Quoting author Lewis Carroll, the Missouri University of Science and Technology chancellor Tuesday discussed the university’s plan to focus on providing a high return on investment (ROI) for S&T students, the employers that hire them, the university’s research partners and donors.

“Lewis Carroll said, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” said Cheryl B. Schrader in her State of the University address in the Leach Theatre of Castleman Hall on the S&T campus.

“At Missouri S&T, we know where we are going. We are focused on providing a top return on investment for our key customers,” she said. “And we know how we will get there: by providing extraordinary access to renowned expertise, services and experiential learning opportunities.”

The university’s strategic planning process, underway since July 2012, has involved thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni, employers and research agency representatives along the way.

Each of the four campuses in the University of Missouri system is expected to complete a strategic plan that will guide its operations through the next five to seven years. The plans must be submitted by the campuses to the UM system by June 3, Schrader said.

Currently, Missouri S&T is developing its campus strategies for the UM system and next month, an implementation plan supported by a financial plan will be created, meaning a dollar amount will be associated with each goal, Schrader said.

Noting that higher education is “at a crossroads,” Schrader said, “Higher education cannot expect to continue to do the things that placed us at the crossroads. Our campus strategy requires S&T to do things differently than we do now.”

Among the changes that S&T needs to do, according to Schrader, is less non-strategic hiring, less silo thinking and decision making and less non-focused, non-selective interactions and instead, offer more innovative and experiential learning opportunities, collaborate more within S&T and the UM system and better define and focus on the jobs done for key customers.

A keystone to the university’s strategy plan was to focus on providing high ROI to six customer groups: undergraduate students, research-based graduate students, distance and online students, research investors, employers, and donors.

As part of the strategic planning process, six separate customer-focused strategy statements were created and from those, an overall campus strategy statement was developed.

The 33-word strategy statement is as follows: “Missouri S&T will provide by 2020 a top return on investment among public research universities to students, employers, research partners and donors through extraordinary access to renowned expertise, services and experiential learning opportunities.”

Comparing strategy to a blueprint, road trip or game plan, Schrader pointed out that the strategy statement is not the same as a mission statement or a vision statement. Rather, it is “a means to an end,” as a blueprint is the means to achieving a dream home or a game plan is the means to achieving victory on the playing field.

The strategy statement consists of three sections:

n An objective, which Schrader described as a “specific, measurable and time-bound” goal. For S&T’s strategic statement, the objective is contained in the phrase, “Missouri S&T will provide by 2020 a top return on investment.”

n A scope, which “is the universe, if you will, of who we are competing against and will measure ourselves against, and the specific customer groups we will serve and bring the top ROI to.” For Missouri S&T, the competitors are other public research universities and the university’s six customer groups.

n The advantage, which equates to “what we offer that none of our competitors can,” is defined as “extraordinary access to renowned expertise, services and experiential learning opportunities,” Schrader said.

Four themes, many goals

The details of how Missouri S&T will carry out the strategic plan and measure it is still being worked out by S&T’s leaders in consultation with students, faculty, staff and others. However, competitors or comparators will be identified for each of the six customer groups, and specific goals (action items) will be identified for each of four themes. They are:

“Develop and inspire creative thinkers and leaders for lifelong success.” Goals related to this theme include requiring all Missouri S&T students to take part in some significant experiential activity before they graduate and foster innovation and creativity for faculty, staff and students.“Enhance reputation and raise visibility.” Goals related to this theme include employing transformative and focused hiring, including cluster hires, in selected areas of expertise to support best in class achievements, leveraging Missouri S&T as the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) hub of Missouri, and creating and implementing a communication and marketing plan to raise the visibility of the campus and convey S&T’s return on investment.“Achieve sustainable growth to ensure best return on investment.” Goals related to this theme include evaluating current academic programs and creating, modifying, eliminating or combining in order to ensure a relevant portfolio that supports Carnegie ranking as a national, research university, and centralizing corporate relations to improve service to existing partners and identifying and establishing new partnerships for the purpose of increasing/enhancing research, economic development, credit and non-credit education, philanthropy and the hiring of S&T graduates.“Increase and facilitate meaningful access to and interaction with renowned faculty, staff and services.” Goals related to this theme include creating a comprehensive distance and online education strategy, enhancing instructional labs and methods of delivering lab experiences and engaging in transformative doctoral student recruiting/retention and placement.