University Strategic Alignment Process

Frequently Asked Questions

University Strategic Alignment Process Banner 1


1. Can we look at a sample report?

Yes, sample reports can be found here.

2. What if we have more than 10 goals?

Because of the volume of data the USAP task force will be analyzing, we ask that you only report on up to 10 goals so we can focus on the core of what your unit does.

3.  What year are we setting goals for?  (i.e., fiscal, academic, calendar)

Goals should be set for the 2015 calendar year.  However, as USAP evolves and aligns with other reporting cycles, we will adjust the calendar appropriately.  You will submit your second report, providing updates on progress toward your goals, by October 31, 2015.

4. Can you provide a “glossary” of terms you are using?

You can find a listing of definitions here

5. What about goals that are already being met?  Can we have a new USAP goal that focuses on maintaining something?

Yes, maintaining an important accomplishment could be a goal.

6. Is there or will there be a place for recommendations on the Unit Report?

There is not a place on the report to share recommendations.  However, you may share recommendations, suggestions and/or ideas on the USAP website by clicking on the "Share an Idea" box.   By clicking on the link, you will have the option to submit your idea anonymously or leave your name.  All submissions will be shared with the campus community on the same page.  

7. The timeframe for completing this by December 31st is too short.

All units have been asked to report within the same timeframe.  Because this means there are only a few weeks to complete the report, the Chancellor has suspended the Annual Report for this year. 

8. What if it is found that different units have competing goals or goals that contradict each other?

If you are aware of other areas that provide the same program, service or function as your unit, collaborating with them to create shared goals is encouraged.  One outcome of this entire process is that the task force will identify contradictory goals as part of their review and analysis at the university level.  These will be addressed in their final report and recommendations.

9. What if we have additional data that is not included in the Department Profile that we would like to share?

Question # 7 from the Unit Report (Criterion Six in the P+ Software) asks you to provide context or additional information regarding your department profile.  Although you cannot add data, you may write about it here.  You may also contact the Task Force Co-Chairs if you need to discuss further.

10. Are there specific instructions for completing the unit report?

Yes – you can find them here.

11. Do we, as a department, have to agree on goals?

Larger units, or units with sub-specialties within them, may find it most feasible to have discrete parts of the unit create goals that are relevant for those sub-units.  Although we think the process will be most meaningful and useful if as many members as possible contribute to the creation of shared goals, we leave the degree of intra-unit collaboration to individual units.

12. Our unit/department will be restructuring or changing this year -- should our goals reflect where we are now or how we will be?

Your goals will focus on specific tasks or projects that you plan to accomplish in the future, leading up to 2020.  Stated goals should reflect future plans, but it would be appropriate to note the planned restructuring in response to the question "What challenges, other than financial resources, might affect your progress toward accomplishing this unit goal?"

13. How do I know if I am required to complete a goal for Student Learning?

If your unit is "directly responsible for student learning," then we are asking you to create at least one unit goal related to assessment of student learning (in alignment with either I.A.1 or I.A.2).  Our aim in creating this requirement is to move forward as a campus in using assessment data to improve IPFW; at present, as a campus, we are better at collecting assessment data than using it.  Our aim with this requirement is not to micromanage; all academic units are directly responsible for student learning, and some academic support units are as well.  If you are an academic support unit, you can make the call about whether or not you are directly responsible for student learning.

14. How do we decide on which goals should be high priority?

The stated goals for 2020, as expressed in the Strategic Plan and the Plan 2020 document, are ambitious and will require a great deal of planning to accomplish. We would recommend designating as high priority those goals that you expect to have the most significant impact on achieving shared campus goals.

15. What about goals that you cannot quantify?

Ask yourself how you will know when you have achieved the goal, and then go from there.  Perhaps a series of yes/no questions will indicate progress toward the goal.  Perhaps you can use an indirect measure to indicate the value or impact of a program or project that is difficult to assess numerically; for example, you could measure usage rates or user satisfaction of a new program and use these indirect measures to stand in for direct measures of the quality of the program.

16. What if my goal doesn't align to anything in the strategic plan or metrics/outcomes?

The task force expects this to happen.  This will be valuable data for us to determine whether there are gaps in the strategic plan.  If you do not identify where it aligns, simply type "N/A" in the IPFW Goal question.  One note for any unit responsible for student learning (whether the unit is academic or academic support) - you should include at least ONE unit goal (among any other goals) that aligns with the IPFW goal of improving measurement of student learning – Goal I.A.1 or I.A.2.

 17.  Can we have just one goal?

If your unit is tightly focused, it is possible that you have one goal.  However, make sure your goal is specific, measurable, etc.


18. What if I work closely with another unit – can we create shared goals?

Yes!  USAP hopes that interdisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration is an outcome of this process.


19. Do I have to align to all the goals on Plan 2020?

No, your unit does not need to align to all the goals.  You may align to whichever goals are appropriate for your unit.  However, if you are responsible for student learning, you do need at least one unit goal (among any other goals) that aligns with the IPFW goal of improving measurement of student learning – Goal I.A.1 or I.A.2.


