During the past century, Western Connecticut State University has evolved from a small normal school to a comprehensive public university in one of the nation’s most dynamic regions. Our strengths are obvious: a dedicated faculty and staff, a commitment to student learning, a responsibility for improving our physical surroundings, and truly boundless potential.
In August 2004, WestConn was poised to begin new initiatives. With the appointment of a new president, Dr. James W. Schmotter, the university was at an exciting junction in its history. The challenge was to maximize that energy by translating it into a successful venture for the university.
Within weeks of Dr. Schmotter’s arrival, a Values and Vision Task Force was formed (see Attachment 1 for list of members). The 15-member group was comprised of a cross-section of university employees and was given a clear mission: to develop a process that would engage university stakeholders in a series of structured community dialogues. The hope was that these conversations would prove useful in helping to clarify WestConn’s self-identity and perception while identifying key opportunities.
View Members of the Task Force
View List of Stakeholder Groups Interviewed
View List of Major Themes
View Themes presented at Stakeholder's Conference
Academics Breakout Session
Community Breakout Session
Identity Breakout Session
Resources Breakout Session
Students Breakout Session
(SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2004)
In October last year, members of the Values and Vision Task Force began working on a process to engage the university’s stakeholders in conversations. The process involved defining responsibilities of group members, agreeing on a structure for data collection and analysis, organizing stakeholder questions, developing demographic sheets for each constituent group and arranging a schedule for open meetings with representatives of all the university stakeholder groups: faculty, staff, students, and external constituents (alumni and parents; leaders of arts, business, government, health; and K-12 education organizations).
The questions were developed around three themes:
- What does WestConn do well now?
- What can WestConn improve upon? and
- What do the various stakeholder groups expect from the university in the future?
- When you think of Western Connecticut State University, what comes to your mind first? (Why WestConn?)
- What does WestConn do especially well?
- What about WestConn makes you proud (to go to school here, to work here, to send your son or daughter here, to have the university in your community, etc.)?
- When you think about WestConn, do you have any concerns? If yes, what are they?
- What should WestConn pay greater attention to?
- What changes in WestConn would you like to see in the next 5 to 10 years?
- In 5 to 10 years, what would you like to be able to tell a student about why he or she should choose WestConn over other schools?
- What would you like to see as the main reason for future faculty and staff to accept positions at WestConn rather than other schools?
- What is WestConn's role in the community? What should be WestConn's role in the community?
- What two or three words best capture the essence of WestConn?
Below is a timeline for the process development phase:
- Values and Vision Committee meeting began with general stakeholder discussions
- Development of Values and Vision questionnaire and demographic forms
- Trial interviews were conducted and information on forms were completed and finalized.
(NOVEMBER 2004 – FEBRUARY 2005)
Members of the Task Force held a series of structured community dialogues with the university’s stakeholders. On the campus, the meetings involved faculty, staff and students. Off-campus, similar sessions were organized with groups representing government, business, the arts, social services, K-12 education, alumni, and many others identified as important stakeholder groups (see Attachment 2 for a complete list of group participants).
The goal of these conversations was to help identify common themes that would shape WestConn’s identity and priorities as the university moves forward. These themes would then be further discussed and clarified in a “Stakeholders Conference” to which all participants in the process would be invited.
The conversations involved collecting stakeholder group demographics and stakeholder group responses to the ten questions developed during the process phase.
The more than sixty conversations with about 350 respondents on campus and off yielded remarkable results. Based on information collected and analyzed from the data, major theme areas were discussed and developed for further exploration during the Stakeholders Conference scheduled for Saturday, March 5 (see Attachment 3 for complete list of major themes developed).
Below is a timeline for the implementation phase:
- First round of group interviews were conducted; and
- Coding and demographic data analysis began.
- Second round of group interviews conducted;
- Development of major themes/questions from data information for Stakeholders Conference; and
- Continuation of data collection and analysis.
MARCH 5, 2005
More than 120 individuals assembled in Warner Hall on Saturday, March 5, for WestConn’s Stakeholders Conference. Many had participated in one of the 65 group conversations about the university’s strengths and weaknesses conducted during the past few months; all were interested in the results of the work that involved collating, coding and interpreting more than 3,000 pieces of data.
