Strategic Focus Areas - University of Houston
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Strategic Focus Areas

The NSM Strategic Plan focuses in six areas: Organizational Effectiveness, Engagement, Student Success, Faculty, Research, and Graduate Programs. The strategic priorities for each focus area, including initiatives and actions steps, are provided in the topic sections below.

To obtain a full copy of the NSM Strategic Plan, including action steps and measurable targets, please contact Kathy Major, Executive Director of Communications, at ksmajor@uh.edu.

The Overarching Goal for Organizational Effectiveness is to enhance the provision of services from the College in order to improve both efficiency and quality. This enhancement starts with a better alignment of responsibilities within the College leadership and extends to College standing committees and administrative departments.

Strategic Priority 1: Reorganize and expand the scope and efficiency of College executive administration and governance.

Justification: The College currently has four Associate Deans: Research, Graduate Studies, Undergraduate Studies, and Student Success. This structure does not cleanly accommodate the issues that face departments and the College in faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, mentoring, retention, and other faculty matters as they arise. Likewise, some of the College standing committees and bylaws need to be realigned to improve effectiveness and efficiency, and to advance the priorities of the College.

Initiative 1a: Reorganize the Dean’s cabinet in order to more coherently provide effective and efficient administrative service to the College.
Initiative 1b: Evaluate and optimize College standing committee functioning and effectiveness.
Initiative 1c: Optimize College bylaws to align with University standards and to better reflect priorities of the College.

Strategic Priority 2: Optimize delivery of administrative services from the College.

Justification: Procedures and pathways for staff training and development need to be clearly established. The College provides many of its services through three main avenues: College Business Office, NSM IT and NSM Facilities. None of these areas are currently reviewed by their primary stakeholders – the faculty and staff. A defined structure needs to be established for review of each of these service providers every two years. These reviews, taken together with the service providers’ own internal reviews, will facilitate tuning the delivery of these services for improved efficiency and reduced cost.

Initiative 2a: Develop procedures and pathways for enhanced staff development activities throughout the College.
Initiative 2b: Improve the operations, procedures and efficiency not only for the NSM Central Business Office (CBO), but also for departmental business offices.
Initiative 2c: Enhance cyber-security, network services and innovative programs provided by the NSM Information Technology Office.
Initiative 2d: Improve the operations of NSM Facilities in order to better address building maintenance, renovations and safety.

The Overarching Goal for Engagement is to strengthen the image, reputation and support of the College among its constituents by increasing awareness and financial support for NSM’s outstanding research, academic programs, outreach efforts, faculty, staff and students. In addition, we need to support students, staff and faculty by promoting dissemination of and access to opportunities and information.

Strategic Priority 3: Expand development and fundraising efforts to provide additional support for research, student success, new programs and expanded scholarships.

Justification: NSM cannot solely rely on its UH budget and funds from grants to meet its objectives for new programs, growth and improvement. Expansion of external sources of funding is needed to significantly impact multiple programs within NSM and will also allow NSM to reach its target for the UH capital campaign.

Initiative 3a: Expand development efforts to sustain NSM’s fundraising goal of $10 million per year by 2020.
Initiative 3b: Increase stakeholder engagement in NSM and University activities.
Initiative 3c: Strengthen relationships with and support for faculty and departments to increase private support for faculty research and programs.

Strategic Priority 4: Expand the reach of the College’s brand through increased and more effective communication of the College’s outstanding programs, research and people throughout the College, University and community.

Justification: Strong communications efforts positively impact the College within the University community and externally among our varied constituents. These activities act to strengthen NSM’s image and reputation, raise awareness of activities, increase philanthropic giving, and support student success and recruitment.

Initiative 4a: Improve structure and content of websites for the College, departments and research centers/institutes.
Initiative 4b: Increase opportunity for faculty interviews in the news.
Initiative 4c: Increase number and impact of articles published internally and externally on research, faculty/student awards, and STEM outreach.
Initiative 4d: Enhance the exposure of faculty and student accomplishments both locally and nationally.
Initiative 4e: Enhance the College’s image both locally and nationally through improved name recognition and branding efforts.

Strategic Priority 5: Expand the interest in STEM careers and improve the quality of STEM instruction by promoting the STEM K-12 outreach activities.

Justification: Outreach activities help to expand the interest in STEM careers, enhance student recruitment efforts and improve the overall quality of STEM instruction. The College needs to better track comprehensive information about outreach activities. This goal will allow NSM to better understand the scope and reach of existing outreach activities and to better promote new and existing activities.

