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UC21 Academic Plan

Listening Session - December 8, 2003


President Zimpher welcomed participants and thanked everyone for accommodating this event in their busy schedules. The planning process was encouraged by conversations with the Search & Screen Committee and the Board of Trustees during the spring and summer. Today's session is the beginning of a conversation that will result in the first stage of a plan in the spring. She introduced the facilitator, B. Gleason.


B. Gleason introduced the strategic planning topic and reviewed the agenda for the next four hours. The discussion will be directed toward an understanding of what the University of Cincinnati can become.

B. Gleason asked the participants to describe reactions to change. His role would involve facilitation of discussion and relating change-management fundamentals. Participants suggested:

  1. Fear
  2. Early adoption
  3. Anger
  4. Bunker Mentality
  5. Skepticism
  6. Confusion
  7. Excitement
  8. Hope
  9. Impatience

He referenced a quote from Petronius Arbiter (210 BCE) to indicate that change management is not a new concept. Petronius wrote:

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.”

B. Gleason noted that people do not resist change (or we would all have the same hairstyle we had as teenagers). They resist the perception that change is forced upon them.


J. Tucker reviewed the ranking systems used by various college guides and research centers. Rankings impact perception, reputation, image, recruiting, and fund raising. The University of Cincinnati has a mixed ranking currently, with good measures, measures on the cusp of improvement, and areas with a way to go.

A. Perzigian presented a representative snapshot of highly ranked programs, and noted a disconnect between individual excellence and the overall ranking. He reviewed initiatives directed toward improving measures such as retention and graduation rates, including the Collegiate Structures Initiative.


Q. How does the University of Cincinnati's graduation rate compare to the Urban 13?

A. It is in the middle. Not one of the Urban 13 schools are ranked in the U.S. News second tier.

Q. We have been looking at U.S. rankings. Should we consider international ranking as well?

A. That is difficult, but we are looking at that.

C. The European Union is putting a huge amount of resources into higher education.

C. Ratings are related to reputations and we need a reputation outside of this area. One way is that our graduate students go elsewhere and perform well nationally and internationally and this enhances our reputation.


A. Perzigian outlined planning efforts underway since 1999, and noted an environment ready for change. Since 1999, 75 percent of the deans are new and the university completed a “special emphasis” accreditation process. (In the NCA self study, the three targeted areas were interdisciplinary pedagogy and research, globalization and information technology.) The university also established the Collaboration for Student Success and the ensuing Collegiate Structures Initiative. The university restructured General Education, expanded the honors program, ramped up Education Abroad, integrated instructional technology, and adopted a variety of new pedagogies including service learning and learning communities. A lot of planning goes on at UC, but it traditionally has been focused within colleges. One congealing force has been our co-op program. Other initiatives include First-Year Experience, a number of interdisciplinary programs, the Center for Enhancing Teaching and Learning, and the Faculty Technology Resource Center. New programs have been launched at Western Hills High School, Waynesville, Warren County, Raymond Walters College and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

J. Henney described the impact of the Millennium Plan to double research holdings and recruit new faculty, particularly in interdisciplinary research. The university is positioning for an NIH emphasis on “big science”. Indicators point toward a need for increased enrollment, due to a national shortage of health-care professionals, and a comprehensive Medical Center should have a school of public health. There is a need for people and programs, but also place, so new and expanded facilities are important. There are opportunities, and the desire, to expand into the community in which we exist. There are opportunities to link the East and West Campuses. There are opportunities to strengthen collaborations along the I-71 corridor connecting Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. Goals include significant increase in NIH funding (not only at the East Campus), positioning faculty for nomination to national institutes and academies, and becoming a magnet for bioscience businesses.


D. McGirr related the development of the Campus Master Plan and lessons that can be applied to academic planning. The campus plan was driven by academic needs. It has been demonstrated that more can be accomplished by planning together, rather than separately. Balanced planning, top-down as well as bottom-up, is better than unbalanced planning. Planning is never over – there are always emerging issues. Consequently, it is helpful to have a set of unchanging or slowly evolving principles in the plan as well as a dynamic section reflecting emerging issues. It is advisable not to get too specific too early. If the first stages are too vague, it is probably a good sign. Planning should be a responsibility for senior management, and it is helpful to have an advisor to push the process along, someone who is better at questions than answers.