Dr. David Brown, Provost Emeritus of Wake Forest University and former president of the University of North Carolina-Asheville, was the keynote speaker (see Attachment 4 for conference agenda). Dr. Brown, one of the nation’s most thoughtful observers of higher education and its future, delivered a presentation that engaged and inspired all attendees.
After Dr. Brown’s presentation, those assembled listened to overviews presented by Values and Vision Task Force members in five areas: academics, students, community, identity and resources (see Attachment 5 for overviews presented). The larger meeting was then adjourned and attendees participated in breakout sessions about any of the five areas of interest to them. Members of the Task Force moderated those sessions.
The outcome from each breakout session at the conference can be found in Attachment 6.
CONCLUSIONS & NEXT STEPS
It is the hope and recommendation of the members of the Task Force that the information collected throughout this process will be useful in identifying and articulating a shared vision for WestConn.
Further strategic planning, directed by WCSU’s University Planning and Budgeting Committee, will develop goals and objectives to strengthen these four “pillars” of institution.
In addition, a summary of all input received in the “Values and Vision” process will ground continuous improvement consistent with this institutional identify at the department and school level. Vice presidents, deans and department heads are encouraged to continue dialogue within their units to accomplish this.
The “Values and Vision” summaries will also form the foundation for a retreat of senior staff and academic leadership to identify areas for strategic attention that cross organizational boundaries. Action teams will be assigned to develop goals and objectives for addressing these areas. One team is already in place for the development of a new school of the arts.
The data coding process and demographic analysis were completed in March 2005. The general reported themes and questions were the results of the data analysis shared during the March 5 Stakeholders Conference.
Members of the Values & Vision Task Force
April 1, 2005
G. Koryoe Anim-Wright, University Relations
Colleen Delaney, Nursing
Marcy Delcourt, Education (Co-Chair)
Tim Doran ('05), Student Trustee
Cat Ferrigno ('05), SGA President
Maureen Gernert, Career Services
Ed Hagan, English
Larry Hall, Admissions
Fernando Jimenez, Music
Karen Koza, Marketing
Vijay Nair, Library
Tom Philbrick, Biology
Steve Roscoe, MBA Student
Janette Santizo, MBA Student
James Schmotter, President's Office (Co-Chair)
Fred Tesch, Management
Linda Vaden-Goad, Arts & Sciences
Graduate (Masters Degree, Doctoral Degree)
Student Government Association
Ancell School of Business
Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences
School of Professional Studies
Extended President's Advisory Council
Administrative & Residual
Business Leaders/Ancell CEO Forum
Concerned Black Men
Danbury School and Business Collaborative
Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership
Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce
Greater Danbury Non-Profit Group
Mayor Boughton and City Officials
Western Connecticut Superintendents' Association
- How do we want WestConn's academic community to be developed and nurtured?
- How do we want to develop a stronger sense of community at WestConn?
- How can we get to know each other better and work together more closely?
- What do we want our image to be in the next five to 10 years?
- How can we develop/enhance our current resources (human, financial and physical)?
- What attracts students to WestConn?
- What kind of event programming would you like to see on campus during weekends?
ATTACHMENT 4 ( Agenda for Stakeholders Conference)
9 a.m. Welcome
9:10 a.m. Keynote: Dr. David Brown
9:45 a.m. Presentation of Task Force findings
10:15 a.m. Breakout sessions
11:15 a.m. Summaries of breakout sessions
- Graduate or Undergraduate
- Interdisciplinary Curricula
- Teaching vs. Research
- Academic Definition of a WestConn Graduate
- Excellence in What?
- Student Services
- College Experience
- Opportunity for Advancement
(Study Abroad/Financial Aid/Recognition)
- Community Involvement
(Student-Faculty Connection/Student-Community Collaborations/Extra-Curricular Activities)
- More Linkages & Connections
(With Schools/Internships/Partnerships with Corporations/Coordination with Danbury)
- Be the Cultural, Social & Intellectual Leader
(Classes & Programs for Life-Long Learning/Share Facilities/Increased Social Awareness)
- Improve the Environment
(College Town/Improve Neighborhoods & WCSU Facilities/Promote Health & Wellness)
- Value for Money
- Give Opportunities
- Student - Centered
(Teaching Institution/Small Classes/Accessible Faculty)
- Best Kept Secret
ATTACHMENT 6 (List of Conference Outcomes from Breakout Sessions)
The big picture ideas need to be both simple and bold.
