Since its founding, UC Merced has been constantly evolving.
Yet for many, the pace of change in recent years feels particularly accelerated. From Strategic Academic Focusing and the planned physical build-out by 2020 (including the new Downtown Center by 2017) to performance management and other process improvements — a lot of change seems to be hitting us at once.
Such changes are critical and timely if the campus is to create the academic, physical and organizational foundation necessary for it to come of age in the next several years as a competitively positioned teaching and research institution. And yet, the motivating rationale has not always been sufficiently explained or understood.
As I have wrestled with how to better manage all this change, it’s clear to me that we lack a broadly understood strategic framework to help all of us — faculty members, administrative leadership, staff members and even students — better understand not only what is behind these changes but what end point we are driving toward.
In short, what’s lacking is articulation of a common vision that helps us to make sense of the changes we are undergoing.
I believe UC Merced already has a shared vision. In my conversations with many of you, I’ve heard common themes related to your aspirations for our young university. I’ve heard your commitment to our distinctive student population and to the positive impacts that we can have in the San Joaquin Valley. I’ve heard your desire to grow as a research university and to develop distinctive and competitive graduate and research programs. I’ve heard your commitment to values such as community, innovation, leadership and diversity. I’ve heard your desire for nimble, effective processes and transparent communication. In everything I’ve heard, I believe that we already have a remarkably shared vision — one that incorporates your near-term goals and aspirations for UC Merced—waiting to be surfaced and clearly articulated.
But we need to test my assumption. Therefore, we have engaged The Grove, a San Francisco-based consulting group, to facilitate a process that engages faculty and staff members in a visioning exercise. Some of you may be familiar with The Grove’s recent work with our School of Engineering.
Through a unique and highly visual process that has been successfully used by many Silicon Valley companies moving from start-up to maturity, The Grove will consult in the coming weeks with campus stakeholders to distill the many different aspirations across our campus into a single vision.
The initiative will culminate in a two-day visioning exercise on March 8 and 9 that will be open to faculty and staff members, either in person or through an electronic tool that will allow you to participate online. One day will be dedicated to faculty and the other to staff, with both organized with enough flexibility to allow participants to leave to teach classes or meet other responsibilities. There will also be a subsequent all-campus visioning summit in April.
We want to hear from all of you – from our faculty members and business officers to our groundkeepers and custodians. All of your voices need to be heard.
For more information about The Grove and its process, visit The Grove online. More information about your opportunities for participation will be shared during the month leading up to the summit.
I hope you will save those dates and agree to participate in this important process.
It not only will help us navigate all the change underway, but will also provide the foundation for our future growth as the first American research university of the 21st century.