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Strategic Plan Assessment:

Goal 2 - Location
5/1/12

Introduction

In 2007 Western Connecticut State University established a strategic plan which identified six strategic goals. They are: Outstanding Faculty; Location; Diverse University Community; Range of Quality Academic Programs; Student-Focused Environment; and Affordability. To track progress, the practice of an annual report of accomplishments from each discipline was implemented.

This report addresses the progress made toward Goal 2, Location: “Create opportunities for students and faculty by capitalizing on Western Connecticut State University’s location in Danbury, Connecticut, a New England city characterized by its economic vibrancy and its diverse citizenry, as well as our proximity to the educational and cultural riches of New York City.”

Project Objective

The theme of Goal 2 refers to “the ways in which WCSU capitalizes on its location to create notable opportunities for student learning and service to our external communities.” The charge of this project team was to answer the question: “Are we really taking advantage of our location?” The project team primarily focused its examination on student learning. That is, does WestConn’s location / environment foster the intellectual and personal development of the students it serves? The impact of location on faculty recruitment and student enrollment were also explored.

Data Sources for Measuring Achievement of Strategic Goal 2:

WCSU has a variety of indicators for leveraging location to enhance student learning. The following list is representative of the data sources available to the team and considered in this assessment.

Primary sources:*

  • Informal Survey of WCSU Students, April 2012
  • Informal Survey of recently hired faculty, April 2012
  • Student Focus Group, March 2012
  • Interviews with selected faculty and staff, April 2012
  • Review of a sampling of marketing communications materials

*All conducted by this assessment team during the Spring of 2012.

Secondary sources:

  • Strategic Plan, President’s Office, April 11, 2007
  • WCSU Annual reports
  • State of the University 2008-2011, James Schmotter
  • Strategic Plan Progress Report
  • HR information regarding compensation and cost of living
  • Quality Measures for Full Time Undergrads (SATs, retention, 6-year graduation rate)
  • Co-op / Internship Information with regard to location, Dr. Anthony Ciarleglio, 2012
  • Career Fair Information, 2011, Career Development Center
  • Undergraduate Admissions Application, 2012
  • List of Peers Institutions, President’s Office
  • Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE, 2010 and NSSE 2011)
  • The New York Times, “Beneath Connecticut’s Image of Affluence, Deep Fiscal Pain,” June 29, 2011
  • News Times.com, “Blumenthal Correct in Calling Danbury Example for Other Cities,” April 11, 2012
  • News Times “A Varied College Presence Enhances Danbury’s Downtown Renaissance,” Feb 14, 2012

The assessment is based on information available to the project team during the time of the study. Other sources may exist.

Background

Danbury is a diverse city with a population of 79,743 (as of 2009) which is an increase of 6.5% over 2000. It lies within easy access of the business centers of Boston and Hartford, but it is its proximity to Manhattan that makes it a prime spot for corporate headquarters. Danbury is home to the headquarters of Ethan Allen Interiors, Praxair, a maker of industrial gases and Scholastic Library Publishing Inc., a division of Scholastic Inc. Other companies located in Danbury include ATMI, Cartus, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pitney Bowes, Danbury Hospital and G.E. Commercial Finance. Additionally, its proximity to New York City makes Danbury and surrounding communities attractive to artists, actors, musicians and scholars.

Danbury Fair Mall, one of New England’s largest shopping centers, is a shopping destination for residents of Fairfield County and Westchester County in New York. Danbury CityCenter is also a hub for shopping, dining and culture. Public transportation is available and access to airports and trains is relatively easy.

The greater Danbury area boasts an abundance of natural resources and other amenities which make it an attractive place to live, work and play. Among these are: Candlewood Lake; Tarrywile Park, Ives Concert Park; Bear Mountain Reservation and others too numerous to mention.

Western’s presence and role in the community has not gone unnoticed. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, in a recent visit to Danbury, noted that a cornerstone of Danbury’s revitalized downtown is the strong education component.