Big idea : WestConn Education: Learn to Work; Work to Learn.
Instead of carping fruitlessly about the number of hours students work, we should change the nature and goal of that work and bind that work to the academic work of the students.
- Students should do work in their fields, on-campus or in internships. Integrate students into the "behind the doors" activities of the program. Students should not simply enroll in the program; they need to become a part of it.
- Tie in-service learning to work. (Part of making work meaningful. Stir idealism.)
- Create bridges between curriculum and what happens upon graduation. Capitalize on "alumni return experiences" to help students appreciate what life will be after graduation. Integrate these "experiences" programmatically.
- Expand students' horizons by capitalizing on proximity to New York in terms of work opportunities and opportunities for learning there.
- Rather than mildly encouraging interdisciplinary programs, insist on them, and reward success.
- Expanding horizons means broadening our students for a diverse world.
- Faculty and student scholarship must be collaborative.
- Grad programs are, for the most part, professional education; but grad programs should be more integrated with undergrad programs. (A thought: four- or five-year programs that lead to the bachelor's and master's degrees in that time period. Throw in teacher certification with that and required summer and/or intersession study.)
- An important part of the educational experience of undergrads should be rubbing shoulders and learning from the graduate students. Make grad-undergrad interaction part of the fabric of the programs. Encourage it and reward it.
Each bullet summarizes a speaker's comments:
- We need to know more about changing demographics in our area, and real estate agents might be a source of such information.
- There should be freshman year core courses to serve as a basis for next three years: seminars; a specific set of required courses.
- Where do we want to be in each discipline?
- Attrition Rates are high-an obstacle to program development.
- Maximize available technology/create technology as and interdisciplinary, creative activity
- Big Idea: Serving a diverse community/world
- NYC, service-learning, technology
- Diversity: across department lines
- Geographic advantages: diversity.
- Teaching is a value in itself.
- Admissions requirements must be made tougher.
- We should think of the Metro-North service area as our service area and should become the institution of choice in that area. We need to consider how to maximize our NYC proximity, but we're not in NYC.
- Service Learning: given our students' heavy employment needs, service learning has questionable value.
- The students' work lives, while at college, should be related to education: we need to integrate learning with work.
- Cooperative education: students need to get jobs in areas of major interest.
- Strong support services may help with freshmen/sophomore retention.
- Outward focus-what can our students do on the outside? How do we give our students an advantage based on who and where we are? How do we make student work an advantage?
- We need to work on transition to life after WCSU.
- Faculty and student scholarship should be a way to integrate work with studies.
- The way we teach and the depth of the teaching are critical to achieving this synthesis of work and learning.
- Privileged education: students can benefit from knowing what the expertise of faculty actually can do for them.
- We have great programs in many areas, such as information security, that many students are unaware of.
- Grad programs can assist undergrad programs.
- WCSU started as pre-professional education: grad programs are in line with this focus.
- Service learning should be an alternative to alienated and cynical lives. An interdisciplinary academic focus can assist in this way.
- Market exists for Master's degrees/credentials, but research facilities are not up to the need. We need to focus on the undergrad programs.
- Resources dictate undergrad focus.
- Grad programs raise the bar for undergrad programs.
- Grad/undergrad is an artificial distinction.
- Lack of resources robs from undergrad courses.
- Geographic problem: no other institution around to offer the grad programs necessary, for example, for teachers. Some grad programs are "cash cows."
- Undergraduate research is a form of teaching: interdisciplinary, team, service-related research. Get students to work together and with faculty.
- Get students involved immediately upon arrival in research.
- We should be a mini-UConn: we can't depend on the state. We have to get the resources. We need projects that will bring in soft money.
