The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 12, NO. 2     JANUARY 1999

Faculty Endorses Strategic Planning Report

A major milestone on the road to a new strategic plan for WPI was passed on Dec. 3 when the faculty endorsed the final report of the Planning and Implementation Committee (PIC) at a special session. The vote followed 90 minutes of discussion that focused principally on an amendment drafted by the Student Government Association (SGA), which represents undergraduate students at WPI.

The motion approved by the faculty called on the WPI administration to take special note of three of the PIC initiatives. These were 1.6, "Improve the Faculty/ Student Ratio," 2.1, "Nurture Research and Scholarship," and 5.2, "Improve Library Facilities and Services." These initiatives had received the greatest measure of support from the faculty in the recent "priority assessment exercise," in which members of the WPI community were asked to indicate how they would prioritize the planning report's five goals and 21 initiatives (see sidebar).

Early in the Dec. 3 meeting, Jonathan Barnett, associate professor of fire protection engineering, brought the SGA amendment to the floor. It contained numerous text changes designed to make the report more acceptable to undergraduate students.

The most extensive changes were proposed to initiative 1.5, "Improve the First-Year Experience For All Students." In particular, the amendment would have removed language calling for a pilot program to "create an innovative, integrative and challenging first-year experience for a subgroup of students...," for example, through a Cambridge-style tutorial experience.

SGA President Jennifer Reese '99 said the organization believed that a first-year program that benefits only a portion of the freshman class would be counter to the organization's desire to promote a sense of unity and community among WPI students. In speaking against the SGA amendment, PIC member John Zeugner, professor of history, said that the idea behind the pilot program was to test new ideas on selected students and avoid involving the entire freshman class in an experiment that could ultimately prove unsuccessful.

David Cyganski, professor of electrical and computer engineering and chair of the PIC, proposed an amendment to the SGA amendment that was ultimately approved by the faculty. It accepted some of the SGA's changes, but rejected others - particularly the overhaul of the first-year program initiative and a rewrite of a separate initiative on enhancing diversity and community efforts. Cyganski's amendment did, however, introduce language that served to assure students that the intent of the first-year experiments was not to create an "honors" subgroup of students, but to try out new approaches that could then be extended to all students.

The faculty then approved the altered SGA amendment and, by written ballot, the amended PIC report. The next hurdle for the PIC's work will come in February, when the WPI Board of Trustees will vote on a new strategic plan for the University.

Setting Priorities: The Community Has Its Say

Throughout the two-year process of developing a new strategic plan for WPI, the committees responsible for developing goals and initiatives for the University's future have tried to reach out to all members of the greater WPI community - faculty, students, staff and alumni - and to listen to their thoughts and ideas. After it completed its final report in November, the Planning and Implementation Committee continued that tradition by creating an innovative form on the World Wide Web that enabled community members to register their opinions on how to prioritize the report's five goals and 21 initiatives.

At right, we've presented a few highlights from the results of that "priority assessment exercise." A more complete picture of the results, along with the PIC report, is at www.wpi. edu/Stratplan (alumni users must enter the strategic planing site through the Alumni Gateway).

Highest Rated Initatives Overall
Support *
Top 3 +
Alumni (49 participants)    
1.3 Endow research experience fellowships 98.0% 22.4%
1.5 Improve the first year experience for students 95.9% 32.7%
1.6 Improve the faculty/student ratio 98.0% 22.4%
2.1 Nurture research and scholarship 100.0% 20.4%
4.3 Seek campus center support 95.9% 32.7%
Faculty (111 participants)    
1.6 Improve the faculty/student ratio 95.5% 46.8%
2.1 Nurture research and scholarship 93.7% 53.2%
2.2 Invest in thrust areas 84.7% 28.8%
5.2 Improvement of library facilities and services 95.5% 27.9%
Students (202 participants)    
1.7 Improve student advising 96.5% 20.3%
2.1 Nurture research and scholarship 96.0% 22.3%
4.3 Seek campus center support 95.5% 19.3%
5.2 Improvement of library facilities and services 97.5% 17.8%

* percentage of participants who gave the initiative any rank from 1 to 21, or indicated support for the item.

+ percentage of participants who ranked the initiative 1, 2 or 3.


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Last modified: Tue Jun 8 11:32:55 EDT 1999