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UNG reveals strategic plan
Next steps are being mapped
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The entire University of North Georgia strategic plan, along with posts from throughout the process, can be viewed online at blog.ung.edu/strategicplanning/files/2014/04/Final-UNG-Strategic-Plan-042414.pdf.

CUMMING — A final proposal has been presented as the University of North Georgia’s first strategic plan to unify the four campuses and broaden the institution’s appeal.

Along with planning committee Chairman J.B. Sharma, Vice President of University Advancement Andrew Leavitt has led a committee in developing this strategic plan since November.

The process included several meetings, internally and town hall sessions at the various campuses, including Cumming, as well as online. They included community members and alumni from the former North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College, which combined to form the school in January 2013.

“This strategic plan has really moved the institution forward...building the community between campuses,” Leavitt said. “Particularly, as we begin to execute the strategies and objectives, it will only bring us closer together.”

While other Georgia colleges and universities have also been merged, Leavitt said UNG has weathered any difficulties better than the others.

The strategic planning process, he said, has been an instrumental help in the merger, giving both schools “an opportunity to have a university-wide and community-wide conversation about what we want this institution to be.”

The final plan lists four goals:

* Promote academic excellence and innovation

* Enhance leadership and development of the whole person

* Expand engagement and educational opportunity

* Build campus identity and institutional unity

“We always considered all goals to be equal,” said Leavitt, adding that they were placed in that order because people wanted more emphasis on academics.

“I think that really speaks to the professionalism of the faculty and the staff, that first and foremost it’s about the students. So having excellence in academic success is the No. 1 priority.”

The goals were then broken into objectives and strategies. For example, objectives under the first goal of promoting academic excellence include emphasizing globalization and more international experiences, providing for professional development among faculty and providing a diversified academic environment.

Ric Kabat worked on identifying strategies and objectives under the goal of building campus identity.

“That goal essentially was to create a new university with multiple campuses, that’s committed to academic excellence,” he said. “And to promote efficiency and transparency and a shared governance model.”

Kabat, the associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters on the Gainesville campus, said there were no real surprise outcomes from the planning process.

“Basically, these were issues people were aware of,” he said. “What we were able to do is bring a kind of focus on those issues and put them together and provide a framework for the implementation committee to begin implementing those ideas.”

From here, the move is toward implementation, which falls under Provost Patricia Donat’s territory. Donat, also senior vice president for academic affairs, plans to put the plan into a publication.

“The other primary task will be pulling together a small implementation team that will identify the responsible units and key administrators for following through on components of the plan,” she said.

Some of the goals and their corresponding objectives and strategies require more detailed plans, so that will be another step.

“That will list some of the specific tasks that are going to be required in support of the larger strategic plan,” she said. “And we’ll also start moving toward developing a comprehensive academic and facilities master plan so that we know the academic programs, faculty, staff and physical spaces that will be required in order to realize the vision that’s set forth in the plan.”

This initial strategic plan is set to carry the university forward in the merger, which has brought together four campuses with varied backgrounds.

“Part of the process was to bring people from all the campuses together and kind of understand the different needs of the campuses and their particular identities,” Kabat said.

“We’re trying to essentially understand that and their roles in their local communities while at the same time linking them together in a common academic plan.”

Overall, university officials said they are pleased with how the process worked.

“It points the way for future expansion of programs and services on all of our campuses, and certainly the Cumming campus,” Leavitt said.

UNG’s mission statement, outlined in the plan, is to “be a regional and national leader for academic excellence, engagement, educational opportunity, and leadership development."

University President Bonita Jacobs said the plan establishes a “cohesive community, yet maintains the distinct role of each of the university's four campuses so that we can become stronger than the sum of our parts."