Draft strategic renewal themes

March 2016

Based on community input from fall 2016, the strategic renewal advisory committee identified five themes as potential foundations in U of G’s path forward. The community was then invited to comment on the draft themes.

That feedback helped form the basis of the draft strategic renewal document that was further revised to become U of G’s strategic framework.

Learn more and see how we got to these themes

Strategic renewal themes

 

22 comments on “Draft strategic renewal themes

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with most of what has been said already: this is bureaucratic nonsense. The consultation meetings weren’t useful in constructing these “themes” and there’s a real lack of criticality here. This whole process would have benefited from the involvement of people who were able to respond critically to administrative power. It’s clear that these themes were edited into shape by folks concerned more with how things sound than how things will get done. Yep, Guelph needs to get its act together. Will these “themes” do anything to make that happen? Doubtful. Last thought: in what terrible world did someone think that the way to build a strong narrative around renewal was to use the dated catch-all notion of “themes”? Again, why didn’t someone reach out to folks who specialize in narrative to discover ways to communicate an idea clearly.

  • Anonymous says:

    Excuse my cynicism, but who exactly was hired to mock up these “strategic renewal themes”? It’s just a list of stuff. It doesn’t explain how these “themes” (why “themes” anyways?) will be achieved. They’re soft terms that are so open-ended that no matter the action taken you will get to cross it off the list (“Develop the whole person”? “Adaptability while true to roots”? What?). Your PDF explaining where they came from is all well and good, but woohoo, it’s just a long way of explaining that a buzzword detector was used to generate these terms, apparently taking a huge amount of effort to use, but only reiterates the same thing with more words. You haven’t listed any examples either — which would have been helpful — but bizarrely you haven’t even listed examples of the “themes” that are explicitly identified as being “distinctive” or are clearly nameable objects (complex problems, values, pathways, etc.). There also aren’t any identified leaders for theme (presumably one would assign a taskmaster to each “theme” or “task”, assuming one wants to get anything done). There isn’t an assigned time or monetary commitment. There isn’t anything. It’s just a table.

    What is the point of this? If I had a prod ask me to write a 5 page thinkpiece on the UoG’s strategic renewal plan, I would not be able to complete even the introduction: There is not enough information here to tell me anything. This is just a list of buzzwords grouped topically. I’m completely at a loss as to why this update was posted.

  • I agree with many of the other commentators who’ve said that the language is not clear or specific (esp. in the black, yellow and green blocks). These things seem too ‘motherhood and apple pie’ to be argued with, but are they actually measurable? Will you know what success looks like?

    Also, when applying for CRCs and CRFs, how the planned research fits with the Uni’s Strategic Plan is required. I can’t imagine how one would do this with these. Is there to be a separate UoG RESEARCH strategic plan then?

  • This response is from a focus group of 13 faculty and staff members representing all departments at the Ontario Veterinary College:

    Congratulations and thanks to the Strategic Renewal Committee for their efforts to date. It is not easy to weave the many diverse threads of an institution like ours into a tapestry that speaks to our values, strengths and uniqueness. We have a few comments with regard to the info graphic, which is put forth as a summation of themes that have come forward from the campus-wide discussions: 1.) The words in are not very understandable — they have little power, perhaps because they are too vague. The intent of each word and phrase cannot easily be discerned without significant research into the context of all the previous discussions, and even then much inference is required to comprehend their meaning; and, 2.) They do not represent what is unique and strong about the University of Guelph, nor its importance to the province and nation, or how it differentiates from other similar institutions. We feel our strategic document should be bold, and it should reflect our university’s leading roles in food, health, the environment, and the interactions between them. Food, health, and the environment are vitally important to citizens of the country and the world, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. These are the issues our province’s citizens expect U of Guelph to lead in, and we do. These themes intersect and underlie many of the critical problems that face our society today: agricultural production to feed the billions, environmental stewardship, food development and safety, effective knowledge transfer, economics of food production, value chains, food production and distribution policy, rural community health and wealth, animal and human health and welfare, aging populations, emerging diseases of human and animal populations, climate change, using big data for the greater good, international development, and so on.  We have unrivaled collaboration with key agencies and organizations, most of which on here in Guelph. No other innovation hub in Ontario can approach the trans-disciplinary power needed to offer solutions to these large-scale overlapping problems; but we can.  U of Guelph arguably leads the world in many of these fields, and we would do well to make food, health, the environment the centerpiece of our plan going forward; it is broad enough that all parts of the university can engage in this vision for a better planet, yet specific enough that it can differentiate us from our post-secondary education competitors. This vision is highly attractive to today’s intelligent and idealistic generation of school graduates, and workforce projections indicate a high demand in these sectors, something our school graduates and their parents are well aware of. Many points we make here do appear in the “Summary of Conversational Input” document, but somehow were lost during the distillation process. Thanks again to the Strategic Renewal Committee for their hard work, we think great things can come from your work, and the themes you present here will greatly inform that work. 

