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Strategic Realignment

To the NC State community:

On January 18, I asked Provost Warwick Arden and Vice Chancellor Charles Leffler to create a plan for strategic realignment.  The charge was to view our university broadly and recommend changes that would align with and be supported by our strategic plan process that we began in the fall; position us for greater strength, effectiveness and efficiency; and help us with a likely state budget reduction.

On March 11, the plan was delivered to me for review and I have accepted the recommendations.  Some of these changes can be implemented almost right away.  Some will take time to implement, and in some cases we will appoint implementation teams to begin the process.

As you review these changes, you will see an effort to build on the similarities between units to create new opportunities for effectiveness and efficiency; a new approach to creating academic capacity; reductions in bureaucracy; and most of all a renewed dedication to student success.

Here is an overview of the realignment plan.  The full report is available online.

  1. Build on the natural synergy between discovery, translation, tech transfer and economic development.By formally connecting engagement and economic development more directly to our research enterprise, we are taking steps to ensure  NC State will continue to be an engine for economic development in North Carolina.  These activities are vital to the university and to the state.  We will accomplish this objective by:
    • Moving economic development activities of the office of the vice chancellor for extension, engagement and economic development to the office of the vice chancellor for research and innovation.
    • Moving continuing education to the office of the provost
    • Moving McKimmon Center operations to Campus Enterprises Division.
    • Extension activities will remain within their respective colleges.  Additional university-wide coordination will be provided within the Office of the Provost.

    We will eliminate one vice chancellor position and several administrative positions.

  2. Link academic and non-academic student support, creating new opportunities for undergraduate student success.This action is a direct response to the work of the strategic plan task force on undergraduate student success.To accomplish this objective, we will build on the similarities between Student Affairs and the Division of Undergraduate Academic Programs (DUAP) by combining the two.  These two units are respectively responsible for many activities that define student life on campus and student academic support.  These include student organizations, student government, Talley Student Center, advising, undergraduate research, First-Year College and cooperative education.  Combining these units positions us to better support all facets of student success, including retention, timely graduation, and education and personal growth.  In addition, the five divisions of Student Affairs and 12 programs in DUAP will be combined into four divisions:
    • Health, Wellness and Student Development
    • Campus Life
    • Academic Services and Programs
    • Arts NC State

    We will eliminate one vice chancellor and one dean position and several associated administrative positions.

  3. Build more robust campus climate activities.  By combining the offices of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and Inclusion into one Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, we can strengthen our institutional commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus.  This consolidation is aligned with the recommendations of the campus culture and community task force.   This action will result in the elimination of one vice provost position and streamlining of accompanying administrative positions.
  4. Strengthen our academic structure by reviewing administrative structures and low-enrolled programs and courses.
    • Review the administrative structure for academic science programs. NC State is North Carolina’s flagship science and technology university.  We will continue to support that historic mandate by ensuring that we deliver science education in a dynamic way and responsive to the needs of the times.  Any review and realignment should include a thorough evaluation of the intra-college departmental structure with a view to merging departments and creating larger, more efficient academic units that promote cohesion and interdisciplinarity.  Our science instruction activities are mainly housed in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Natural Resources and Physical and Mathematical Sciences.  It is important that faculty, staff and students in these colleges be involved in the review.  Broad involvement gives us the best opportunity to create an innovative approach to the sciences and appropriately eliminate administrative cost.  Provost Arden will form a task force to review possible structures and recommend a course of action that is aimed at having fewer but stronger academic units.
    • Analyze academic courses and degree programs to identify low-enrollment and low-productivity programs.   A small working group has performed a preliminary review and recommended inactivating all courses in the catalog that have not been taught in the last five years and re-establishing minimum class sizes.  We will continue to evaluate these and other recommendations.
    • Create a new structure for academic planning. Our current process for developing new academic programs involves minimal academic planning; it is based on individual faculty, department heads and deans submitting proposals independent of other current or future plans at the institutional level.  To more effectively evaluate the productivity of existing programs on an ongoing basis, and integrate this evaluation with enrollment planning and proposals to develop new academic programs, we will form an Academic Planning Advisory Council to take a more intentional and strategic approach.
    • Review Distance Education, summer education and student leadership programs.  Each of these represents opportunities for review with specific emphasis on the implications for stronger contributions to student success.
  5. Create new efficiency and effectiveness as well as cost savings by combining business operations from various units into a “shared business services” concept. We have many highly decentralized business units across campus that handle human resources, payroll, and grants and contracts administration activities among others.  We will realign reporting relationships and accountability of financial and human resources transactions and establish business operation centers.
  6. Reduce organizational bureaucracy.  We have begun a review of our Policies, Regulations and Rules (PRRs) with a goal of clarifying, streamlining, consolidating or eliminating PRRs while remaining compliant.  We will also reconstitute the administrative process review for ongoing evaluation and streamlining of campus procedures.