Be the Cultural, Social, and Intellectual Leader
- Classes and programs (ie. Knitting, Esl) during the day
- Senior Citizens - free on a seat available basis
- A site for dialogue and conversation
- Promote and increase social awareness (ie. Race, environment)
- Promote the faculty and staff as experts
- Share the facilities (i.e. Library, Planetarium)
- Create more student service learning projects
- Make this a safe haven for teens in the community
- Create monthly brown bag lunches to create conversation
- Have students work with small businesses and create marketing plans etc. like what was done with TBIECO
- Create a centralized point on campus to coordinate and gather campus information
Improve the Environment
- Improve the visual image of Danbury
- Discuss some of the zoning concerns
- Work with the community to establish community gardens, green lots, and organic foods
- Provide food to homeless shelters
- Work with the hospital to create low interest shared parking between the hospital and the university
- Work with the local ethnic communities to promote wellness and other issues
- Improve the building both on and off campus
- Have both university and hospital staff serve on Boards of Directors
- Create student enterprises (across the street and/or former George Sam's)
- Create and inviting environment between here and downtown (bike walks, walk ways)
- Create partnerships with corporations
- Establish Danbury as a college town
More linkages and connections
- Student service learning k-12 (centralized)
- More information sharing
- Assessment for both the university and the community
- Remove communication barriers
- Create a weekly publication and/or information bulletin for the community of campus events and activities
- Don't be reluctant to share information regarding future plans and development there might be potential win/win possibilities for both the community and university (i.e. did we create dialogue with the hospital before creating a science building?)
- More mentoring provided for after school programs
- What is our role regarding the fact that the local YMCA is closing? Do we offer some of the services normally provided by the "Y" to the community?
- Do we offer free or reduced pricing for community groups to use the facilities?
C. Identity Breakout Session
Value for the money
- Students come to WestConn because they feel it is affordable and accessible. However, when they get here, they stay because they realize just how good the university is.
- Do students feel that it is a privilege to be here?
- Negative side of advertising our low cost: If you sell something cheap, it can be perceived as having no value -- no quality.
- If students are worried about the rising cost of education, they should be urged to contact their state representatives to vote to fund education.
- Find a way for high school students to want to come to WestConn. Money is not the only reason (yes we are accessible); they should come for other reasons as well.
- A required service-learning initiative here would be another interesting thing to look at. Advantage for students to be out in community so communities can get to know our students - through internships, etc.
- Making students better at whatever they do in the future.
- Enhance quality of life in all ways (music, education, leaning, living, etc.).
- Some students may think of WestConn as a back-up option, but once they get here, they decide to stay.
- Graduating nursing students have 100 % employment rate.
- We should think of marketing to students outside our geographic area. One professor who lives in Guilford said she was told that there was an unwritten rule about turfs. WestConn is seen in that area as a better alternative than Eastern.
- Some advocated laptops for everyone; other saw it as leading to potential problems and could backfire. Causes problems when the technology they had as freshmen is not what they need as juniors and seniors.
- Relationship with professors.
- Small classes.
- Won't get lost.
- Professors care.
- Outstanding programs/faculty/students that lead to success.
Best kept secret
- We should take advantage of proximity to NYC.
- We are competing with other negative things going on. Around our area, high school students think it's a 'back up' school with negative messages there. Need to overcome negative image first.
- When you go on the road to compete: no one knows us beyond certain geographic areas. Need resources to get the word out.
- On the billboards, why not put Western Connecticut State University instead of WCSU? Ineffective way of advertising [people may not know what WCSU stands for].
- Market better what we have. Wonderful/incredible faculty and staff. Do we market that in our view books, etc?
- Messages: what marketing messages should we be sending out? Faculty accomplishments? We do not a focused message - everyone wants their program and/or event marketed.
- We need a marketing identity plan.
- People who live in NY State have no idea about WestConn, ten miles away. Identity is a huge issue in bringing the public up to speed about the university.
- More communication, marketing, resources.
- Rent our facilities out as a way of connecting folks to the campus.
- We are not "best kept secret" in certain programs: music, nursing, and education are known outside of our area. Graduates identify with [their] programs.
- Need resources [for effective marketing].
