in this section above elaborates on how teams in those areas will be structured.)

Drexel’s commitment to diversity, access and inclusion will be thoroughly considered and represented in all components of the plan.

Who is leading the implementation process?

Members of the Executive Planning Committee (EPC), identified in question three above, are responsible for the plan. In December 2020, Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, one of the EPC members, was named Drexel’s chief strategy officer to manage implementation of the plan.

Multiple teams of faculty, professional staff and administrators are working together to begin executing the plan, ensuring representation and incorporating input from all areas of the University. Our implementation approach is structured to foster cross-collaboration, idea sharing and integration of knowledge, while maintaining agility and flexibility. Connecting related initiatives together, team chairs will collaborate to ensure alignment and integration for each of the key focus areas.

A core team will manage overall implementation, overseeing three teams with primary areas of focus: 1) enrollment success; 2) efficiency and effectiveness in mission delivery; and 3) new markets and diversification of revenue. For each of those focus areas, twelve teams will examine and deliver recommendations in more refined initiative areas. (The video included in this section above elaborates on how teams in those areas will be structured.)

How will updates and changes regarding the plan be communicated to the Drexel community?

Frequent, broad and open communication is vital to the success of the implementation efforts. This website, which will be updated regularly, is part of that process. On June [TK], 2021, Drexel invites the University community to the first of a series of Town Hall discussions focusing on implementation, where leaders of the Drexel 2030 plan will share updates. All Drexel faculty and professional staff are welcome and encouraged to attend this virtual session.

Updates will also be communicated through traditional Drexel channels to members of the University community, including emails and stories published in DrexelNOW, Drexel Magazine and other vehicles.

In addition to consulting with direct supervisors, members of the Drexel community are also encouraged to make comments and ask questions by emailing:

How will this plan be different than previous ones executed by Drexel?

The most recent plan, Transforming the Modern Urban University, was initiated in 2012 and evaluated, updated and refreshed beginning in 2015. In addition to identifying goals for and investments in student recruitment and success, teaching and research, that plan introduced and expanded aspirations including innovation districts and civic engagement.

The Drexel 2030 plan will evaluate and build upon objectives that were introduced and strengthened during the previous plan. The new plan also explicitly establishes racial justice, diversity and inclusion as key measures of success across the University. Prior to the historic movements of 2020, Drexel already was focused on diversity and inclusion in its planning, however the work of the University’s Anti-Racism Task Force has been broadening the scope of those efforts. Additionally, Drexel’s dedication to sustainability will be considered to ensure a responsible and continued stewardship of resources.

Are outside consultants working on the plan?

Drexel is committed to a strategic plan implementation process that is dynamic and transformative, with potential for broad input that draws on expertise from within and outside of the University. To that end, as it has for other initiatives, Drexel may engage consultants and advisors to obtain an objective, third-party perspective on specific implementation activities.

At every stage, Drexel will retain full control of implementing the strategic plan.

How can I help?

We ask that everyone in the Drexel community become and remain engaged with the Drexel 2030 plan. The easiest way is to attend Town Hall sessions and keep up with Drexel communications regarding the plan, including emails, DrexelNOW and Drexel Magazine stories and other communications. Use the link below to share your comments, ideas and questions. If you would like to be considered for a volunteer role on an initiative team, speak with a supervisor or contact us at the link below.

Thank you for all that you do for Drexel University.