Strategic Planning

Unit-Level Strategic Planning

“As we approach the university’s 150th birthday — just five years from now — we must re-envision our land-grant role in the modern light of the 21st century.”

— President Michael V. Drake, Investiture Address, March 31, 2015


Large-scale strategic planning has long characterized Ohio State decision-making, investment, and institutional progress. In the last six years, however, strategic planning, with the leadership of the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA), has become more well defined, with processes clearly laid out and expectations transparent to all.

Strategic Planning and University Vision

  • All strategic planning is aligned with the university’s vision, mission, values, and its four core goals of teaching and learning, research and innovation, outreach and engagement, and resource stewardship.
  • To ensure that these institutional goals are being measured and met, scorecards have been created for use by the Board of Trustees. The scorecards are updated in advance of each Trustees’ meeting and then reviewed by the relevant Board committee. Adjustments are made as warranted. The posting of the scorecards on the OAA website exemplifies the open, transparent strategic planning culture embraced by the Board and supported by the university community.

College and Vice Presidential Unit Plans

  • Aligned with and supporting President Drake’s 2020 Vision, all 15 of Ohio State’s colleges and its four regional campuses and all of the vice presidential units at the university have fully developed, vetted strategic plans. These plans are posted on this website.
  • Their development was guided by ten foundational principles.
  • To support these philosophical underpinnings of unit-level strategic planning efforts, OAA has devised templates to guide the creation, revision, and implementation of the plans. These serve as guides, while allowing units flexibility to customize as appropriate.
  • Units also have other planning documents that complement their strategic plans—diversity and enrollments plans, for example—and help them implement their strategic vision.
  • To assist units in measuring progress toward their goals, relevant university offices, including Business and Finance, Diversity and Inclusion, Enrollment Services, Human Resources, and Institutional Research and Planning, routinely provide them with data as well as assistance in developing unit-appropriate metrics to measure outcomes and impacts and track progress.

Keeping Strategic Planning Current, Robust and Viable

  • To encourage an ongoing culture of strategic thinking and accountability, OAA requires new and/or reappointed deans and vice presidents who report to the executive vice president and provost to revise or reaffirm their strategic plan in the first year of their tenure in that new role. Vice presidents and deans typically engage the full range of their constituencies in considering the existing plan and possible revisions to it. Revisions are drafted and then approved according to unit-level processes.

    A copy of the revised plan is forwarded to OAA, where it receives a first review, led by the vice provost for academic and strategic planning. Adjustments are made, as necessary, then OAA sends the plan out for broader review by six to eight units across the university. These units will normally have some affinity with the unit whose plan is being reviewed. They are identified by the unit involved in partnership with OAA. An important goal of such a review is to increase awareness of the unit being reviewed and promote linkages across units that lead to collaborative opportunities. To cite one recent example, the College of Social Work’s plan was reviewed by the Colleges of Education and Human Ecology and Public Health, the Glenn College of Public Affairs, Ohio State at Lima, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Office of Outreach and Engagement, and OSU Extension.

    Reviewers are asked to provide feedback, guided by the following four questions:

    1. Did the plan clearly demonstrate the unit’s unique contribution in support of the university? Did the letter from the dean to the university community highlight the role of that unit? If your answer to either question is no, please explain.
    2. Did the plan provide an adequate internal and external scan of trends facing the unit? If not, how could the description of those trends be improved?
    3. Did the plan articulate clear strategic goals with specific targets? Did it adequately describe how these goals support the university’s core goals? If the answer to either question is no, what additional detail is needed?; and
    4. Can your unit help the unit being reviewed move its strategic agenda forward? How? Does the plan support and further the strategic goals of your unit? How?
    5. The vice provost sends the comments to the unit leader, who shares them within the unit. The name and contact information for each reviewer is included to ensure transparency and accountability, and conversation with the reviewers is encouraged by OAA. Final adjustments are made, as needed, and the plan is posted on the OAA strategic planning site.
  • At the college and vice presidential unit level, still other tools help leaders develop and update their strategic plans. For example, to keep its plan viable, each of these units has developed a list of its top ten goals for the next two to three years. The vice provost meets with each dean and vice president in the fall and again in the spring to discuss his or her goals and respond personally to questions, offer advice, and understand how best OAA can support the unit’s efforts to achieve those goals.
  • To promote accountability, deans’ annual reviews are based, in part, on their progress toward their goals.
  • College strategic planning is also informed by academic program reviews at the department level. These reviews include a self-study, an external review, and a robust reporting process that involves the provost, the relevant dean, and the department chair. It results in the development of a detailed action plan that helps the department move forward in alignment with the college’s strategic plan. These reviews are a partnership of OAA and the unit under review. All of Ohio State’s 106 academic departments have been through their initial review, and OAA has now launched the second round of reviews.

Support for Unit-Level Strategic Planning

Plans That Can Serve as Models

Many of the strategic plans that have emerged from this process may be considered models. These include the plans of the Colleges of Engineering, Law and Pharmacy and the Offices of Research and Student Life.