We should commit fully to the value added of central planning and he provided principles:

  1. Power of central vision to align support for critical goals
  2. Raising the bar on quality and applying that standard consistently across the board
  3. Puts positive pressure on the University to maintain momentum towards long-term goals
  4. Guides tactical decisions each year with a long-term context
  5. Recognize critical moments when an opportunity that won't repeat occurs
  6. Need balanced bottom up and top down planning that integrates, strengthens, discovers and supports.
  7. You're never done! So, you need to create stable principles and tactical implementation. Have a 25-50 year view that should not change radically, but tactical moves change regularly.
  8. One problem solved at a time is never enough! This process forces you to look for multiple solutions when we're resource poor.
  9. Getting specific too early is a death-knell, so spend time to understand your core mission, history, principles, values and distinctive opportunities.
  10. Don't draw pictures first. First cycle outcomes are a philosophy and guiding principles that are distinctive, long-lasting and truly capable of addressing identified needs, identifying new opportunities, resolving issues and conflicts, forcing connections, maintaining quality and establishing momentum. Must be intergenerational and long term.
  11. Planning is a senior responsibility, but senior leadership must interact with the campus community, general community, and key government and corporate leadership. Embrace wide participation. Senior leadership must bring closure and complete the plan.
  12. Find an advisor who will stimulate you over time. Looks at our culture and issues with fresh eyes and good questions. Need someone who is better at questions than answers.
  13. Someone must be responsible for bringing it to reality and continually assess it.
  14. Align resources with the plan goals, including innovative alternatives.
  15. Understand early returns. First reaction will be to the process. Wide participation and senior closure. Second reaction will be that the plan is too vague. Add an initial five year tactical section to the plan next. Third reaction is to unsettle many people by implying long horizons to goals.
  16. Having a truly long-term living academic plan to guide the daily, weekly, monthly, and annual decisions UC faces can make us collectively stronger.


C. It is important to be flexible.

C. The plan should allow changes to meet opportunities.

C. Agree that planning should be integrated and coordinated at all levels.

C. The plan should have a vision or philosophy that will stand for an extended period of time.

C. It will require discipline. There are some things that will not fit the plan.

C. It will require the discipline to turn some things off.

C. The plan should be right for the long haul, not just a decade, maybe to mid-century.


B. Gleason noted that 32 participants had submitted questions prior to the listening session. Copies were distributed to participants. Two stood out:

  1. Will we chart our future, or will we drift into it?
  2. What is the vision for a 21 st -century university?

Vision does not answer questions up front. Vision puts a goal out over the horizon. Change management transforms an organization so it is aligned with the execution of a chosen strategy. It is the management of the human element in a large-scale change project. Change management allows people to assimilate change quickly and completely. Change management connects change to the culture of the institution and allows people to be more successful after change.

Organizational cultures often adapt to change as a finger adapts to a cut. First, they isolate it, then cover it over, and finally make it go away. Change does not immediately produce improvement. There is inevitably a transitional period known by some as The Pit of Despair, but any plan with appropriate challenges will be difficult.

Change efforts must recognize three typical reactions: wild enthusiasm, fence-sitting, and resistance. The resistors tend to be the loudest and management can delay progress by investing attention on this group, because the fence-sitters will follow management. It is more effective to isolate the trailing third.

B. Gleason outlined a number of best practices, and noted that many had been discovered during the campus planning process. Plans for bricks and mortar are somewhat easier to implement because they result in something visible. Strategic plans do not have such immediate visible results.

If a plan is anchored in the culture, it does not mean the culture will not change. Every organization displays its culture by telling “hero” and “goat” stories, stories about those who have failed because they tried something unsupported by the culture, or stories about those who succeeded. During a crisis, an organization shows its culture as well.

Culture includes:

  1. The Past: History & Values
  2. The Present: Rules for Success & Habits
  3. The Future: Self Image & Future Vision

It is not necessary for everyone to be moving in the same direction to accomplish goals. Leadership is essential, and leadership involves getting the right people in the right places.


Q. When you say, “the right people,” are you making a comment that affects diversity?

A. It isn't a matter of demographics. It has more to do with capability and qualifications.


Participants were asked to identify a table leader and a table recorder, and, during lunch, to identify two sets of attributes: First, to identify a list of characteristics unique to the University of Cincinnati, and, second, a list of aspirations for the University of Cincinnati.