20. We believe we have two masters: serving underprepared students vs. improving graduation rates.  How do we reconcile this when creating goals?

Balancing the need to help underprepared students succeed while increasing graduation rates can definitely be a challenge.  However, they are not mutually exclusive goals.  In fact, having goals to address both areas will help reinforce the other.  An example is a goal related to high impact instructional and advising interventions.  These types of interventions help all students but in particular, can support underprepared or high-risk students.  Getting all students connected to faculty and staff early is important, but especially so for students that are underprepared.

21. Question #6 on Part 1 appears to ask units to “tell on themselves”… what is the task force looking for with this?

The task force is not looking for any unit to implicate themselves in any perceived wrongdoing.  We are all being asked to do more with less.  It may be necessary and beneficial to be allowed to let go of responsibilities that are redundant, inefficient, or otherwise don't contribute to IPFW's mission.  Sometimes a department or unit devotes time and/or money to a task that they don’t believe is central to their mission or focus, but they do it because someone wanted them to in the past.  We are asking this question because if your department/unit is doing something not aligned with your own mission, and you don’t think it benefits your unit or the university, we’d be interested to know about it.


22. What if resources are not available that are needed to complete a goal?

There is a section in the report to identify this for each unit goal.


23. Can we use goals and information we prepared for other reports (i.e., program review or accreditation)?

If the information is applicable, feel free to reuse what you already have.

24. Will we see the goals from other units?

All reports will be shared with the campus community when the final report is completed by May 2015.

25. Is the point to really try to sincerely identify our goals, or is the point to make up goals that align with the strategic plan and make us look good?

The task force does not want to spend time reading meaningless fluff.  The goal is to strengthen IPFW, not to present a façade.

 26. What type of software will we use?

Report writers will likely use Word to draft and review information for the unit report.  This information will then be copied and pasted into a web-based software package called Prioritization Plus.  You can get more information on our website here.


27. Will approvers be able to edit these reports before submission to the task force?

Approvers have been asked to not edit the reports, but to share comments only.


28. How will inefficiencies be addressed?

It is the task force's hope that when units are aware of inefficiencies, that they take steps to reduce or eliminate them through appropriate channels.  After evaluating unit reports, specific inefficiencies may be noted in our recommendations, along with potential solutions.


29. Will we be ranked?

No, the task force will not be assigning rankings to any unit.


30. When will we get feedback?

The task force will provide feedback to each unit throughout spring semester.  Units may get questions or requests for more information throughout the process and final feedback will occur by May 2015.

31. What kind of feedback will we receive?

The task force will provide feedback on how well goals are aligned to the strategic plan and whether they are clearly defined and measurable.  The task force will also note the extent to which your unit plan is likely to have a significant impact on the university’s 2020 goals.

32. How will you evaluate goals?

The task force will evaluate goals on how well they align with the strategic plan, along with whether they are clearly defined and measurable.  They will also be looking for goals that have a strong likelihood of having a significant impact on the university’s 2020 goals.

33. When will we actually measure progress towards these goals?

Units should measure progress continually or at least annually.  You will submit your second report, providing updates on progress toward your goals, by October 31, 2015.


34. Will this really show how we align to the strategic plan?

We believe so.  By reviewing your past accomplishments and your future goals, the task force will be able to see which departments are actively working towards supporting the strategic plan and the plan 2020 outcomes.


35. What other data will the task force refer to during their analysis?

The task force will also be reviewing Department Profiles and budget information.



36.  What role will the new Budget Director play in USAP?

The Director of Budget and Planning will work closely with USAP to ensure the task force has full access to  budget information that will be used as part of their analysis.  In future years and reporting cycles, the role of budget planning will become integral to USAP as resources are aligned to institutional priorities and initiatives.  The Director of Budget and Planning will work closely with units to establish reality-based budgets that reflect their goals and strategic direction in support of Plan 2020.

37. Why do we refer to “Units” and not “Programs”?

Because there are so many designations on campus, the task force tried to pick the most generic term to avoid pre-conceived notions.  Colloquially, we tend to also refer to units as "boxes" because the unit list came from the boxes on the campus org chart.


38. Why is assessment emphasized in the requirement (regarding I.A.1 and I.A.2) and not actual student learning?

The university as a whole needs to maintain its accreditation through the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and to respond to demands from the Indiana Legislature and the Indiana Commission on Higher Education--these entities require assessment of student learning instead of, say, description of student learning or activities related to improving student learning, and we have to respond to those requirements.

39. Can we get a copy of the PowerPoint presentation used during the unit meetings?

Yes, the PowerPoint is online here


40. Our mission statement suggests we are a “regional university," and yet we are expanding our international offerings, and supporting international research.  What if we have problems with the mission as written?

The Strategic Plan and Plan 2020 Outcomes both focus on increasing the internationalization of IPFW. If you believe in and want to strengthen our international work, it would be appropriate to tailor some of your unit's goals toward those ends.