- WestConn now has campus feel: so many changes and folks don't know about it. Find a way to bring them here so that they can find out about us and leave with wonderful, positive feelings - something to help showcase campus.
- International education would fit well with departmental (?) studies. Incorporating that with history, languages and art will also get to diversity among students and staff - international diversity so we really become aware of the world.
- Great interest in community about diversity, ethnic studies, etc.
- Creation of folk-life center (bring in visiting scholars, international students - almost every state in the country has a folk-life, folklore center). Folk life festival could be component of this. Bring public on campus to explore idea of ethnic identity already in the community. [We should have a] School of arts and world music.
Big ideas (!)
- University of experts (in their fields) and you (the student) have access to those experts. Marketing: picture of experts with students.
- Regional school with global vision - education for future of the world.
- We can sell our own departments: big ideas can get across departments. Deciding upon them and pulling things together under those areas, we can sell it better. Departments can then come up with ways to express what they do in relation to the BIG idea.
- Wellness initiative - really working at mind-body-spirit connection.
- Tap into world famous musicians, etc. - annual arts festival.
- Athletics - actively goes out (tri-state area) to recruit, etc. Has achieved regional success; need to get students to come here to make connection with coach.
- Arts could be a major theme.
i. Human Resources
Questions Based on the Data from the Interviews
In What Ways Might We . . .
Attract quality students to our programs?
Have more open house activities
Better students lead to better faculty and vice versa
Get out more information about the university?
Have more and better promotion about why a student should come here
Support talent development initiatives for faculty, staff, and students?
Have more support for new initiatives, people are afraid to take risks because they get blamed for what goes wrong; understand the implications of promoting risk taking
Be proactive about improving the university; share the responsibilities with less blaming
Encourage people to be more creative; do not simply follow the status quo; i.e., apply for a CQIA (Connecticut Quality Improvement Award)
Provide support for improving the curriculum we already have, we might not always need to create new courses
We need to feel supported- faculty, staff, and students
We need to improve morale
Have more support services for everyone
Provide support for the department and program review process, there is not enough help for these activities, such as for NEASC
Recognize achievements of members of the university community?
Support excellence at the university; establish clear, consistent, valued, and attainable criteria; make sure that everyone knows the criteria for excellence in their respective departments
Make better use of classroom resources?
Be sure that everyone at the university knows how to find out about classroom resources
Encourage more/better relationships between and among our faculty, staff and students?
Have more opportunities to meet to discuss what is happening, such as this meeting
Help students access the human and material resources that they need?
Design a FAQ list and include it in the university phone directory and on the web
- Streamline hiring process
- Employee recidivism issues -need to keep good employees
- In fairness to WCSU employees and for recruitment and retention, explore opportunity to establish market differential for salary within the CSU system
- Performance based compensation (more substantial)
Questions Based on the Data from the Interviews
In What Ways Might We...
Bring all stakeholders together as we look at the future of the new facilities?
Bring all interested parties together when decisions are made; i.e., the maintenance staff should inform the selection of flooring for future clean-up, they should also be informed of changes in accessories such as soap dispensers so the new materials match the restocking supplies
Articulate all standards needed for the facilities?
Establish appropriate standards and make them available to everyone; i.e., there are security standards that need to be reviewed when a building is planned- the police can not adequately plan security for a building that does not have adequate lighting and/or has landscaping in inappropriate places
Be sure that all procedures are available to faculty and staff; i.e., what to do if furniture is broken in a classroom, or if a printer does not function
Obtain resources to extend the present hours of many of the facilities?
Make sure facilities are available when students need them; i.e., graduate students need to use the library during the breaks, facilities such as the food services need to be open in case of a snow emergency
Improve all customer services to students, faculty, and staff; be sure that all information is maintained on the web so it is current
Broaden the schedule of the rolling facilities (bus system)?
Presently the bus system operates only on the undergraduate class schedule, the bus schedule should also include other opportunities to travel between campuses and within Danbury
Improve the transportation system, students need to get to other places in Danbury such as the mall
1. How can WCSU better prepare to tackle the challenges of funding?
- Current funds are dependent on enrollment.
