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Strategic framework to answer core questions at OU

OU Interim president Joseph Harroz talks with students during move in day for Adams, Couch and Walker Towers residents at the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, Okla., Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]
OU Interim president Joseph Harroz talks with students during move in day for Adams, Couch and Walker Towers residents at the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, Okla., Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

NORMAN — For the first time in a generation, the University of Oklahoma is developing a framework to define the core vision and values for the institution.

Administrators are developing a strategic framework that will illustrate broad values and specific goals for the next five years and beyond. The first draft of the plan is due in early February.

OU Provost Kyle Harper said the university hasn’t had such a framework in a generation.

“Given the leadership transitions here that have further clouded what our operable goals are, we’re starting from a place of really basic questions about what kind of institution do we want to be,” Harper said. “To be able to execute it on this kind of time frame, a project that’s really fundamental to who we are … it’s been very challenging but at the same time I think a very helpful goal to our community to have clarity on what we value.”

OU has had three presidents since 2018, following retirements of David Boren and Jim Gallogly. Interim President Joseph Harroz has taken the reins of the strategic vision with the President’s Academic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, which was charged with creating the strategic framework.

Harroz said the framework will address three primary questions for OU: "Who do we want to be? Where do we compete? And how do we succeed?" Each question will be answered by six goals.

The committee, comprising 11 faculty members, is determining the specific costs needed to accomplish each goal.

“We’ve not had this, at least a five-year pro forma that wraps around and says, ‘To accomplish these macro-pillars, this is what the cost is that’s attached to it and here’s how we’ll be funding it,’” Harroz said. “That’s the reality that surrounds all of this. It’s not just a strategic plan that’s aspirational. It has to be one that is wrapped in an understanding of what that means.”

Harper and Harroz presented an update on the strategic framework to the OU Board of Regents on Monday. Harroz said he is confident a first draft of the framework will be finished by early February.

Board Vice Chairman Gary Pierson said the plan will change through the spring months as the regents add their input.

“What you deliver in early February is not your final product,” Pierson said to Harroz and Harper. “It may be real close, or it may be a long way away. It will not be your final product, so don’t think it has to have every bit of spit polish on it.”

More than 5,000 students, faculty members and alumni contributed to the framework by taking a survey on OU’s future. The survey asked participants to prioritize specific goals relating to OU’s growth, finances, research and student experience.

Results from the survey were released last month. Unsurprisingly, current students said their top priority was keeping an OU education affordable. The most common priority among OU faculty and directors was competitive pay for faculty and staff.

Of the numerous goals included in the survey, some suggested improving physical maintenance of the OU campus, creating new research facilities, and increasing retention of underrepresented groups among the faculty and student body.

The university will hold a town hall meeting to gather more input at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Meacham Auditorium at the student union. Similar town halls will take place at the OU Health Sciences Center and the Schusterman Center in Tulsa.

A critical piece of the framework is understanding “disruptors” in higher education, Harroz said. In recent decades, technology has rapidly developed, college costs have dramatically increased and student demographics have changed.

“What we know right now, out of all these meetings and thoughts we’ve had, is that the status quo is not the place to be,” Harroz said. “We can’t be static in this changing environment.”

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›