CMU Trustees approve new five-year strategic plan

President points to major progress on priorities in annual report

| Author: Kevin Essebaggers | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees today approved a new strategic plan that will guide the university for the next five years. The plan is the result of more than a year of campus engagement, including collecting input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters, community partners and other stakeholders.

“We have learned much about CMU and about our shared vision for the future, and this plan is both aspirational and attainable,” CMU President Bob Davies said. “I am excited to unite our community in the pursuit of these transformative goals in the years ahead.”

Calling it a tremendous tool to move CMU forward, Davies said the strategic plan stresses the creation of leaders, ensures inclusion, and focuses on generating a positive impact on communities – all while being good stewards of resources. 

New mission and vision statements, new priorities

The strategic plan approved by Trustees also includes updated mission and vision statements for the university.

CMU’s new mission statement reads: “Central Michigan University is defined by the success of our students and alumni, and by our collective impact with the communities we serve.”

CMU’s new vision statement reads: “Central Michigan University will be nationally known for preparing innovators, learners, and leaders who positively impact their local and global communities.”

The four priorities outlined in the new strategic plan, each supported by multiple goals and objectives, are:

  • Inspire student and scholarly success – Prepare bold leaders and learners who innovate and adapt in a rapidly changing world.
  • Engage communities – Cultivate and enrich reciprocal partnerships with university stakeholders to ensure a lasting impact in the communities we serve.
  • Enhance organizational culture – Raise our national profile as a vibrant and nurturing university community where all members feel valued, empowered to thrive, and experience a strong sense of belonging.
  • Ensure institutional sustainability – Embrace sustainable campus operations that ensure wise stewardship of our resources.

Trustee Todd Anson applauded the strategic plan and said, “This was really an impressive effort by the university as a whole. Hopefully it positions CMU to look at higher education differently than our peers, and we all know that differentiating CMU is job one for us. I think this plan is a giant leap forward in that regard.”

Enrollment and orientation

In a report to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Vice President of Student Recruitment and Retention Jennifer DeHaemers said CMU has increased new student enrollment for the second year in a row. According to a count on day 10 of the fall semester, CMU increased new undergraduate enrollment by about 3.3% and new graduate enrollment by nearly 5%. CMU also has its largest international enrollment in a decade, with 1,734 students enrolled from 70 countries. 

“I am really pleased that we’re continuing this upward trend in light of the fact that the freshman market in Michigan is shrinking and it becomes more competitive every year,” DeHaemers said. “We’re already recruiting for fall of 2024, and at this time our applications are up 2% over where they were last year.”

Trustee Ed Plawecki said, “It is nice to see that it appears our decades-long enrollment declines at CMU are finally stabilizing and we are starting to have a new student increase in enrollment. It’s a big ship and it takes a lot to turn it, but it does appear that, with the hard work of everyone, we are moving forward.”

During Wednesday’s Policy and Bylaws Committee meeting, DeHaemers also explained the need to raise the new student orientation fee for the first time in 16 years; this increase was approved by the full Board during Thursday’s session.

“The cost per student has definitely increased significantly since 2007,” DeHaemers said. “We feel it is appropriate to raise that fee from $175 to $200 per student.”

Fostering a sense of belonging

On Wednesday, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee received an update from the Division of Student Affairs on an initiative to foster a greater sense of belonging among CMU students.

Assistant Vice President of University Recreation and Student Engagement Stan Shingles highlighted the many mentoring and leadership programs offered by CMU. He said these programs are effective ways to create a sense of belonging and help students overcome challenges.

Shingles said, “Students that engage in highly engaging mentor relationships are significantly more likely to persist in their education.”

The Division of Student Affairs also reported that CMU’s reimagined “Weeks of Welcome” offered participating students many opportunities to form connections with each other and the whole university community.

AI opportunities and challenges

As higher education grapples with the use of emerging artificial intelligence technologies, CMU faculty and staff are exploring ways to harness it. The Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee heard presentations on AI’s impact in the classroom during its meeting Wednesday.

