Dear Union College Faculty and Staff,
Since March, much of our attention has focused on the health and safety of our community, and on how we can achieve our goals during this global pandemic. Today I write with an update on one critical part of the ongoing strategic work of the College.
In October 2019, we released our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan focused on two goals:
- Strengthening our vibrant community of learners, scholars, and teachers, and
- Ensuring we have the necessary resources and structures in place to enable our community to thrive
Over the past months, you have all demonstrated the tremendous resiliency, flexibility, and perseverance required for our fall term to be a success – across learning, community, and health outcomes. This has been remarkable to see, especially with the pandemic taking a heavy toll on our communities, families, and friends. I cannot thank you enough for the dedication you have shown.
These few months have also shined a spotlight on areas in which we can be more responsive, consistent, and efficient. They have highlighted the need for us to improve our technology and operations in support of our students, faculty, and staff, and how essential these improvements are to our ability to thrive during the global pandemic and ongoing challenges to higher education.
It is for these reasons that now is the right time to accelerate our focus on goal #2 from the strategic plan, and embark on a new project, The Power of Union: Administrative Excellence. Through this project, we will assess processes, tools, and systems to bring them up to date and deliver on our commitments from the strategic plan. We will ensure that our administrative and operational processes support and enable our goal of strengthening our vibrant community of learners, scholars, and teachers.
The primary focus of this project is on improving our performance and enhancing our capabilities, not on reducing costs. However, given the financial challenges facing Union and higher education, if we find opportunities to reduce costs that would enable us to invest in critical areas identified in the strategic plan, we will certainly evaluate them closely. We will be certain to take into account the benefits to the College as well as the impact on our community.
The scope of this effort is on our administrative and operations functions. The substantive components of our programmatic activities are explicitly out-of-scope, as are all aspects of faculty structure, compensation, and responsibilities.
I commit to providing timely updates on information gathered and decisions made through this effort. Over the coming weeks, we will begin reviewing our internal operations to identify potential opportunities and paths forward. Given the depth and breadth of what is under review, we have engaged the higher-education team from Bain & Company to help us assess opportunities for improvement and prepare a set of options for us to consider.
Meanwhile, we will continue to advance the academic priorities identified in goal #1 of the strategic plan, led by Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Strom Thacker, his leadership team, and our faculty. These priorities will be informed by external program reviews and other sources. Making progress on our academic and other strategic actions depends on our success in fulfilling strategic plan goal #2 and the efforts of this new initiative.
To advise us through this process, I am forming a steering committee. This group, convened by me and chaired by Michele Gibson, Vice President for Administration & Finance, will also include:
Fran’Cee Brown-McClure, Vice President for Student Affairs
Darcy Czajka ‘00, Chief of Staff
Matt Malatesta ‘91, Vice President for Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment
Laura Munkres, Associate Director of Minerva Programs
David Ogawa, Associate Professor of Art History, Member of the Faculty Executive Committee
Strom Thacker, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty
In addition to this steering committee, we will engage a broad range of the Union College community for input. This will include interviews, surveys, and focus groups, but we also recognize everyone in the community is extremely busy and will be thoughtful on how to bring people into the process.
Thank you for your continued support.
David R. Harris