In 2016, in response to a variety of mounting challenges that threatened the continuing ability of the State System to provide all Pennsylvanians with affordable, career-relevant educational pathways into sustaining careers, the Board of Governors initiated a top-to bottom review of everything we do. We learned a lot from the review and the Board immediately reacted to it by focusing the System’s priorities on student success, leveraging our collective strengths, and initiating an ongoing and fundamental restructuring of the Chancellor’s Office.
The Board also launched an extensively consultative process that produced a new vision for our future – one in which we won’t simply survive but thrive as we continue our historic mission by becoming a “sharing system.”
In my inauguration address, I spoke of a sharing system—one where our 14 universities work closely together to expand the breadth and quality of the educational opportunities they offer our students, improve our students’ experiences, respond to changing employer needs, and, crucially, maintain student affordability.
In a sharing system we work closely together to:
- allow our students easier access to programs across the System.
- double-down on retaining and graduating students.
- expand educational programs that meet workforce demand and provide pathways for adult and returning students.
- remain as the high-quality, affordable higher education option for every Pennsylvanian.
The Board has endorsed this vision of a sharing system as a means of achieving the System’s three priorities, and instructed me to engage a fully consultative process to develop a detailed implementation plan. Kicked off by unprecedented levels of collaboration among university leaders, the planning process that is now unfolding will focus attention in in six areas.
- Modernizing our academic and operational infrastructures so they leverage our combined operating scale and enable agile and cost-effective expansion in the quality and breadth of affordable, career-relevant educational opportunities and student supports.
- Retooling budgeting, investment, and performance management practices so we allocate resources strategically, transparently, and accountably in pursuit of well-defined university and system goals.
- Supporting continuous improvement by investing in our employees’ success and strengthening our organizational cultures.
- Strengthening our governance, ensuring it is inclusive, responsible, transparent, and accountable, while at the same time enhancing communications and advocacy efforts. These efforts not only are essential in stimulating investment in the system and its universities, but also in strengthening the public’s trust in and understanding of the role our universities play in improving the economic, social, and cultural well-being and health of the people of this Commonwealth.
- Working creatively in partnership with the state and the business and education communities to address critical structural, financial, and public policy issues and to improve pathways that enable life-long learning and connect people to and support them in building sustaining careers.
- Restructuring the Chancellor’s Office so that it effectively supports the transformative efforts envisaged above.
In the near term, expect us to:
- convene expert task groups that are charged to recommend how to redesign key areas of our work – educationally, operationally, and with respect of the supports we offer our students;
- form a steering committee providing guidance to and integrating the work of task groups and advising myself and the Board on the direction, priorities, and policy and funding actions required to drive the System Redesign; and
- strengthen channels for communicating about the progress of our System Redesign and to gather input.
This is an exciting time to be a part of the State System, and I look forward to working with everyone as we seek to learn from our great past and present so that we may build an even greater future.