Strategic planning: a progress report

Beginning in 2012, we drew from all corners of the college to embark on a process of strategic planning. Some elements of the process, such as the work on our priority themes, have been continuous, while others, such as working groups, have had clear start and end times.
As we had hoped, our strategic planning has helped us identify specific areas of intellectual strength and research potential. We draw upon the plan frequently for guidance as we rethink our college’s structure, and it continues to inform our decisions regarding the use of resources in terms of both time and money.

Year one: 2012-2013

The process focused on developing the strategic framework as a foundation for future activities.

  • A strategic planning committee was formed to develop the strategic framework.
  • Stakeholders engaged in SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and offered feedback on CALS’ strategic direction and priorities.
  • The strategic framework—including mission, vision, guiding principles, strategies, education and collegiate structure, and priority themes—was drafted and approved.
  • Using the strategies identified, the planning committee proposed next steps for ongoing work in the college.

Year two: 2013-2014

An Academic Planning Council report led to the restructuring of the APC into new disciplinary divisions with more faculty representation.

  • Workshops generated ideas for future activities around the priority themes of economic and community development, healthy ecosystems, food systems, changing climate, bioenergy and bioproducts, health and wellness and basic sciences.
  • An alumni workgroup study led to the creation of more student–alumni networking and mentoring activities for undergraduates. Space for this and other “beyond classroom” experiences are planned for the renovated Agricultural Dean’s Residence.
  • An international priorities and planning report underscored the importance of international activities in the college and led to the search for a new faculty director for international programs.
  • The strategic framework provided guidance on faculty hires, resulting in new faculty positions linked to the key priority themes of food systems, health and wellness, healthy ecosystems and the basic sciences.

Year three: 2014-2015

CALS advanced several college priorities that were identified in the strategic planning process.

  • A cross-disciplinary microbiome working group was formed to inventory CALS activities in this emerging field and catalyze discussions of priorities moving forward.
  • A facilities planning report provided tools and guidelines for allocating facility improvement resources across CALS.
  • An Agricultural Research Station committee report proposed guidelines and priorities for ARS activities—a major milestone in pursuing a future direction for ARS.
  • A college-wide RFP for food systems courses resulted in the selection of three new undergraduate courses—one freshman-level, one sophomore-level, and one capstone—to be developed under that priority theme.
  • Greenhouse and germplasm building committees were formed and charged with identifying activities and needs for future plant sciences facilities.
  • The educational metrics work group released “Educational Vital Signs” containing key data tracking the health of undergraduate education at CALS.
  • Our strategic framework guided budget reduction decisions for 2015-17.

Year four: 2015-2016

College priority initiatives continued to reach milestones.

  • The cross-disciplinary microbiome working group held a symposium to help focus our research strengths and enhance collaboration across the college and campus.
  • Visioning for the West Madison ARS began as CALS strengthens its link to urban agriculture and explores collaboration with University Research Park II.
  • Sundaram Gunasekaran was hired as the director of CALS International Programs to facilitate and expand international activities among CALS faculty, staff and students.
  • Investment was made in recruiting and retaining a more diverse undergraduate population, with specific initiatives aimed at improving undergraduate recruitment and success in STEM fields.
  • The framework helped refine and guide college priorities for the UW fundraising campaign.

Year five: 2016-2017

The work continued on college priorities identified in the five-year planning process, and a restructuring effort began.

  • Co-chairs were appointed to plan a symposium around Big Data and Ecoinformatics in Agricultural Research. The symposium was designed to focus our research strengths and enhance collaboration across the college and campus.
  • Three new food systems courses became available to students.
  • The West Madison ARS Visioning Committee completed their report.
  • CALS department chairs wrote a letter to request that the dean appoint a group of representative chairs to craft a set of principles upon which a restructuring model would be designed.
  • A working group consisting of department chairs was formed to write a project charter for a CALS Organizational Redesign Committee.
  • The Organizational Redesign Committee was appointed and began work.

Year six: 2017-2018

The college restructuring project began with the CALS Organizational Redesign Committee.

  • A certificate in food systems became available for undergraduate students.
  • The Organizational Redesign Committee submitted their report.
  • The Dean’s Office began implementation of the recommendations from the Organizational Redesign Committee.
  • Faculty hiring decisions moved from the Academic Planning Council to the Dean’s Office.

Year seven: 2018-2019

The college’s primary priority remained the Organizational Redesign

  • Discussions began about the creation of two new majors:
    • The global health major committee prepared a Notice of Intent (NOI) to plan that was approved by the CALS Academic Planning Council and planning will begin in earnest in fall of 2019. While interdisciplinary, the undergraduate major will be housed in the Department of Entomology.
    • A committee began discussions to form an undergraduate major called agroecosystems that would replace the undergraduate majors in agronomy, entomology, horticulture, plant pathology and soil science.
  • The college discontinued the poultry science major after years of significantly low enrollment.
  • The departments of animal sciences and dairy science merged their administrative teams to form a single administrative services center in December of 2018. They also began discussions around merging entirely. The departments will vote in fall of 2019.
  • The departments of biological systems engineering and soil science began sharing a department administrator as a first step in forming a collaborative.
  • CALS Global hired Jennifer Kushner to serve as assistant director of the program

Year eight: 2019-2020

Activities that grew out of the Organizational Redesign continued, new projects launched

  • Two departments came together to form a single unit called the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences.
  • The Global Health major was approved through all levels of governance and will be offered to students in the fall of 2020.
  • The departments of agronomy and horticulture began discussions about restructuring their units.
  • Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, faculty began to develop a certificate in organic agriculture.