Implementing this plan will not be easy or painless.  The plan is based on some realities, starting with this: We are not where we want to be as a university.  Certainly, the effects of a weak economy have impacted the pace of our progress but that should not be an argument for biding our time while the economy gets better.  Bad budget years alone are not to blame and average budget years alone will not significantly move the needle.  To be a nimble, agile, dynamic organization, we take this opportunity to organize ourselves for even greater success.

The second reality is that we have grown enrollment beyond our capacity.  So many of the factors that determine our strength as a university are determined by the strength of our faculty and staff.  Even in a difficult budget environment we need to find ways to invest in our people.

While this plan introduces some profound changes, it also focuses on our strengths.  The third reality is that NC State has many unique relationships and partnerships.  From the perspective of someone who has known NC State from afar, our reputation in the academic community is that we are an innovative university.  Engagement is an area where our innovation is most obvious.  We are inextricably connected to North Carolina, not just because we happen to be located here, but because we have thoughtfully and energetically engaged in very real partnerships with our state on many levels.  We are rightfully proud of a heritage of service to North Carolina.

We are also proud of our place in the Research Triangle.  We have all heard the saying that in the world of real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location.”  There is a parallel here in that from a location perspective we are much better positioned than many universities across the country.  Yet, for all the attributes of our location, we are not place-bound.  We have historically pushed knowledge, research discoveries and meaningful partnerships to all corners of North Carolina and beyond.  We have lived up to North Carolina’s motto and put our stamp on it – to serve, rather than to seem to serve.  Even in tough times, we should be extraordinary.  Positioning us to remain unique in our relationships and partnerships is a core aspect of this realignment.

Fourth, organizational excellence should be the bedrock of everything we do.  Many of our important decisions seem to have been made based on specific unit needs without the benefit of consistently considering how they fit into the broader picture and how they support and energize overarching university goals and objectives.  In short, as we move forward, we will base our decisions on strategic goals rather than tactical objectives.  We will take a more thoughtful approach to our academic and administrative decision-making.  This approach will give us the best chance to capitalize on our strengths and make best use of our resources.  We will work toward broad and intentional excellence.

I know that your more immediate concerns are about whether your major is affected, your progress toward graduation slowed, or your job or reporting structure changed.

You may recall that our primary objective was to protect instruction to the extent possible.  I believe we have accomplished that objective as none of these changes will have a negative effect on seats, sections or progress to graduation.  By reviewing low-enrolled classes and programs, we are positioning ourselves to strategically add seats and sections.

While we will see a reduced number of operational units and fewer executive-level positions,  the impact on the workforce is not fully known yet.  There is still much work to be done.  We may see workforce reductions as we reconfigure our academic and administrative units and continue to work through our budget reduction and the implementation of our realignment and strategic plans.  The full impact of budget reductions will be clearer when we have the final state budget.

As I said in my installation speech, we are not going to let budget challenges cripple us.  We will move forward by thinking differently about our operation.  We have had broad input from the campus to draft our strategic plan and we have used that plan to guide our realignment.  Now, I am again looking to you, our faculty, staff and students for your support – for the brainpower, creativity and energy – to implement these plans and bring us through a challenging time.  This has been a difficult stretch for us.  With your help, we will emerge an even stronger, more vital university.

Randy Woodson

NC State University