The Strategic Planning Task Force reunited in mid-October to take stock of accomplishments and challenges as the university moves into the second half of the six-year Vision 2018 strategic plan. Later this month the Board of Trustees will meet to review "where we are and where we want to go given the changing landscape in higher education," according to Jay Braatz, vice president for Planning and Presidential Administration and chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. 

Challenges such as enrollment shifts, tuition pricing constraints and the continuing threat to state and federal financial aid for thousands of DePaul students were anticipated in the plan, but have taken on greater significance in the past several years.

The task force discussion demonstrates that DePaul's strategic plan has escaped the proverbial shelf that is the fate of many such plans.
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"We put topics in front of people and said collectively this is the direction we are heading, rather than this is exactly what we will do to achieve our goal," says Lawrence Hamer, associate provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs and a member of the steering committee.

Dan Hibbler, associate dean for Undergraduate Programs in the School for New Learning, who worked at three universities before DePaul, says plans at other places always felt like a to-do list. But that's not the case here.

Nan Cibula-Jenkins, co-chair of the task force and a professor of costume design, agrees. "It's so easy to tap into," she says, noting that Goal 2--deepening DePaul's connection to the city of Chicago--has  increased dramatically at The Theatre School with more international conferences and activities. "We thought we had a connection to the city, and we've been able to expand that." 

People are forming their activities around the plan at the front end instead of fitting them into a goal when reports are due, which has happened in the past, she adds.

Positive effects of the plan can be seen across the university, according to Valerie Paulson of sociology, the Staff Council representative on the task force. An increase in collaboration is one of the most noticeable transformations in her view. "I see so much coordination and cooperation," she says, mentioning the increase in academic programs that span campuses and colleges.

Conversations about DePaul's future continue, sometimes with uncertainty about where the needle will land.  Faculty Council President Michaela Winchatz questions the changing ratio of tenure- and non-tenure-track faculty. She says the number of full-time faculty who are not on the path to tenure has increased. Should the trend continue, it might have a negative effect on academic quality because a healthy university needs faculty who conduct research, sit on committees and have a long-term responsibility to the institution, responsibilities non-tenure-track faculty do not have, she explains. From fall 2009 to fall 2014, full-time non-tenure track faculty members have grown 3 percent. She also expresses concerns about the growth of part-time and adjunct faculty.

"Midnight faculty" is how James Moore characterized this group. Moore is co-chair of the task force and director of Online Learning in the College of Business. He says many of these teachers come to work in the evenings just as the permanent faculty and staff is leaving, so there is little overlap, making it difficult to enculturate them. To address these concerns, initiatives that better integrate full-time and part-time faculty through more comprehensive orientations and mentoring programs are underway in several colleges.

Even so, what one college sees as a hurdle, another sees as one of its greatest assets, especially in a university with 10 diverse schools and colleges. SNL, for example, by design hires 70 percent of its faculty from the ranks of working professionals, Hibbler says.

The Theatre School is another unit in which a higher number of adjunct faculty exist in order to tap into the deep talent of Chicago's theatre scene. Cibula-Jenkins says her dean has increased efforts to better assimilate them into the heart of the school.