  • While it is useful to articulate a path but I would be more interested in knowing how we are going to get there. How many “plans”, “reports” and “research papers” sit on shelves and gather dust after they are released? This should be followed up with a concrete action plan with goals/objectives, measurement rubrics and timelines. Will there consequences/rewards/penalties if these objectives are/are not reached?

    While it is a lofty goal to be a “preeminent academic leader”, perhaps being the best we can be given environmental and market factors.

    Finally, what is The University of Guelph’s “USP” – what differentiates us. This must be stated as a positive rather than “we are not like..”.

  • I seriously question whether the University of Guelph is in need of “renewal”. Rather it might better devote its energy and ingenuity in an effort to focus strategically on a socially imperative goal that capitalizes on the University’s history and strength and has broad public support.

    In my view promoting ecosystem health would fit perfectly. Health is matter of capacity to maintain organization and achieve reasonable human goals. Promoting ecosystem health depends on a coordinated mix of the natural and social sciences and humanities. The University of Guelph already has particular strength in fields that are of relevance; viz. sustainable agriculture; environmental sciences; human biology and behavior; public health; relevant physical and social sciences and humanities, animal health and potentially medical ecology. Promoting public and animal health in our world, where increasing connectivity is unrelenting, must surely have to be addressed in the wider context of ecosystem health. This is a worthy and exciting challenge for all of academia. The University of Guelph has the potential to be and be seen as a pre-eminent academic leader in this sphere of endeavor in the same way as the University of Waterloo has positioned itself in the high tech world (as noted in another comment).

  • With respect and appreciation of the team that has worked hard on this process I’m not sure that we’re “there” yet.
    I find it hard to understand the themes. They all have some value, but aren’t clear or concise enough and in my opinion do little to raise any passion.
    The process of strategic renewal is said to have 2 goals:
    1) To develop a concise document that will guide our planning over the next five to 10 years
    2) To renew our sense of institutional pride and confidence among the campus community and U of G partners
    I’m wondering if both goals can be accomplished in this one process. I don’t believe so.
    I feel that #1 is a vital strategic document that will lead and guide us into the future. #2 is something that can help motivate us, fill us with pride and help us sustain our growth….they are differing goals.

    I’d like to see something that takes our past and builds on it into our future. That celebrates our history, our growth and our present to allow us to continue to grow and thrive as we move foward.
    The word “Guelphiness” has been used a fair amount recently. I like our Guelphiness, but am not sure that it fills me with passion and thrust to move forward, it makes me comfortable and safe. That is fine, but not necessarily motivating.

    With much respect, I’d suggest more time be taken to really narrow the themes down, to find our identity and desire for the future and to then build on that to move forward.

    I’m not sure I’ve helped, but I thank you for listening and for all you do!

  • Please rewrite these in plain language with clarity and specifics! They vague, unclear and essentially meaningless generalities.

  • I am worried that these working “themes” are not objectively realizable. It is great that these themes represent what we stand for, but I was under the impression they were going to be more like goals, in which to base policy and community efforts. Some of them, such as “distinctive capacities” or “value driven,” are too vague and are only descriptors rather than outcome-based statements.

  • I broadly agree with many of the above comments. We need to be more concrete and more bold. How is Guelph different from other Ontario Universities and how can we build upon and strengthen those distinctions? My sense is the following: community engaged scholarship and learning; Sustainable land and agricultural management (which requires the full range of humanities, social sciences and science scholarship); complexity, connection, community and change. That means investing in and diversifying our food institute and in BIO as well as making co-op programs, internships and opportunities for experiential learning the norm, not the exception. We should take a leadership role, yes, and we should prepare our students to become leaders in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.

  • I’m very sorry but I both don’t understand these themes, nor do I like them. On one hand they don’t communicate anything very concrete. Most importantly, they are so generic they could describe pretty much anything, anywhere, anytime. There is nothing here that distinguishes UG from Ryerson, York, Carleton, or Brock.

    Decades ago Waterloo made a strong play to be known as the Tech Innovation center of Canada. They became MIT North. They became known for this and today two ministers and the PM are on their campus talking about their research. I believe that ministers have been at Waterloo pretty much every month for the last six months.

