USC Union implementing strategic plan

Charles Warner cwarner@civitasmedia.com

February 25, 2014

UNION — Long-term goals designed to provide its students with an academic environment that will prepare them to thrive in a constantly changing and ever more challenging world are part of a strategic plan being implemented by USC Union.

Since June 1, Dr. Alice-Taylor Colbert has been Dean of USC Union, and since taking up her duties she has worked with the university’s faculty and staff to develop a strategic plan for the future that will benefit both the campus and its students.

“What I wanted to do was have the campus community come together and talk about who we are and where we are going,” Taylor-Colbert said. “That’s what I believe strategic planning is, a conversation that allows us to understand our shared goals for the future.

“We had a series of meetings, some were with the Dean’s Council, others were with the faculty and others were with the staff members,” she said. “As a newcomer I needed to understand the culture of USC Union and its strengths and opportunities.”

Taylor-Colbert said that out of these meetings came USC Union’s new mission statement which spells out the mission of the university. The meetings also produced the strategic plan that spells out the goals to be attained by the university in order to carry out its mission.

“Once we held those meetings where we brainstormed, we were able to create our shared mission and long-term goals,” Taylor-Colbert said. “If you look at the phrases in the mission statement and the goals you can see our value system.

“This is what we see for our students, for their future,” she said. “We are providing the boundaries for that future.”

The mission statement states that “the University of South Carolina is dedicated to providing a high-quality, competitive higher education that will enable students to thrive in a global, diverse, and constantly changing environment. By providing a varied curriculum, grounded in the Liberal Arts, USC Union emphasizes a close working relationship among students, faculty, staff, and the community that promotes self-reliance, freedom of thought and expression, productive citizenship, and critical thinking.”

The strategic plan includes five long-term goals:

• To increase enrollment and retention.

• To increase faculty and academic programs.

• To provide students with intellectual tools for leadership and lifelong learning.

• To strengthen infrastructure and campus resources.

• To strengthen community ties.

“These are the things that we as a campus want to do,” Taylor-Colbert said. “We have taskforces that are going to implement these goals. Those taskforces are already at work. Every one of our employees is on a taskforce.”

Taylor-Colbert said ensuring faculty advisors are able to effectively communicate with students and meet their needs will be a big part of achieving the long-term goal of increasing enrollment and retention of students.

“We want to retain students until they graduate with an Associate’s degree,” Taylor-Colbert said. “Sometimes, the thing that can keep a student in school is a conversation with a faculty advisor. So what we want to do is train our advisors so that they can connect the students to community resources.

“For instance, if they are having financial difficulty, then we will connect them with the financial aid office,” he said. “If they were to need assistance with employment then we’ll connect them with the agencies that can provide that assistance. The goal is to listen to the students and find out how we can help.”

Taylor-Colbert said one taskforce will be responsible for desiging a success center.

“What we’re hoping to do with our success center is to provide students with tutors, with skills like how to study in an effective way or how to manage their time,” Taylor-Colbert said. “We already provide them with writing assistance and we want to provide them with other assistance.”

In the area of leadership, Taylor-Colbert said the university wants to provide students with opportunities to take on leadership roles in the USC Union community and encourage them to do so. She said this will include promoting student organizations and students taking and graduating from the new leadership program the university is offering.

As for lifelong learning, Taylor-Colbert said this is part of USC Union’s efforts to provide continuing educational opportunities for the community. She said this could include a class on social media which might involve students pairing with faculty members to learn how to use social media as an educational tool.

In the area of infrastructure, Taylor-Colbert said this will include enhancing the beauty of the campus through a landscaping plan being developed by the Infrastructure Taskforce.

“We need to develop funding for that landscape plan to be implemented,” Taylor-Colbert said. “We would also like to raise money for a weight room for the gym.”

In addition to raising funds for infrastructure improvements, Taylor-Colbert said USC Union would also like to raise funds for student scholarships.

The strengthening of community ties will involve partnerships with various businesses and other organizations in Union County with USC-Union making its facilities available to them for a variety of purposes.

“We want to be good partners with all the community organizations and businesses,” Taylor-Colbert said. “For example, the Waffle House employee training that took place on our campus. As you know we already host the Arts Council exhibits in the hall. We’d like to host more exhibit and programs. We’re just trying to partner with the community.”

Taylor-Colbert said that plans are for there to be at least one program in place for each of the long-term goals by the fall.

“Then we’ll just keep working on them,” Taylor-Colbert said.