A few noteworthy facts/trends that provide the current context for the strategic plan:

  • Since 2005, Western’s enrollment has increased more than 25%, though an enrollment decline was experienced in the current academic year;
  • Governance changes - transition from a Board of Trustees to a Board of Regents that couples the state universities with the community colleges under one governing body;
  • The creation of articulation agreements and standardized core competencies between the state universities and community colleges is in progress;
  • A NEASC self-study, in preparation for an onsite visit and re-accreditation, is underway;
  • Direct state support of Connecticut higher education continues to decline;
  • Groundbreaking on a new School of Visual and Performing Arts instructional center took place in Oct. 2011 with completion scheduled for Fall 2014;
  • Fairfield County is one of the highest cost of living areas in the U.S.;
  • Communication, in general, is undergoing a fundamental transformation with consumers and businesses adding digital media, social networks and mobile technology to their list of available channels;

    The introduction of “Apps” to cell phone and tablet computing has created tremendous potential for learning and engagement;

  • Location based - service, marketing;
  • Concept of “location” is being impacted by disruptive technology.          

    For example, in subjects ranging from human behavior to linguistics, Stanford University lectures captured on audio and video and offered on Stanford's iTunes U have been downloaded 50 million times. The milestone, reached March 14, comes nearly seven years after Stanford became the first university to offer public access to campus lectures, concerts and courses through iTunes U.

    Webcasting has also had an impact on the delivery of scholarly information and artistic content. Concert goers, for example, are no longer tied to attending live events due to the popularity of webcasting. Location becomes irrelevant when the audience has the ability to experience a live event in the comfort of their homes.

  • Customers control the conversation. Your brand--who you are--is what your customers and prospects say you are. Every person has a global publishing platform in her back pocket.

All of these changes are occurring at a time of tremendous financial strife. Consider this New York Times headline: “Beneath Connecticut’s Image of Affluence, Deep Fiscal Pain,” The New York Times, June 29, 2011.

GOAL - A recap of Goal 2 and its related objectives

Strategic Goal #2 - Location: Create opportunities for students and faculty by capitalizing on Western Connecticut State University’s location in Danbury, Connecticut, a New England city characterized by its economic vibrancy and its diverse citizenry, as well as our proximity to the educational and cultural riches of New York City.

OBJECTIVES

As stated in the 2007 Strategic Plan, these are the specific outcomes that were to be achieved:

2.1 Enhance the teaching and learning environment for WCSU students and faculty by developing and drawing on relationships with prominent organizations and individuals in the region in areas spanning the arts, sciences, business, other professional programs and technology.

2.2 Take advantage of and seek opportunities for integrating global perspectives into curricular and co-curricular activities that emanate from the cultural diversity of the NY/CT metropolitan area.

2.3 Establish additional career development and placement opportunities for students by drawing more effectively on business, artistic, scientific, and other professional resources available to the university community.

2.4 Implement a robust fundraising program for scholarships, the general endowment, university programs, centers, and other needs. Position the university for fundraising with individuals and organizations in Fairfield, Litchfield, Westchester, and Putnam Counties, New York City and other opportunistic locations.

2.5 Develop and implement a comprehensive governmental affairs program, with emphasis on state and local (town-gown) relationships and programs. Work with area legislators to gain their support for the university’s mission-related role in the community and unique economic realities.

2.6 Publicize our regional distinctiveness.

2.7 Leverage location-based opportunities to secure grants for university initiatives from federal, state, and private funders.

MEASURES

In order to assess the extent to which progress has been made in the achievement of this goal, the assessment team first sought to identify a set of baseline measures, established at the time the strategic plan was launched, as a point of comparison with the current state.

While the team did not find a specific metric(s) for each of the objectives, there is ample qualitative reporting on which to base an opinion. The team also reviewed a set of generally accepted university performance indicators (i.e. - SATs, graduation rates, retention rates and other measures).