  1. Co-op: experiential and empowered education, the breadth of co-op programs
  2. An urban environment that is home to corporations with global reach
  3. Balance between access and selectivity
  4. Successful rapid and extensive transformation of the physical campus
  5. Proximate opportunities for linkages with branch campuses and the schools represented by the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities
  6. Geographic proximity between East and West campuses plugs into UC's strategic setting
  7. Breadth of UC's programs makes it distinctive – breadth of everything UC does: highly selective, graduate programs, open undergraduate enrollment
  8. UC's local control over expenditures
  9. No real marketing plans
  10. Few undergraduate international students
  11. A historic assemblage of colleges that have come together over 150 years – not many schools have that history
  12. Progress toward research excellence in a short time
  13. Presence of access colleges within a university
  14. Branch campuses are more independent than others in Ohio
  15. Unusual scope: open access to highly selective programs and research
  16. The practical characteristic of our programs, best exemplified by co-op
  17. Incongruity of overall ranking and the prominence of individual programs
  18. Comprehensive: Research with open access, programs of excellence and national distinction
  19. Urban location with suburban and rural branches
  20. Commuter school
  21. Complex administrative structure
  22. Practical in our orientation
  23. Decentralized administrative structure, sometimes fragmented
  24. Unionized faculty at a comprehensive research institution
  25. Urban university
  26. Diverse population, representative of U.S. so generalizations can be made
  27. History of change – private, city, then state – absorbed more units than created


  1. One of America's top schools 
  2. Recognition as a Jewel of Cincinnati
  3. To be a magnet, the institution of choice for employees, students and partners
  4. To be the institution of choice because of quality, reputation, success and diversity
  5. Appropriate role and recognition in the city, state and region
  6. Financially sound
  7. Perceived as national or global/international rather than regional
  8. Ability to manage knowledge, to simplify as well as sophisticate
  9. Flexible, adaptable and responsible to new modes and methods
  10. A resource for city, government and industry
  11. Articulation between liberal and professional education
  12. An effective university would be able to address these issues!
  13. Continuous and effective change management
  14. Graduate more students
  15. Access teaching more robustly
  16. Better assessment of faculty
  17. Creating engaged citizens of the world, successful in social, educational and professional roles (What is a citizen of the world like and how is this education defined?)
  18. How can a student be a leader for adaptability and life-long learning?
  19. More national recruitment
  20. Being responsible to society's needs (through “professional masters” degrees)
  21. How can alumni support be maximized?
  22. Aspire to have alumni connected to UC
  23. Strengthen interdisciplinary programs: Faculty encouragement in the programs needs to exist.
  24. Aspire to focus on outcomes
  25. Pursuit of excellence should be pushed on all levels
  26. Choose which schools to be benchmarks
  27. Positive impact on the local community
  28. Integration with the business community
  29. Move into the top 20 public institutions
  30. Faculty fully engaged in delivering a first-class education
  31. A place where academic innovation is fostered, both in research and teaching
  32. External partners seen as fully engaged
  33. More of a community
  34. Continue to be all things to all people – but raise the level
  35. Incredibly rigorous experience and to be active in the community
  36. Continue to develop attractive programs to ensure robust revenue streams
  37. Seamless articulation internally and externally including outreach to high schools
  38. The University of Choice
  39. Think of Ohio, think of OSU and UC
  40. Prominence in sponsored and unsponsored research
  41. A centralized vision and partnership that encourages local autonomy and innovation toward common vision
  42. Performance-based and responsibility-based managerial system tied to our mission
  43. Greater self-sufficiency through a fiscal structure that makes us less dependent on the state
  44. Getting the strongest faculty and retaining the best faculty
  45. Developing the best faculty
  46. Attract greater number of students from outside the region
  47. Getting more students able to succeed
  48. Maintaining and developing an access for excellence
  49. Highly successful capital campaign
  50. Clear expression of what we value
  51. Clear marketing campaign
  52. Peer institutions look to us as a model
  53. Send our children here
  54. Reduce gap between national recognition and regional
  55. Collaboration between East & West campuses
  56. Valid institutional goals and mission, not impeded by organizational structures
  57. To move forward without the constraints of organizational boundaries
  58. A reputation as innovative, not conservative


The comments listed here were voiced by various participants during open discussion:

C. Perhaps we should pay more attention to outcomes. What will our students become? What will our research do?

C. We face the challenge of being complex and uneven.

C. Our comments on unique qualities and aspirations all come together in a general way, but it is important to make choices.

C. It does not follow that unique qualities are necessarily strengths.

C. The listed aspirations seem traditional. It may be helpful to redefine excellence.

C. There may be a bridge between aspirations and unique qualities by deciding where, instead of seeking benchmarks, we are the benchmark.

C. To change rankings, look at assessment. We should focus on outcomes.

C. We seem focused on external assessments, but what do we believe internally?

C. We bear a lot of crosses. We believe we are what we are because of what has happened to us. Our thinking is centered around our self-image.


