Deans' planning retreat
A year into SFU’s current three-year academic plan, VP Academic (VPA) Jon Driver and the University’s 11 deans gathered for a daylong retreat April 20 at Burnaby’s Shadbolt Centre to discuss the plan’s progress and identify areas needing attention.
But unlike previous annual retreats, President Andrew Petter and some 20 others who work closely with the deans and the VPA to support academic units and develop new initiatives also participated.
They included senior staff from the VPA’s office, the VP and Associate VP Research, the Director of Academic Relations, the Chief Information Officer, the executive directors of the Surrey and Vancouver campuses, and the accreditation team.
“This was a very different kind of retreat,” says Driver, “where the deans were still the key people in the room, but with a lot of other people there who contributed in their own areas of expertise.”
The day’s program centred on the academic plan’s five themes— high quality student experience; teaching and learning in a research university; research intensity; the university’s role in the community; and financial sustainability and institutional strength— focusing on implementation issues around each theme.
The respective theme team leaders first gave a short summary of what had already been accomplished in achieving plan goals and objectives and then each of them asked the participants to consider questions on which their group needed advice.
The participants then broke into sub-groups to discuss the issues/questions and reported back to the whole group 30 minutes later. The process was repeated for each of the five themes.
Guest speaker Ken Steele of the Academica Group, author of the daily Top Ten, spoke at lunch on the trends in higher education and discussed some lighter, humorous education issues at dinner.
“It was a fairly heavy workload for a single meeting, but I thought the energy level stayed remarkably high,” says Driver.
“There was always the danger that if you bring too many people together the voices of the deans would get swamped, but I don’t think that happened. We covered a lot of ground and some very interesting and creative ideas emerged.”
The theme teams are now coming up with action plans based on some of the issues raised at the retreat.
“Once we have a set of priorities I will take these back to the deans and we will discuss what should be at the top of the list for the next year to two years,” says Driver.
“And then the staff in the VPA’s office and possibly others, such as the Registrar’s office or Graduate Studies, will work with the deans to implement them.”