 

Overall Assessment of Goal 2

Includes Highlights from State of the University 2008-2011

 

2.1 Enhance the teaching and learning environment                                                              

WCSU takes advantage of its enviable location to enhance student learning in a variety of ways. Theatre students perform annually in a Manhattan “Broadway Showcase.” MFA students exhibit their works in a gallery in SOHO. Trips to New York museums and art galleries are standard elements of fine arts and world languages courses. Honors Students enjoy exclusive visits to the UN. WCSU also brings some of the finest musicians, artists, and actors to campus annually for concerts and master classes, including Chick Corea, Jim Hall, John Scofield, Anna Poor, Dan Dos Santos, and Tom Kidd. Additionally, WCSU hosts numerous speakers on campus including corporate CEOs, social activists, filmmakers, artists, musicians, actors, authors, and the state attorney general among others.

WCSU hosts numerous speakers on campus including corporate CEOs, social activists, filmmakers, authors, the state attorney general and authors among others.

The Social Sciences Department is engaged with Green Chimneys and the department sponsors a local chapter of Roots & Shoots.

The university promotes community engagement by encouraging students to be active in Danbury and the region. During the past academic year, WCSU students dedicated more than 100,000 hours offered in volunteer service.

Taking advantage of easy access to the New York metropolitan region and the corridor between Danbury and Boston, various student clubs made the most of WestConn’s convenient location. Between 2007 and 2011, 86 trips were sponsored to a wide variety of locations and a diverse collection of activities. From Broadway shows and trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to ski trips to Vermont, and aquariums to hockey games, students benefited from club sponsored trips both inside and outside the region.

The assessment team believes that it is important to have an ongoing, quantitative survey of student satisfaction with the teaching and learning environment, and the overall WestConn experience. The team  is not aware of this specific type of survey of customer satisfaction.

Among the best indicators of academic strength are an institution’s retention and graduation rates.

Graduation Rates

 

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

WCSU

 

 

 

 

 

6-yr. graduation rate

39%

41%

40%

44%

40%

Peer Institutions

 

 

 

 

 

Clarion

 

 

 

 

52.2%

Framingham

 

 

 

 

49.2%

Indiana Univ.

 

 

 

 

26%

Rutgers Univ.

 

 

 

 

58.5%

Shippensburg Univ.

 

 

 

 

63.3%

SUNY Fredonia

 

 

 

 

63%

SUNY Plattsburgh

 

 

 

 

54.1%

Univ. Michigan

 

 

 

 

36.2%

Univ. of Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

54.9%

Worcester State

 

 

 

 

46.9%

SUNY Purchase

 

 

 

 

50.7%

Retention Rates

 

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

WCSU

 

 

 

 

 

1st year retention rate

73%

74%

70%

75%

71%

Peer Institutions

 

 

 

 

 

Clarion

 

 

 

 

71.7%

Framingham

 

 

 

 

73.5%

Indiana Univ.

 

 

 

 

67.3%

Rutgers Univ.

 

 

 

 

76.8%

Shippensburg Univ.

 

 

 

 

72%

SUNY Fredonia

 

 

 

 

81.4%

SUNY Plattsburgh

 

 

 

 

81.7%

Univ. Michigan

 

 

 

 

72.10%

Univ. of Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

74.90%

Worcester State

 

 

 

 

76.6%

SUNY Purchase

 

 

 

 

82%

 

WCSU SAT Scores of First Time Full-Time Undergrads

 

2007

2008

2009

2010

SAT Composite (Math + Verbal)

983

986

1004

997

Math

491

495

500

498

Verbal

492

491

504

499

Writing

486

490

498

489

2.2 Take advantage of and seek opportunities for integrating global perspectives into curricular and co-curricular activities

International Student Exchange Program, WCSU Data

 

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

Fall 2012

# outgoing students

13

13

11

17

22

15

11

# incoming

7

5

4

3

10

11

8

World Languages and Literature program incorporates opportunities for immersion in foreign language, culture and art. Students describe their journeys as life changing experiences. Recent courses include the study of art in Florence and summer (2012) study in Spain focused on art and architecture, as well as contemporary human rights and immigration issues.