Stefanie Lassitter, director of instructional development in the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Support, shared how faculty are developing a strategy for the use of AI. Her office, together with CMU Innovation and Online, has formed faculty learning community groups to explore:

  • How to prepare students in the age of AI
  • The use of AI in teaching and research
  • The promise and pitfalls of AI in society
  • Equity-centered exploration of AI

Lassitter said the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Support is planning to showcase their findings at an AI symposium in the spring.

“We hope to walk away with a deeper understanding of where we are with AI, and more confidence as we walk into the classroom and have to address that AI is here to stay,” she said.  

Trustees also learned about the growing accuracy and pace of the technology and its possible uses in higher education from Troy Hicks, chair of CMU’s Department of Teacher and Special Education. Hicks said that while AI offers great potential for instruction and learning, it also presents a challenge in ensuring students are producing their own academic work.

“On this campus, we are talking about how we might adjust the honor code and plagiarism policies in order to make sure that students are working in ethical and responsible ways,” he said.  

“We are very excited to see what’s coming next,” Trustee Sharon Heath said. “There will definitely be more to come as AI is integrated into our lives.”

Presidential priorities

In his annual report to the Board of Trustees, President Davies reviewed the progress CMU has made on the presidential priorities set out by the Trustees one year ago. He also shared new priorities for the year ahead, and previewed how the university will focus on success in those areas.

Davies said major strides were made in last year’s priority areas of academic planning and university advancement:

  • The provost-led process for academic envisioning resulted in progress toward a new academic plan to guide the university for several years to come.
  • Numbers from the last fiscal year show the University Advancement team surpassed their fundraising goal by more than $1.5 million.

Presidential priorities from the last year that will continue as priorities in the year ahead involve the strategic plan, increasing enrollment and fiscal responsibility.  Davies emphasized the priority of enacting the new strategic plan, saying “we understand its implementation will be just as critical — if not more critical — than its creation.”  

Regarding enrollment, Davies said gains in new student enrollment are due in large part to a new approach to marketing and recruitment. He said it is a presidential priority to continue to focus on maximizing those efforts while also improving student retention rates.

Financial stability also will remain a key presidential priority in this new academic year. A continued focus on fiscal responsibility last year resulted in the development of a balanced budget using strategic reallocation of resources, Davies said. He said the university also has adopted a new budget model to make more informed budgeting decisions in the future.

Finally, Davies said a new priority for the year ahead will be to fully realize the potential of health education at CMU. Davies cited several opportunities for growing health professions programs, increasing CMU’s health care footprint in Mt. Pleasant and the region. He said opportunities for the College of Health Professions include the expansion of programs such as Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy and Nursing. For the College of Medicine, the goals include securing a new clinical site, strengthening existing clinical sites, and uniting all four years of medical school students in one location.

The Board of Trustees approved the presidential priorities in its formal session Thursday.

Other Board of Trustees business

Other action at Thursday’s meeting included accepting the audit report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2023 from auditing firm Plante Moran. Their report found CMU’s finances are clean and stable with an improving net position.

“The steps the administration and the Board have taken in the previous year have proven very prudent and financially very sound for the university,” Trustee Ed Plawecki said. “The bottom line is we’re more solid than we’ve been, there were no findings, which is the highest rating, and our borrowing capabilities are very sound.”

In other actions, trustees:

  • Approved public school academy changes.
  • Approved a new naming opportunity.
  • Accepted the Office of Research and Graduate Studies quarterly report.
  • Accepted the quarterly report on contributions.
  • Approved prospective graduates of summer 2023.
  • Revised the Board of Trustees meeting schedule to move December’s planned meeting up to November 29 and 30.

At the conclusion of the formal session, Board Vice Chair Sharon Heath announced that Trustees Plawecki, Beauboeuf and Sandler will serve on the CMU Board of Trustees nominating committee to bring forward a slate of officers for the 2024 calendar year at the November meeting.

An electronic copy of the president’s report is available on the Office of the President webpage, and meeting minutes will be added to the Board of Trustees webpage following their approval at the next meeting.

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