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New CMU strategic plan to ensure students graduate sooner, with less debt

Trustees approve 5-year plan focused on students, educational excellence, external partnerships

Contact: Heather Smith

​Central Michigan University's updated Advancing Excellence strategic plan, approved by its Board of Trustees today, will continue CMU's 125-year tradition of preparing students to enhance the economy and quality of life in Michigan and for Michigan families.

The plan directs outcomes through 2022, including:

  • More students graduating in four years;
  • The university being structured efficiently and effectively for student success; and
  • Expansion of corporate and community partnerships leading to ever more internships and jobs for CMU students and graduates while also enhancing business outcomes and residents' lives across the state.

The plan outlines three imperatives: nurturing student success, fostering scholarly activity, and strengthening partnerships in Michigan and beyond. 

"These imperatives will have us assessing the university's organizational structure for the first time in two decades in order to enhance student success," President George E. Ross said in his opening remarks to the board. "They will have us revising our undergraduate degree requirements to 120 credit hours so more students can graduate in four years, and with less debt.

"The imperatives will advance research and scholarly activity, and they will emphasize mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses, non-profits and civic organizations. Through these relationships, CMU students, faculty and staff will put an ever bigger stamp on the world," he said.

A campuswide team — led by Provost Michael Gealt and then-Academic Senate Chair Melinda Kreth — was charged last August with updating the 2012 strategic plan.

The team used input from hundreds of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members across mid Michigan to develop each imperative, along with strategies, targets and metrics by which to measure success.

Trustee Richard Studley served as a member of the strategic planning committee.

"CMU can be whatever we want it to be; we're already a really good university but we can't be everything to everyone," Studley said. "This really is a plan to commit or recommit to be the very best we can be."

The first imperative – nurturing student success – focuses on providing a transformative education to prepare students for successful careers and fulfilling lives. Strategies within this imperative include:

  • Review and modify all undergraduate degree programs to require no more than 120 credits — unless mandated by accreditation standards — in order to allow more students to graduate in four years.
  • Examine the organizational structure of the academic and administrative divisions for ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness to enhance student success.

The second imperative – fostering scholarly activity – recognizes how essential research and creative activities are to the intellectual life of a university and its accreditation.

This imperative's strategies include the recruitment and retention of talented, diverse faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and staff. It also calls for an expansion of research. CMU is widely recognized for the access it gives students — including undergraduates — to hands-on research they conduct beside and with full-time faculty.

Strengthening partnerships in Michigan and beyond — the third imperative — emphasizes partnerships with alumni, communities, corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations, leading to mutual growth and enhancement in Michigan, the U.S. and around the world.

The related strategies focus on increasing, identifying benefits of and promoting external partnerships, especially those that create jobs and provide public service.

This third imperative also calls for CMU to secure an official community engagement endorsement through the renowned Carnegie Classification process, just as it is among only 5 percent of U.S. universities in the highest two Carnegie research classifications.

"The pace of social and economic change is getting faster and it's not going to let up," Studley said. "We have to honor our history, we have to respect our traditions, but we must become more nimble. We must respond more efficiently and more effectively to changes in society and changes in the marketplace.

"If we are going to maintain and improve on CMU's leadership position, we must be bold and we must act with vision and courage," he said.

Along with Gealt, Kreth and Studley, the strategic planning committee members were:

  • Mahmood Bahaee, faculty, management;
  • Ian Davison, dean, College of Science and Engineering;
  • Cristy Freese, executive associate athletic director, sport administration;
  • Joe Garrison, director, financial planning and budgets;
  • Lori Hella, associate vice president, human resources;
  • Pam Murray, CMU alumna;
  • Susan Naeve-Velguth, administrative fellow and faculty, communication disorders;
  • Luis Perez-Batres, chairperson, management;
  • Anna Owens, CMU senior;
  • Robert Roe, executive director, institutional research; and
  • Stan Shingles, assistant vice president, university recreation.

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