Established WCSU Macricostas Visiting Endowed Chair in Hellenic and Modern Greek Studies.

Appointed Dr. Chrysostomos (Tom) Kostopoulos to the position.

Dr. Kostopoulos spoke on "Unity in Diversity: Greece and the European Union Dilemma."

WCSU has hosted the Prime Minister of Tibet, the Roger Sherman Debate Team invited Tibetan Monks to demonstrate their traditional form of debate.

The university community looks forward to a visit in the Fall by His Holiness The Dali Lama.

2.3 Establish additional career development and placement opportunities for students

The 2011 Career Fair lists 56 participating companies covering a broad range of industry sectors and company sizes. Students across many disciplines participated.

The university has a robust Co-op and Internship program, having forged relationships with Fortune 500 corporations, small and medium-size businesses and not-for profits. Familiar names such as Boehringer -Ingelheim, Praxair, IBM, Sikorsky and Goodrich are among the businesses hosting WestConn students. Co-ops and internships nearly always occur within a 60 mile radius of Danbury. Recent placements reflect the following location breakdown: Greater Danbury, 60%; Norwalk/Stamford, 15%; New York City/NY State, 10%; and Waterbury/Hartford, 15%.

Official* Number of Participants in WCSU Co-ops and Internships

 

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Student Participants

114

107

109

90

*Official means students who are actually enrolled in CED 297. Actual numbers are higher due to a number of factors including: some academic departments conduct their own internships program; externships filled by recent graduates; employers who hire “interns” but do not report back to the Career Development Center.

The university hosts the annual Entrepreneur of the Year award program, giving students and faculty the chance to hear how successful entrepreneurs launched their businesses.

In the past 15 years, Ancell School of Business faculty and students have helped more than 45 regional businesses, industries and non-profits - both entrepreneurial start-ups and established companies - to improve their marketing and business plans.

2.4 Implement a robust fundraising program for scholarships, the general endowment, university programs, centers, and other needs.

 

 

FY07

FY08

FY09

FY10

FY11

$ scholarships raised per year

$390,575.78

$273,403.64

$423,230.08

$578,462.44

$267,002.32

$ endowed funds raised       

$393,409.50

$61,518.42

$18,250.00

$12,000.00

$1,500.00

$ unrestricted funds raised

$185,049.55

$220,089.33

$194,905.69

$118,808.79

$158,899.37

Total

$969,035.28

$555,011.39

$636,385.77

$709,271.23

$427,401.69

 

 

 

 

 

 

# scholarships awarded

102

156

197

132

185

$ total dollar scholarships awarded

$78,000

$157,000

$232,000

$136,000

$204,000

Currently, WCSU is working to leverage its strategic location to implement a fundraising program for scholarships, the general endowment, university programs, and other needs by conducting a feasibility study for a comprehensive campaign. If the campaign is initiated, fundraising goals will include support for scholarships, signature programs, and other needs as defined by the campaign committee and as identified by the consulting firm.             

2.5 Develop and implement a comprehensive governmental affairs program, with emphasis on state and local relationships

There are numerous community partnerships which provide strong evidence of WCSU’s commitment to mutually beneficial town-gown relationships. The Ives Concert Authority, Hubble Telescope 25th Anniversary and the Candlewood and Kenosia Lake partnerships are just a few examples.

According to senior staff, while not "comprehensive," the university has made progress in the past eight years in improving “town-gown” relations and relationships with legislators. For example, the One Book, One Community program was created, and the number of lectures and other programs to which the community is invited has increased. The Bridges program is a strong example of community outreach. Bridges has produced dramatic reductions in the number of students needing remediation in math and writing. It has also improved first year retention rates.

President Schmotter hosts annual legislative breakfasts that policy makers attend to learn about institutional  priorities. The President also has ongoing informal dialogue with legislators and gives testimony at the Capitol.

President’s Initiative Funds also facilitate the engagement of students in Danbury ethnic offerings and support the training of students as math tutors in Danbury schools.

The office of Student Affairs works with Danbury CityCenter and local businesses to promote the downtown Danbury area in various ways on campus and bring students into the community.