    To the best of my knowledge, we’ve had only one ministerial visit recently (the CFIA announcement at BIO). So it feels like we are invisible to Ottawa, and partly, this is because about 10 years ago UG decided to become a “caring” university and put everything and the kitchen sink into the better planet project.
    We need to distinguish ourselves by identifying our core strengths that have to explicitly include agriculture, food, biodiversity, and landscape management. We can also usefully identify civic engagement / community engaged research and experiential learning. And we have amazing connections with policy (what other university has as good contacts as we do with OMAFRA?)
    .
    We are entering a period of time that will be defined provincially and nationally by reduced student numbers and fewer research dollars. So we need to distinguish ourselves and should deploy the university’s assets, which include the arts and humanities, in support of a university identity that should make explicit the fact that we are determined to take a leadership role in helping humanity learn how to feed itself on a hot crowded planet.

  • Grade for communication: F

    A great example of contemporary bureaucratic B.S. Since University leadership cannot communicate, perhaps the plan should be given to freshmen English/Communication students for translation.

  • It’s all much too fuzzy, wordy and lacking any real sense of priority.

    Universities are supposed to be about research and education. Those should be your themes. The rest are largely marketing buzzwords.

    If you’re truly interested in “renewal”, back to the basics!

  • Agree with a lot of what was said above.

    When I look at these themes I see them as applicable to almost any large comprehensive University in ON. They are certainly good guidelines but not sure how many of them will differentiate us in an increasingly competitive educational environment. We have to start thinking this way.

    Also 5 themes is a lot and you have up to 4 dimensions under each theme – that’s a lot of parameters for focused strategy development.

    Kudos to the committee though – this can’t be easy and its always easier to criticize than create.

  • This is not very clear what you mean?? in most categories you need plain English. Not all this can be done at once-so identify the short term goals that can be successes. In a Strategic plan you need to also figure out how to roll it out in operational planning. Highlight what is Doable now, 1 year out, and 2 years out, etc .Clearly identify What is the U o G’s key business function and, who is your client?
    This is NEVER an easy task but well worth doing.
    B Peter Hennessy’72

  • Lots of buzz words!

    But not one word about “scholarship” or passing-on to the next generation our heritage of knowledge, culture, etc… As a humanist, I find that distressing!

    F. M. Walsh

  • It is appreciated that the process of paring down the (sometimes conflicting) Senator and outer community feedback into overall themes is a lengthy process. These terms, though, are extremely general. What exactly will university do as we move forward?

    It’s not clear what some of these terms mean. ‘Distinctive capacities’ – does that mean in terms of research expertise? Teaching prowess? Innovative methodology or delivery of course content? Or that we have some ‘genius’ members of the faculty or student body?

    The Provost and the V.P. Research have been presenting on the importance of growing our research program (though our graduate studies program). Where are these areas being addressed? We need action items.

  • Use plain language! The campus community doesn’t necessarily know what you mean – surely there is a more clear and specific way to say some of these points. Some of them are so convoluted they don’t really convey any meaning. I like the overall ideas but it’s very difficult to know what any of them really mean.

    “Steward valued resources” – I may not be well versed on these terms but I really have no idea what this means
    “Distinctive capacities” – What are capacities? What makes them distinctive? What is UofG going to do with them?
    “Leveraging existing and emerging strengths” – What strengths? Would probably be more effective to say “Leveraging strengths in _____”
    “Opening pathways” – For who? Students? Faculty? What do you mean pathway?
    “Addressing complex problems” – How would this be implemented? Is this a focus for research?
    “Values driven” – What values? Our current values? The entire green box seems like it could be one point under another category

  • I like the orange box and in particular the opening pathways item. A university must be connected to its total environment which includes the city in which it is located. I hope this isn’t just more rhetoric to placate concerned citizens.

  • Perhaps two more mantras should be added:

    1) Stop constructing new buildings without the social and monetary resources to actually fill them and have them do something useful

    2) Stop the systemic devaluation and elimination of the middle*. * perhaps this means anything between a professor and a student

  • Very interesting and democratic…. Here is my thoughts.

    There is a problem with this process much like the problem TV viewers face when choosing cable TV packages. They may have to buy a whole package of channels just to get the single one they want. Also many of the categories are subjective and meaningless. An example is “Leveraging existing and emerging strengths” Which ones? There is actually no information in that statement. To be a truly progressive university all the meaningless categories should be stripped out and ALL the rest should be done.

    A 6th category should be added which would be “Tackling the deep underlying dysfunction in the university system” Under that category would be the question “How many students would choose an undergraduate education if the BAIT of entry to professional schools was removed?” When the answer is “roughly the same amount” this question is addressed. The second questions would be: “How can we entice real employers to hire students in their chosen field. AND “How can Canada actually have employers for students in their chosen fields”.

    That said, most of the points in all categories are sound. To category 5 perhaps you should add: Building lifelong relationships both within and outside the university. Canadian universities are very poor at this. Chinese universities 15-20 years ago are an example of getting this aspect of university life right. Why they got it right was because this was cultured at the university AND the students had something to offer each other. There is so little real opportunity here and so much competition that our culture of division is almost guaranteed.

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