Strategic planning at UM

Strategic planning has three phases. Understanding where you are. Deciding where you want to go. Developing strategies to get there. You will see these phases UM's renewed strategic planning initiative.

But this time it has to be different. The urgency is greater. The stakes are higher. The challenges more daunting.

The Strategic Plan Coordinating Council is committed to designing a process that is open to and inclusive of many perspectives, and culminates not just in a plan, but in a new way of working together on behalf of our stakeholders.

Throughout the 2016-17 academic year, you will be invited to engage in critical and creative thinking about the University of Montana's identity, vision, values and direction. We hope you join us in the challenge.

Frequently asked questions

The Strategic Plan Coordinating Council (SPCC) was commissioned by President Engstrom in the spring of 2016. Our initial role is to design a process that engages both on-campus and off-campus stakeholders in conversations about UM's identity, vision, values, and direction. After the data gathering and analysis phase, we expect to engage campus leaders in a transparent process to determine goals and strategies. Finally, we will design mechanisms to execute actions, assess outcomes, and develop a long-term process of iterative, ongoing improvement. 

Our thinking is that strategic planning is a never-ending process. In a rapidly changing world, we need to constantly evaluate and innovate. We want to instill that mindset at UM, and there’s no reason to wait another day to get started.

We envision a process where all assumptions are open for questioning and all possibilities are considered. We don’t have a preconceived notion of the outcomes, but it’s reasonable to expect that that many of the ideas articulated in the current strategic plan will be validated—perhaps with sharper focus. We think the most important outcome will be a plan that articulates a clear identity and direction for the future.

Part of our process includes gathering and assessing unit strategic plans and reports from efforts like the Academic Alignment & Innovation Program, the Administrative Review Task Force, the Internationalization Laboratory, and more. We value all of the analysis and innovative thinking that has already been done and will do our best to capture that work and apply it to the broader strategic plan.

Engagement with stakeholders will occur fall and winter 2016 (although we hope that conversation never ends). This period will focus on asking questions, generating ideas, considering divergent possibilities, testing assumptions and generally being creative. The next phase—which will unfold in early 2017—will focus on developing specific goals, strategies, and metrics of progress.

You can always visit this site at We will launch a digital platform called Neighborland in early fall that will allow you to can add your ideas and contribute to the ideas of others.

We are counting on the entire campus community, as well as other community members with an interest in our future, to fully engage with the creation of our strategic plan. It is our priority to be as inclusive and transparent as possible throughout this process, and so we will be providing many different opportunities for you to participate. In addition to public events and small group meetings, we will be launching a digital tool called Neighborland to facilitate idea generation and conversation. If you're interested in taking a more active role in the process, email us at

Two big things:

  1. The process will be open and inclusive of all UM stakeholders. We intend to facilitate constructive conversations and critical thinking exercises addressing the significant issues facing public higher education and the University of Montana.

  2. The envisioned outcome of the process isn't just a written plan. Rather, we hope to lay the foundation for more agile, iterative approaches to strategic thinking and innovation. 

Trick question. We don’t envision this process ending, but rather moving through ongoing phases of discovery, vision and goal-setting, communication, implementation, and assessment. The creation of a strategic plan is just the beginning; implementing the vision and objectives, as well as reexamining our strategy, will be a continuous process. 

We are mindful of UM's budget challenges and are making every effort to keep costs as low as possible. However, this process is fundamental to the success of the University going forward. Some modest financial investments in communication and events are being considered to help us effectively engage large numbers of stakeholders.

Yes, we will provide you with ample opportunities to participateWhile we cannot promise that all ideas will guide UM’s future direction, we can ensure that all ideas will be given respect and consideration as we collectively build a vision for UM.

Strategic Plan Coordinating Council

Brock Tessman, Chair
Dean, Davidson Honors College

Gordy Pace, Vice Chair
Director of Communications, Information Technology

Kelly Webster, Vice Chair
Director, The Writing Center

Mary-Ann Bowman
Associate Professor, School of Social Work

Elizabeth Dove
Professor, School of Art

Doug Emlen
Professor, Division of Biological Sciences

Braden Fitzgerald
ASUM President

Jasmine Zink Laine
Academic Policy, Institutional Assessment & Accreditation Processes Manager, Office of the Provost

Wilena Old Person
Program Coordinator, Native American Center of Excellence

Sara Rinfret
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Mario Schulzke 
Associate Vice President for Integrated Communications

Rachel Smith
Graduate and Professional Student Association
Holly Truitt
Director, Broader Impacts Group

Scott Whittenburg
Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship; Dean of the Graduate School