The Housatonic Cultural Alliance presented an award to the School of Visual and Performing Arts for enriching the creative environment and improving the quality of life in the region.

 

FY’07

FY’08

FY’09

FY’10

FY’11

FY’12

State Appropriations as a % of Expense

46.1%

45.7%

43.2%

42.3%

40.3%

36.3%

State Appropriations as a % of Expense, Budget FY07 - FY12; WCSU Office of Fiscal Affairs

2.6 Publicize our regional distinctiveness.

University publications describe the campus setting and surrounding environs.

A review of a sample of eleven marketing communications pieces was undertaken. Among these were the Viewbook, ads, posters and the recent School of Visual and Performing Arts booklet. The benefits of location, especially proximity to New York City, were clearly stated. The benefits of our location is discussed most in arts, theater and music related publications.

Key academic and innovative programs, outreach opportunities and enrichment initiatives were identified and promoted as part of the university’s branding and marketing initiatives (Fall 2008 report of accomplishments).

Publications were developed to complement enrollment management marketing efforts. Distinctive programs and relationships were highlighted.

Press releases to publicize regional distinctiveness were issued on programs such as: doctoral program in educational leadership; Master of Arts in Teaching; research on turtle migration; One Book, One Community program and others. An average of 20 releases per month were issued resulting in more than 150 placements in media outlets during 2008.

Many notable speakers were brought to campus.

An informal survey of 36 faculty, hired between 2005 - 2011, was conducted to determine the influence of location on their decision to work at WCSU. Of the eight respondents, 5 indicated that they are originally from Connecticut and like the geography; whereas 3 stated that, to be close to either their own family or that of their spouse, was the key driver.

A focus group of ten WCSU students was conducted in March 2012.

Question 1: Why did you choose Western?

  • Program (Nursing, Education, Theatre were mentioned specifically)
  • Of the four CSU’s, Western had the best program in my major
  • Honors Program and Dr. Kukk
  • Affordability
  • Close to home
  • Close to NYC
  • Close/convenient to I-84
  • Science Building
  • Safe campus
  • Professors teach classes, not research assistants.

Question 2: Now that you are at Western, what are some of the benefits of its location?

  • Danbury Hospital
  • Area Lakes for research (Candlewood)
  • Affordable housing
  • Far enough/close enough to home
  • Easy access to NYC
  • Main Street Danbury/CitiCenter
  • Trips to Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, all within 3 hours.
  • Family is close
  • Internships/working relationships with area businesses (IBM coop was mentioned).

It seems that WCSU’s location was not the main reason for students to choose the university for their education.  However, the students found the location to benefit their education once they arrived.

In informal discussions, students note that Hart Bus does not provide students with an easy / direct route to Danbury Fair Mall with a frequency to meet their needs. They report that the trip takes about an hour and that this makes it difficult to get to the Mall for jobs or entertainment.

While key information and accomplishments are consistently communicated to the university’s publics, the assessment team was unable to find any outcome measures such as brand perception or awareness.  It is possible to measure baseline awareness data among key audiences through an appropriate research methodology. Future progress can be measured against that baseline. The team believes that articulating the desired result, quantifying the desired outcome and implementing a quantitative study of brand perception on a regular basis will better inform the university of the effectiveness of these efforts and allow resources to be allocated accordingly.

2.7 Leverage location-based opportunities to secure grants for university initiatives

There are numerous examples of grants being awarded to faculty, staff and students for research and student programming. For example,
The CT Healthy Campus Initiative - $350K;
NCAA Winning Choices Project - $30K;
State Dept. of Health for Lyme Disease Research - $35K;
Fulbright Scholarships - three awarded to students in the last three years.

A search for a grants coordinator position is underway.

Conclusions, Questions & Recommendations

The university will only know to what extent it is achieving its long term goals if it has mechanisms in place to measure its progress. Therefore, each long term goal requires measures for which data can be consistently gathered, reported and acted upon. As the goals are complex it is likely that more than one measure will be needed.

