/Faculty say Alcorn’s new strategic plan does little to address concerns

Faculty say Alcorn’s new strategic plan does little to address concerns

Mississippi News Alcorn State University, a non-profit organization, has published a strategic plan. It aims to help the historically Black university with a land grant “achieve preeminence via transformative teaching and excellence in research.” Alumni and faculty have expressed disappointment at the lack of specific goals. The university has identified several goals that it would like to achieve by 2026. These include increasing enrollment and being on the U.S. News and World Report list of the top 20 historically Black colleges and Universities. The document, which is 36 pages long, also gives an overview of current problems Alcorn and Mississippi universities face. These include facilities instability, declining high school graduates over the next decade, and “wider variability” in admitted students’ talents and academic preparation for college. Felecia Nave was Alcorn’s president and stated in a letter that this plan was intended to assist the university in meeting these challenges. Nave wrote that Alcorn has “transformed the way the world thinks, lives and learns since 1871.” Alcorn began developing the plan in December 2020, with support from SmithGroup and the Woodward Hines Education Foundation. SmithGroup conducted a survey about the strengths and weaknesses of the university over the course of one year. 1,300 people responded. Alcorn also hosted open forums on campus that were attended by approximately 370 stakeholders. He also created an advisory and steering board, which helped to rework the university’s mission. (A spokesperson for Alcorn directed Mississippi Today to file records requests when asked about the amount Alcorn paid SmithGroup. The report states that “During this process we realized that our future would be marked by global connections, filled by diverse peoples, perspectives, and dominated primarily by the rapid pace of technological changes, especially in learning, teaching, and learning.” As university administrators make decisions about the future of their institution, strategic plans serve as a guidepost for them. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, strategic plans are now a common feature in higher education. They can be used to guide universities and colleges to succeed. Mississippi Today received feedback from alumni and faculty that the strategic plan was lacking more details. The report identifies five broad categories that Alcorn has set for himself. Each category contains more specific goals, such as increasing student, faculty, and staff diversity by 10% or implementing a 10-year masterplan for campus facilities. I think that most of these goals are great. One faculty member spoke out to Mississippi Today, saying that many of the goals are in my favor. “My main concern about the document is that it doesn’t provide any details about how these goals will be achieved in any real practical sense.” One recurring theme in Alcorn’s plan is greater engagement and support for faculty. Alcorn’s goal of “transformation through innov” states that Alcorn hopes to see a 25% increase in faculty engagement and staff development. However, the plan does not specify how “engagement” will measure up. The faculty member asked, “Where is the money going for that?” because they don’t have tenure. “Right now, we don’t have any conference/travel funds and our library resources/databases is so limited,” said the faculty member. Some have asked Nave’s management for more transparency and others hoped that the strategic plan would provide it. Faculty senate members addressed their “ongoing concerns regarding issues that affect academic integrity (i.e. Last month, members of the faculty senate addressed their “ongoing concerns about issues that affect the academic integrity (i.e. quality of teaching and learning).” Also, the memo stated that Nave’s administration had cancelled classes with low enrollment at the beginning of the spring 2022 semester. This was an issue that faculty repeatedly raised during the past year. The memo stated that Nave’s office attempted to make sure students could graduate on time this semester by offering independent study in place of the course cancelled. This created additional work for faculty who were asked to conduct independent study for students who needed to graduate. Instead, build collaborative relationships with faculty who are highly educated and intelligent peers/colleagues in the administration with expertise in both teaching and learning.