After eight months of committee planning and feedback, President Geoffrey Mearns released the university’s proposed strategic plan. The plan, which highlights goals for the years 2024 and 2040, is meant to lead the university into its next centennial, Mearns said.
The planning process, “Spreading Our Wings,” highlights four main imperatives for 2024 including undergraduate excellence and innovation, advanced and lifetime learning, community engagement and impact and institutional and inclusive excellence.
Out of the four goals, steps include creating a more diverse campus community, giving Ball State graduates access to a mentor to help develop a postgraduate life plan, engaging the community through economic growth and job attraction and recognizing and rewarding employees for their expertise and creativity.
When the university unveiled its strategic plan under former President Jo Ann Gora, it touched on immersive, innovative, vibrant and engaged goals.
“At the highest level what I think the plan reflects is an extension of our existing mission. If you go back to the mission statement, it's not a radical change from what has been the mission of this university for many years,” Mearns said. “So, recognizing that the mission is one that is stable and one that's expanding, it's logical that then you would see goals that are consistent with that mission.”
However, Mearns said the proposed plan is different from those of previous years because it focuses on a longer-term time horizon and continues to call for expansion of educational programs.
“When the Ball Brothers and the community founded our university 100 years ago, they didn't set out to have a university that was only going to last five years. Their goal was to have an enduring institution,” Mearns said. “So, based on all of those factors, the committee thought it was appropriate for us to set longer-term goals.”
In addition to forming a university-wide plan, colleges will be charged with coming up with five-year goals, said Chief Strategy Officer Sue Moore Hodges. Those plans, she said, will be “living and breathing” and will change as the colleges see fit.
Early on in the process, Mearns said he wanted students to be involved in the strategic plan. In August 2017, Mearns told The Daily News students played a vital role in the planning process.
"We need student perspectives," Mearns told The Daily News in a previous interview. "They can play a role in shaping the future of the institution, ensuring that we are providing a high-quality and relevant education for the next generation of Ball State students, so the institution continues to be one that they are proud to be associated with."
Before the proposed plan is submitted to the Board of Trustees, Mearns said the university will host more forums and gather survey feedback until late October. Twenty-five percent of students will receive an opportunity to partake in the survey, in an effort to not “overwhelm” students with surveys.
Though the survey will only be distributed to a portion of students, Mearns said Student Government Association (SGA) plans on hosting a student forum about the proposed plan. SGA President Isaac Mitchell said the date has yet to be set.
Over the course of eight months, Mearns and the planning committee hosted eight forums from late March to mid-April. Additionally, Mearns requested students, faculty and staff participate in the Mission, Vision and Values Survey to give input on the process.
In the survey, faculty, staff and students were encouraged to provide any additional comments on the 29 topics covered in the survey. Those comments, according to results, included topics such as work environment, diversity, transparency, university pride and community engagement.
While students, faculty and staff cited concerns about lack of transparency, Mearns said the planning process has been open and consultative.
“The fact that we conducted these surveys, the fact that we had open forums, the fact that we've been sharing this information — to me that's the beginning of building a relationship where people are feeling that they have you know an opportunity to participate in the direction of the future. That's why we're sending out the plan — to get additional comment from faculty staff and students while it's still in a draft form,” Mearns said.
Melinda Messineo, interim associate vice president for diversity and interim director of the Office of Institutional Diversity, said she’s excited to see diversity included in the proposed plan’s fourth goal.
During proposed plan presentations, Messineo said the implementation of diversity efforts has been kept at a higher level. Because those plans don’t get into the “nitty gritty,” it will allow campus to contribute to the details, she said.
After multiple attempts by The Daily News, Bobby Steele, director of the Multicultural Center, refused to comment on the strategic plan.
In the next two years, Messineo said seeing intentional efforts on recruitment and retention will help address creating an inclusive campus climate, while ensuring there are opportunities for people to take chances.
“While the work of diversity, equity and inclusion or inclusive excellence is my job and is the job of the office of institutional diversity, it takes everybody working every day to create an inclusive community,” Messineo said. “I hope when people see the strategic plan, they see it not just as an institutional call to action, but an individual call to action.”