News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 27, 2010

ISU assesses ‘Pathway to Success’ progress

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Six months ago, Indiana State University launched an aggressive strategic plan that calls for increased enrollment, better student retention and improved graduation rates.

“The Pathway to Success” is an ambitious five-year plan to reshape the university to meet the changing needs of students and the state.

On Tuesday, nearly 200 ISU faculty, staff and students joined several community members at a daylong conference to assess progress. They listened to specific ideas to achieve the plan’s goals and they discussed ways to improve the initiatives.

The goals include growth in enrollment and graduation rates; even greater community involvement; more opportunities for experiential learning; enhancing programs of distinction; diversifying revenue; improving the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff; and increasing partnerships with public and private organizations.

“This is a critical time for our university, perhaps one of the most significant periods in our history,” said ISU President Dan Bradley. Focused planning and implementation of strategies that move ISU toward its goals are essential.

“If we don’t control our own destiny, others will determine it for us,” he said.

Chris Murphy, member and former chairman of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, outlined the commission’s goals for higher education and how ISU’s strategic plan relates to them.

He praised ISU not only for having a plan, but for holding itself accountable to ensure it achieves goals outlined in that plan. “That is what separates you from an awful lot of others,” Murphy said.

He provided many statistics that point to the need for Indiana to improve educational attainment of citizens. Indiana is 41st in the nation in the proportion of adults with postsecondary education, he said.

Indiana must improve if it wants to attract good-paying jobs, grow the state and improve the quality of living, he said. 

To be competitive with other states, Indiana must produce at least 10,000 more bachelor’s degrees each year and at least 50 percent more associate’s degrees each year, he said.

At the same time, higher education’s proportion of the state budget is decreasing; it has been 17 percent, but now it’s 13 percent. Murphy doesn’t look for that to improve anytime soon.

During the conference, stakeholders discussed each goal in the strategic plan as well as initiatives to achieve those goals.

Various enrollment and student success initiatives are already in the works. They include developing more cooperative programs with Ivy Tech Community College; creating “Sycamore Express,” a one-stop center to handle financial aid, registration and bill payment; launching a parents-and-families program; and implementing an early warning system for freshmen at risk for academic failure.

Several efforts are aimed at reaching out to students earlier in high school, including an expanded College Challenge program that provides college credit for selected classes.

ISU’s plan for a freshman student residential village will create a distinctive environment for new students that bridges the classroom and students’ residences. The plan calls for the creation of a new position to coordinate themed housing and develop programming.

 A seventh area, labeled “Partnering for Success,” looks beyond the five-year time frame of the overall plan and calls for the development of community partnerships by:

 n Energizing downtown Terre Haute to create a great college town;

 n Realizing the full potential of the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative;

 n Creating a gateway to ISU and a connection to Riverscape;

 n Improving student housing to meet the expectations and needs of today’s students, including the potential for the development of off-campus housing.

Longer-term initiatives include developing the neighborhoods around ISU and developing a professional development and conference center and alumni center.

In an interview, Bradley said that one purpose of Tuesday’s session is “to keep the energy level up. We need to have a lot of people involved and we need them excited and engaged in the process of helping us achieve our goals.”

Another purpose is to measure progress and discuss whether any changes are needed to accelerate that progress, Bradley said.

Most of the progress so far relates to process. “We have moved forward with our planning in detail and we have put some things in place with regard to housing, fundraising and new student recruitment,” Bradley said.

ISU will be in a better position to measure its success in the fall when it knows enrollment numbers, results of fundraising efforts and other indicators of progress, Bradley said. 

Chris Pfaff is one of the chairmen for the initiative to energize downtown.

“I think there is a recognition that creating a college atmosphere – a community that supports that college town feeling – is important to recruitment and retention” of both students and faculty, he said.

A student survey is in place, and the plan is to market the downtown to prospective retailers and franchises. There is – and will continue to be – increasing foot traffic downtown, information that could help draw more of those new businesses to the downtown, Pfaff said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.