- Look at enrollment increase - at what point is it costing us more?
- We need strategic enrollment management
- Examine research as a future funding source. It needs to be examined relative to our mission/ recognize trade-offs - costs of replacing faculty
- Financial Aid has to be looked at in terms of state, federal and private aid.
- Explore new methods like tuition discounting.
- Tuition is "still a bargain".
- Improve the understanding of the "economic model" (of funding to the university), even within the university community, as well as the general community.
- Allow offices to be more entrepreneurial
- 2 Point Plan: 1. Get as much money as we can
2. Use it well
2. What opportunities are there to develop new funding sources?
- Increase and obtain new philanthropic gifts from individuals and
- Develop entrepreneurial opportunities for funding with corporations
- From a resource point of view the university has the advantage of geography:only public university; also have location of Fairfield County and nearness to New York City .
- Examine what students value (ex. getting a better job)
- Ask the business community what they are looking for; what backgrounds students should have.
- Have seminars, classroom presentations that get executives in the classroom.
- Anticipate the needs of business
- Build relationships with the community
- Build partnerships with local corporations to provide services such as tech classrooms, corporate training
3. How should the university handle the allocation of resources? (to programs, departments, services, etc.)
- Allocation of Human Resources including support staff as well as faculty has to be reviewed.
- Demand for full-time faculty vs. part-time faculty to be examined
- Balancing needs
- Identifying special need/program - establish what WestConn is/will be known for
- Build $ Partnerships
- Not everything is equal. Determine areas of excellence. Align resources accordingly
- More decentralized process/ financial. Let departments, deans determine utilization of their budgets.
- Timeline of resource allocation has to be examined
- Must be willing to make hard choices
- Need operational resources
How can we improve upon student services?
- Look at current student services. Dining assessable. Food technology.
- Find out from students what they are looking for.
- Quality of food. Use dietitian. More options for vegetarians. Better Management of food service. More food options at Westside campus.
- Look at price of food. Make it affordable for students. Labor constraints. Friendly and personable environment, with longer hours. Customer Service.
- Connecting with students. Short term vs. long term.
- Keeping café open longer. Food that accommodates specific diets.
- Cultural constraints
- Extending hours of library.
- Advisement for more than undeclared students. Students unable to find advisor.
- More information for students.
- Lotus notes. Students all having an email account. Ability to communicate.
- Flexible schedules and physical presence.
- Wireless connection
- What will it take to build a vibrant student community 7 days a week?
- Bulletin Board set up. Website that lists events. Schedule of events on the weekends.
- Students are unaware of how to use the lotus notes account. More information on how to use it.
- Group of people who advertise the activities on the weekends. Preexisting groups. Positive messages that promote alternatives to drinking. More communication.
- Communication within the departments and residence halls. Assignments that utilize resources, such as lotus notes. Building communities within groups, such as freshmen residence halls. Commuter conscious. Faculty using email and promoting it to students. Accountability for students being unable to contact advisors.
- Workshops that train students on how to use resources. Better marketing to sell programs and resources. Freshmen seminar.
- Make lotus notes more accessible at home.
- More social activities 7 days a week.
- More fitness equipment. More attention to personal health and fitness.
- Incorporate students and business department. Clubs that can generate funds that support health. Incorporate the community.
- Have P.A.C. do more programming on the weekends. Get students to stop going home and to attend events. Find out why they are going home.
- Communicate from within the classroom. Central website to communicate to students. Common hour.
- Planning programs earlier. Use message board at Westside.
- Encourage more academic student life collaboration. Tie student life into the classroom.
How can we nurture opportunities for learning and personal growth?
- More cultural awareness.
- Exchange program. More funding.
- Collaboration with J.G.I.
- More understanding to students what a cultural experience the exchange program is.
- Faculty and students creating programs for abroad.
- Students share ideas to faculty so the faculty understand what the students want
How can we strengthen and amplify internal and external community involvement?
- Work around students schedule and understand their work schedule. Community Service to get students involved with. Involve the community more. Community investment.
- Have students work in the area. Marketing for businesses in exchange for job opportunities for students.
- Advertising, starting from within high schools.