What are the needs and expectations of the Customer?  We need more data; better questions on admissions application to determine relative importance on a number of dimensions including location. Paper applications need to match electronic applications for more controlled evaluation.

Many programmatic benefits of location are not well known by current students or faculty (outside of their domain). In order to increase enrollment based on location advantages, these benefits need to be better advertised and made known to the entire university community.

Ongoing research regarding the location dimension is not sufficient to support planning and evaluation. There is no systematic collection and use of data related to location.

The university does endeavor to enhance the community it serves. There are many indicators of success.
There is strong evidence of collaboration with community leaders.

The university’s ability to hire desired employment candidates is hindered by location related factors. This is due to Fairfield County being one of the highest cost of living areas in the US (Sperling’s Best Places reports that Danbury’s cost of living index is 134 compared to an index average of 100) coupled with current compensation plans and the lack of a location based salary differential within the state university system. There may be other factors outside the scope of this project.

The location impact on hiring may be different for varied disciplines. Depending on one’s personal circumstances, location may be a favorable criterion for the desire to work in Danbury (i.e. - local family ties). In the Visual and Performing Arts, for example, WCSU’s proximity to New York City mitigates, in most cases, the high cost of living.

Is the strategic plan really driving our activities? How can we know if the strategic plan is driving our activities? That is, are historic and on-going programs just continued and mapped, after the fact, to the strategic plan, or are the activities targeted, focused and supported with resources in direct alignment with the strategic plan? Need metrics, baseline, on-going measurement, assessment and accountability.

Overall, in the opinion of the team, while progress toward the achievement of the objectives for Goal 2 was made, there is opportunity for further improvement.

Recommendations

  1. Define the tasks involved in implementing an initiative, indicating who will do what by when, and how this activity will be resourced/funded, in order to achieve specific objective.
  2. More frequent reviews / progress reports - quarterly.
  3. Conduct brand awareness / image survey.
  4. Overarching communications plan. Internal and external audiences. Benefits of Western, talking points applicable to each student segment.
  5. Begin to formally survey prospective students, decliner students and current students about their selection criteria. Determine top criteria? How are they weighted? Currently questions exist in different formats on the admissions application but responses are not yet being tracked.
  6. Monitor / assess (scenario planning) our competitors who are increasing their footprint in our target markets (both desired student profile and geography). Consider preemptive tactics, or alter our product (mission).
  7. Implement an annual student satisfaction survey.
  8. Identify, monitor key trends.
  9. Implement a robust first year experience program based on benchmarking with peer institutions that can demonstrate measurable results.
  10. Utilize social media to promote the positive aspects of our strategic location to attract students and engage the community.
  11. Consistent publications for all dept/programs, produced by Pub and Design for clarity and consistency.
  12. If the admissions application no longer includes a question to determine applicant interest in a co-op/internship, consider including it.
    Rationale: When available, Career Development Center uses this data to recruit new employers and match students with an employer of interest.
  13. Explore accessibility of Danbury Fair Mall for students via public transportation. Does the Hart Bus schedule meet student needs?
  14. Develop a marketing plan that specifically promotes the positive aspects of our strategic location.
    Responsibility:
    Source of funds:
    Rationale:
  15. Better communicate the goals and achievements from each area of the university. Many annual reports omitted major accomplishments that could have been leveraged as recruiting material.
  16. Monitor developments in distance learning, identify opportunities and threats and act on them.
    Responsibility:
    Source of funds:
    Rationale:
  17. Track all strategy-related data in Banner so it can be reported and acted on.
    Responsibility:
    Source of funds:
    Rationale:
  18. Provide talking points to admissions, tour guides, faculty, regarding location aspects that highlight location advantages for various student segments.

Assessment Team Members:
Dan Goble, Dean School of Visual and Performing Arts; David Halek, Director Institutional Advancement (Chair); Carolyn Lanier, Diversity Officer; Dennis Leszko, Associate Director Student Life/Student Activities; Birte Selvaraj, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Students.

 

 

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