F. Siff described the Blackboard environment created to engage the campus community in the Academic Planning Process. The organization for the planning process has been set up, and will be populated with materials presented today. In anticipation of the formation of a steering committee, all documents will be placed in a “Working Documents” area and moved to a “Public Documents” area at the direction of the steering committee.


Participants were asked, by table, to develop a list of attributes for the successful university of the future. What attributes must the University of Cincinnati have to be successful? Suggestions included:

  1. Guided flexibility in pedagogy (traditional classroom, mentoring, independent study, distance learning), the ability to meet the needs of our students and society, and assessment on inputs and outputs.
  2. Affordable
  3. Leadership of the university and from the university
  4. Diverse: A reflection of America
  5. To incorporate distance learning and other “different” types of learning and to integrate them
  6. Flexibility to take advantage of, and contribute to, larger societal issues and needs
  7. Encourage new academic ideas, respond and contribute, (evolution and support for)
  8. More responsive interdisciplinary approaches
  9. Independent of, or less dependent on, the state
  10. Recruiting faculty at the level of the National Academy of Sciences
  11. Nationally recognized in scholarship
  12. Graduates whose success reflects our quality
  13. Development and recognition of student success
  14. Balance of research and practical application
  15. More education-type of faculty
  16. Integration of academic life in the students' lives
  17. Outstanding leaders
  18. Financially sound
  19. Inclusive of ideas and people, where academic freedom flourishes
  20. A new academic world order
  21. Innovative
  22. Technologically sophisticated, multiple ways for delivery of instruction
  23. Focused on student performance
  24. Positive and balanced self-image
  25. Highly motivated faculty and staff
  26. Enriching and open place to be
  27. Educational, research and cultural center for the region
  28. Earns significant external support (private and public grants, philanthropy)
  29. An institution that stays connected to its graduates – once a student, always a student


The following comments arose from discussion of the listed attributes:

C. I am happy to hear about the possibility of dissolving departments. The departmental structure inhibits collaboration and creative connections.

C. Our college will abolish our departmental structures in January.

C. There may be a formula for progress by taking the 19 th Century (emphasis on liberal arts) and the 20 th Century (emphasis on professional education) and combining them with IT.

C. I am struck that a lot of what we have suggested seems very doable.

C. In that case, we may not be trying hard enough to establish a vision.

C. We can't all be changing everything at once. We need a “skunk works” to prototype some of these ideas.

C. Strong institutes and centers can help us maintain quality.

C. I don't think I have ever seen access and excellence pulled off equally. It's going to be really hard.

C. We are going to need steadfast leadership.

C. Are we willing to take risks and to fail?

C. What do we mean by access? Do we mean that we have to do it, or that we support it? We may be able to support access by forming close partnerships with institutions that do it well.

C. By access, I mean opportunity for all, that every child has the expectation that they can go to college.

C. We have implicitly stated an assumption that state support will continue to fall. It may be possible to achieve greater state funding.

C. It may be that there is a different sort of access, and that could be access to the resources of the university, whether cultural or intellectual.


B. Gleason asked participant to identify stakeholders who should be involved in some way in the Academic Planning Process. Suggestions included:

  1. State legislators
  2. Federal legislators
  3. Faculty
  4. Employers
  5. Taxpayers
  6. Alumni
  7. Board of Trustees
  8. Staff
  9. Donors
  10. Advisory groups
  11. Accrediting bodies
  12. The K-12 school system
  13. Administrators
  14. Department heads
  15. Corporate partners
  16. Customers
  17. Patients
  18. Media
  19. Opinion makers
  20. Peer institutions
  21. City Council
  22. Unions
  23. Part-Time faculty


B. Gleason asked participants what they expected from the academic planning process. The suggested outcomes below reflect the open discussion:

  1. A plan
  2. A roadmap, with opportunities for side trips
  3. A commitment for implementation
  4. Resources tied to the plan.
  5. Renewed enthusiasm among faculty
  6. Assessment tied to the plan.
  7. A reduction in excuses
  8. Accountability
  9. A new sense of community
  10. Improved communications about the plan and the planning process
  11. Some real output in six months for review by stakeholders
  12. Real discussions while in process
  13. A successful allocation of resources


President Zimpher concluded the session. We will codify today's work and make it public. Over the next three weeks we will devise a strategy for the next four months or so. We want to be able to report things out in May. We may use some kind of RFP to solicit project managers on campus. Will ask participants how they liked the process today. We still have more territory to cover or people that can inform us as we go along. We will post the questions and notes from today on Blackboard. She expressed immense gratitude for participants' enthusiasm and for coming together despite busy schedules.

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