UM Strategic Vision 1.1
Our Steadfast Commitment
The University of Montana is a public research institution on the cusp of celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding. Our distinguished history of excellent teaching, research, and public service represents higher education at its best: we improve the lives of not only our students but also our fellow local and global citizens. We advance knowledge, promote artistic creation, provide opportunity, and enrich our region’s economic and cultural vitality. As Montana’s intellectual, creative, and economic engine, we promote an educated citizenry for a rapidly changing world. In short, the University of Montana’s value is in its steadfast commitment to our students and communities.
A Critical Juncture
The mark of a successful higher learning institution is not merely that it has existed for 125 years, but that it capitalizes on its rich history to imagine an even better future. Our fellow Montanans enacted a bold vision to build an exceptional institution. Their intellectual, cultural, and financial investments obligate us to look forward in a visionary way.
The University of Montana sits at a critical juncture. We face disruptions specific to our local context and challenges endemic to higher education institutions nationwide. At this juncture, we must move forward in an innovative, aspirational, and strategic manner. At the same time, we must recognize our immediate financial and structural constraints. Our strategic vision represents both a preferred future and a basic compass that will guide decision making in the coming years. Resource and planning environments will determine the initiatives we can implement in the short term, those we will pursue along an extended timeframe, and those we can collectively recalibrate over time.
Montanans take pride in their resourcefulness under constantly changing conditions. We have a responsibility to cultivate resourcefulness in our students and in our administrative and fiscal culture. Through careful coordination with other Montana University System (MUS) institutions and in alignment with the MUS Strategic Plan, we will pursue more efficient administrative and fiscal structures that epitomize the resourcefulness of the state we serve. The quality of our impact over the next decades depends on our willingness to take a reflective stance on and proactive approach to refining—and in some cases fundamentally transforming—our organizational structures and fiscal models.
Looking Forward, Together
The Strategic Planning Coordinating Council (SPCC) has studied our comprehensive institution as a single body rather than as a collection of discrete sectors or programs. UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together therefore approaches the University of Montana as a complex ecosystem whose purpose is greater than that of any part. This strategic vision serves as a foundational guide for purposeful, mission-aligned decision making across the institution.
While UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together maps a path forward, its content reflects an assumption of existing excellence and an abiding commitment to continued quality. As a forward-looking platform, this strategic vision does not suggest that we should ignore what we already do well but rather intends that we cultivate our strengths in ways that align our aspirations and opportunities. Our last strategic plan, UM 2020, helped guide significant progress in a number of areas and created promising conditions for the next iteration of our strategic plan. UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together honors that progress while looking toward new opportunity.
This vision also reflects a new strategic thinking mindset. Strategic thinking does not end when campus adopts a new plan; rather, it persists through ongoing collaboration. The SPCC’s work therefore culminates in not just a plan but also a new way of working together on behalf of and with our stakeholders. For UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together to remain relevant and actionable, we must focus on our priorities yet flexibly respond to our evolving contexts through persistent self-reflection, attention to emerging conditions, honest assessments, and iterative adjustments. By design, this strategic platform requires continual action. The first expression of this ongoing collaboration will be the development of an operational plan.
During our many months of listening, the SPCC heard an emphatic call for a new way of working together. We understand this call as a desire—in our research, teaching, learning, and work—to partner across traditional internal and external boundaries. For this reason, UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together does not focus on particular units, programs, or departments. For these broad strategic directions to be tested, refined, realized and reaffirmed, we must develop new cooperative structures and a trusted data governance model that allow for integrated decision making and implementation.
The Strategic Planning Process
The SPCC designed a collaborative process that would model this commitment to continual strategic thinking and adaptation to emergent ideas, conditions, and aspirations. While the SPCC faced time and capacity limitations, we rigorously upheld our commitment to be responsive to stakeholders, adaptive over time, and informed by listening.
We shaped our learning around a commitment to inclusivity, transparency, and data-informed inquiry. Although not exhaustive, we listened to well over a thousand people on campus, in Missoula, and across the state. We analyzed dozens of existing institutional documents to understand current initiatives. After six months of stakeholder engagement, we identified shared principles to guide our campus community’s behaviors and decisions, and we developed a set of strategic ideas for stakeholder consideration. This further engagement generated a prioritized set of focused strategic opportunities permeated by our principles. We listened carefully and broadly, and we are confident that what we heard helped to shape the strategic opportunities presented here. This deep engagement has been a cornerstone of our strategic thinking process and will be a necessary characteristic of our shared institutional culture moving forward.
Connections to the Montana University System Strategic Plan
UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together reflects the broader MUS charge to “[maintain] the high quality of our institutions and the education provided to our students” as “the most important consideration of every goal and initiative.” Our strategic vision strongly supports the three core goals outlined in the 2016 version of the MUS Strategic Plan. In each section of this strategic vision, hyperlinks to the MUS Strategic Plan demonstrate vital connections to the primary goals that shape the MUS agenda:
This MUS goal guides us to “increase the overall educational attainment of Montanans through increased participation, retention and completion rates in the Montana University System.” Our leading Strategic Opportunity—“Engage Students Where They Are”—addresses this goal most explicitly. Through enhanced advising, flexible scheduling, and expanded online delivery, our strategic vision prioritizes accessible and affordable education for all Montana students.
The second core MUS goal obligates us to “assist in the expansion and improvement of the state’s economy through the development of high value jobs and the diversification of the economic base.” Our strategic vision addresses this goal most directly in two of our Strategic Opportunities: “Partner with Place” and “Foster Knowledge Creation and Innovation.” Our strategic vision enacts our state’s commitment to workforce and economic development by cultivating our strengths in two-year education, building local partnerships with Missoula and the region, and continuing to conduct research that contributes substantially to the Montana economy.
The third core MUS goal compels us to “improve institutional and system efficiency and effectiveness.” While this goal is reflected most clearly in two of our strategic opportunities—“Engage Students Where They Are” and “Invest in People”— our strategic vision as a whole advances a culture of efficiency and effectiveness. We enact this MUS goal through our stated commitment to resourcefulness: our future as an institution and the future of the MUS depend greatly on our ability to identify efficiencies and to promote administrative effectiveness on each of our campuses.
Overview of Content
What follows is a roadmap that represents our collective aspirations. Our mission provides a framework for ongoing strategic thinking and decision making; our vision for the future sets an aspirational direction; our four principles provide a compass to guide our behaviors and choices; our five strategic opportunities set specific direction for continual prioritization and mission-aligned decision making. Honoring our strengths, these strategic opportunities represent promising areas for an exceptional, distinctive future.
Our new vision, principles, and strategic opportunities are actionable only if we—as individuals committed to a shared institutional vision—commit to strategic action. In both short term and long term planning, and in both budgetary and programmatic thinking, we must align our strategic processes, decisions, and outcomes with the initiatives outlined in this general platform for a sustainable future. To achieve this vision, we also must boldly reimagine how we operate fiscally and culturally.