41.Are we cutting liberal arts programs?

USAP is not a prioritization process (that is, not a project undertaken with the idea of cutting units) but a strategic alignment and planning process.  We are approaching this work with the beliefs that as a whole, the university needs to do a better job of planned and purposeful work toward goals, and that that purposeful work needs to be shared among all units.

42. Our accreditors have concerns about our budgeting, and particularly our lack of financial support from the university.  What if these types of external factors cause our goals to change drastically, after we have reported them to you?

Question 4 of Part I asks you about program-specific accreditation and how affects your work.  If you anticipate that accreditor requirements may affect your ability to commit to a goal that you have set for yourself, you could indicate that in response to the question "What challenges, other than financial resources, might affect your progress toward accomplishing this unit goal?"  We recognize that it is not possible to anticipate everything that might happen in the future that might affect your ability to achieve your goals, but planning is still beneficial.

43.  How does the unit report relate to other types of reporting?

For this year, the unit report replaces the annual report.  One topic that has come up repeatedly in our discussions with one another and with others is the inefficiency of reporting requirements at IPFW, and the facilitation team is exploring this issue and the possibility of creating some streamlined processes.


44. Who wrote the strategic plan?

The following description of the strategic plan creation process can be read in more detail here:

"PLAN 2020 is the result of collaboration, a commitment to inclusion, countless hours of thoughtful discussion, a respect for diverse ideas and input. In all, almost 600 faculty, staff, students, administrators and community supporters provided input, insights, advice and consultation to the development of the plan.

"Work to develop PLAN 2020 began in 2012. The process included a number of focus groups led by Vice Chancellor Carl Drummond, surveys and/or interviews of faculty, students, staff and community supporters, an internal strategic plan leadership group which developed the plan, and a Senate Ad Hoc Strategic Plan Committee which reviewed the plan and provided recommendations."


45. What if we disagree with the goals another unit has written?

The university is a large organization, and the people within it have different interests and values, so you should expect that you will disagree with some goals of other units.  You may do with that disagreement as you wish within the bounds of your job description and institutional power, but it would be most respectful to allow other units the autonomy to determine their own goals and vision for themselves.


46. What if other units write “crap” goals?

See above, #45.


47.  We need to start to address how the Gen Ed goals align with the Baccalaureate Framework, because it seems there is some contraction or redundancy there.

This would be a task for the General Education Subcommittee to address.


48.  Will there be a searchable database to query for certain things?

We will identify a system that will allow us to have the ability to search and query all the goals and will communicate this information with the release of the reports and recommendations from the task force by May 2015.


49. What happened at IPFW to cause USAP to form?

We have been in a period of budget contraction for a few years, and the contraction is continuing.  There are many efforts underway to increase our allocation from the state, but we also need to rethink our approach to planning and budgeting in order to remain strong even as we continue to advocate for a higher base budget from the state.


50. As a smaller department, won’t we get lost in the shuffle?

As IPFW shifts to a greater emphasis on the use of data to inform decisions, smaller departments may feel anxious because quantitative data highlight their smallness.  What departments will produce for the USAP process will be qualitative data -- yes, there will probably be some quantitative aspects to the measurement and reporting of progress toward goals, but setting these goals and making plans provide departments of all sizes with the opportunity to advocate for their importance and value and to provide qualitative data to be included along with the quantitative data for decision making.


51. Isn't this process just institutionalizing a competitive process for resources?

Yes.  We believe that allocating resources based on data is better for the institution than allocating based on whims, intuition, or the loudness of squeaky wheels. We further believe that allocating resources based on a balance of quantitative and qualitative data, with input from units themselves, will lead to better decisions than a consideration of only quantitative data would.


52. What is the end goal – there was an email from the Chancellor this summer saying that programs would be cut – so is this how this will be started? 

The end goal is to achieve the outcomes and measures highlighted in the Strategic Plan and specified in Plan 2020 by 2020.  The goals set for 2020 are ambitious, and the focus will be on supporting initiatives that promise to have maximal impact on achieving them.



53. How do we know this is not the latest “flavor of the month”?

The Chancellor and Vice Chancellors are extremely supportive of this process, and the task force views it as a serious responsibility.  We hope the units take responsibility for being good stewards of IPFW's future and use this opportunity to make the institution stronger.  However, if we are the flavor of the month, we would like to be Cherry Garcia.


54. Why is this different than any other initiative that has been introduced in the past and then just fades away?

This initiative is similar to other initiatives aimed at campus-wide cultural change in that it cannot succeed without large-scale buy-in and commitment.  It is different from other initiatives in the representativeness of the committee.  Instead of applying someone else's one-size-fits-all model, or hiring outside consultants to provide us with a plan for aligning with the strategic plan, or implementing a top-down approach from the administrators, a committee of 24 employees have devoted a tremendous amount of time to creating a process that we believe is appropriate for IPFW.  The process was created with the deep understanding of IPFW's strengths, weaknesses, identity, and values that comes from decades of collective experience with the institution.