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Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

Strategic vision unveiled

By: Meghan M. Robateau

"Aim for perfection" was the phrase of choice Thursday at Marshall President Stephen Kopp's news conference.

Kopp unveiled his agenda for the university's strategic planning process to a standing-room only crowd in Studio A of the Communications Building. The plan centers on what Kopp referred to in previous meetings as a "share points site," or "Marshall's Strategic Vision: Our Bold Constellation for the Future."

"This share points site is a place for people to share opinions and ideas for the future of the university," Kopp said. "We are literally inviting people to share their thoughts and ideas with us."

During the news conference, Kopp explained to the crowd of faculty, staff, students and media the purpose of the new Web site and how the plan for it was formed.

"This is a bold concept. This is a novel concept," he said. "It is very innovative; it harnesses technology and brings our communities, our constituents to Marshall University virtually, to act as a significant voice in our future."

Kopp said the site harnesses technology and involves the community by functioning as a web forum where visitors are allowed to leave feedback, ideas or suggestions for the future of the university.

The site is divided into two sections, with one for anyone outside the university and one for people affiliated with the school.

Dr. Jan Fox, vice president for Information Technology, said the site reserved for Marshall students, faculty and staff is a portal and will recognize each visitor as he or she visits the site.

"It will know who you are and it will remember your likes and dislikes," she said. "The portal will interact fully with the visitors and it will offer threaded discussions or ongoing conversations between users."

Marshall alumni, current students, faculty, staff, community members and anyone else who is interested can fill out the comment form leaving feedback in one of four areas: intellectual capital, community and service, economic development and discovery and innovation.

The first input stage is currently available and the deadline for submissions is Dec. 19, 2005.

The input left by visitors will then be broken down, studied and drafted into a tentative seven-year strategic plan. The tentative plan will then be placed back on the site for the public to review and comment.

The critiqued seven-year plan will be broken down into a one-to-three year plan consisting of the most pressing issues for the university's future.

This plan will then be presented to the Marshall University Board of Governors and upon approval, will be given to the Joint Educational Committee of the West Virginia Legislature for further review in January.

Jay Cole, deputy secretary of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, attended the news conference so he could inform Governor Joe Manchin of Kopp's plans.

"The Governor is very interested and very supportive of President Kopp's initiative to develop a strategic plan that would benefit Marshall over the long run," Cole said. "We're in a relatively good budget situation now and that may change in the future years so we are very grateful when universities take the initiative to engage in planning practices for multiple years."

Cole said the early planning gives the state more time to plan and budget more effectively.

"He (Manchin) and the first lady both are very interested in integrating technology into education and I would not be at all surprised if the governor and the first lady logged on to the Web site and left some feedback for the university," he said. "They believe in practicing what they preach, and technology in education is one of their top priorities."

The Web site will continue to be updated with the current plan, amendments or changes, progress reports, strategies to achieve the goals and a budget plan.

"This is not a shelf plan," Kopp said. "It's a living plan, one that will become actionable on a daily basis. The first plan will be our action plan and will really emphasize the top priority goals, the ones we have to accomplish in order to achieve the other goals."

Dr. Keith Spears, vice president of communications, explained how the ideas left by visitors to the site will form a database, which will then place the ideas into categories. The most common ideas will be considered for the plan.

"We think it is absolutely critical that anyone and everyone associated with Marshall has an opportunity to leave input," Spears said.

The strategic vision site is a result of a strategic group planning committee. Members of the committee included deans, directors and vice presidents, each appointed by Kopp.

Spears, a member of the committee, said the group worked diligently to get the plan rolling.

"We had meetings every week, sometimes two times a week, a couple of weekends and often evenings," he said.

Kopp said the university should aim for perfection although he knows it is not attainable.

"I think it's important to emphasize it's about not being perfect, it's about perfecting our commitment to becoming better and better at what we do," he said.