Initiative 5a: Establish a process to gather information on existing activities/programs to determine reach, numbers involved internally and externally, budget and needs of current programs, and fundraising opportunities for these activities.
Initiative 5b: Increase visibility of outreach programs among various constituents.
Initiative 5c: Develop resources within the College to assist faculty with compliance of outreach evaluation component of grants.

The Overarching Goal for Student Success is to build a nation-leading set of academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular programs that establish teaching and learning at the center of the College’s work. We will develop a teaching and learning environment in which more of our students can succeed academically, socially and professionally. We will strive to develop our students into careful and critical thinkers who communicate well and are prepared for informed participation in society, graduate study and the transition to professional life.

Strategic Priority 6: Expand both the quality and the diversity of our current course offerings.

Justification: Based on pedagogical literature, there is a strong need to expand offerings in NSM that provide for diverse instructional options and/or create communities of students to help them engage in both their coursework and their own learning.

Initiative 6a: Add and diversify course offerings to enhance student flexibility.
Initiative 6b: Improve the quality and expand the number of College supplemental programs in high-demand areas, especially Scholar Enrichment Program (SEP) workshops, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) recitations, and tutorials.
Initiative 6c: Encourage the development of interdisciplinary minors to attract students, show the real-world relevance of their core studies, and prepare them for leadership in the academy or workforce.

Strategic Priority 7: Provide effective training in pedagogic theory and practice for tenure track faculty, instructional faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Also establish a practice of periodically reviewing course curriculum.

Justification: High-quality teaching is central to our educational mission. As few college instructors are formally trained in curriculum and instruction, participation in ongoing professional development is critical. Curriculum requires periodic reevaluation to stay current with changing societal and workforce needs.

Initiative 7a: Ensure that faculty members receive fundamental training in pedagogy and curriculum design. Both challenge and encourage faculty to continually enrich course content.
Initiative 7b: Provide comprehensive, high-quality instructional training to graduate student teaching assistants.
Initiative 7c: Perform periodic review of relevance and content coverage in the courses required by all majors.

Strategic Priority 8: Improve access to high-quality academic and career advising and provide more rigorous measures to keep students on a path to graduation and employment.

Justification: Effective advising has been demonstrated to be a critical factor in student success, career choice and timely pathway toward graduation. NSM is committed to the highest quality advising and needs to embrace the use of effective technologies, both to improve and expand services. In particular, NSM will layer student-progress tracking and intrusive advising in with existing, traditional advising.

Initiative 8a: Expand programmatic capabilities and improve efficiencies by transitioning to an online, data-driven academic advising system.
Initiative 8b: Increase and actively retain the number of academic advisors, improve communication channels to students and expand advisor accessibility to students.

Strategic Priority 9: Enhance student engagement within and beyond the classroom, departments and College to connect students to their future professions and to the University.

Justification: The pedagogical literature shows a strong correlation between student engagement and their performance and retention. Every effort should be made to actively engage students both inside and outside the classroom. Developing students as future leaders should be a priority of NSM.

Initiative 9a: Better engage students in the classroom as well as other formal and informal learning spaces.
Initiative 9b: Better engage students outside of the traditional learning environments with an aim toward personal and career pathway development.
Initiative 9c: Partner with the Honors College to develop more learning opportunities for students through the sharing faculty, staff, space and other relevant resources.

Overarching Goal for Faculty is to recruit, develop and retain the highest quality faculty whose core mission is excellence in research and teaching while maintaining a high level of leadership and service to the broader community. We will enhance the diversity, development, leadership and recognition opportunities for our College’s faculty.

Strategic Priority 10: Recruit and retain outstanding faculty.

Justification: Faculty excellence is perhaps the most critical factor for the success of the College. Recruiting and retaining both diverse and outstanding faculty is absolutely needed to meet the College's and University’s goals for increased research expenditures and to provide necessary courses and mentoring for the expanding and diverse graduate and undergraduate student populations.

Initiative 10a: The College will aggressively seek to identify and hire the highest quality faculty by recruiting in areas that complement the University's mission, establish nationally recognized programs and enhance the College's research and teaching initiatives.
Initiative 10b: To retain its best faculty, the College must ensure competitive compensation and high quality research environments commensurate with those of its peer institutions.

Strategic Priority 11: Increase the diversity of NSM faculty.

Justification: The University of Houston and the Houston metropolitan area are among the most diverse in the nation. The College recognizes the value of a faculty that is representative of our student body and community for both teaching and mentorship.

Initiative 11a: The College will actively engage professional organizations that represent underrepresented groups and study best practices implemented by successful institutions.
Initiative 11b: Actively enhance the diversity of candidate pools for all faculty searches in the College and actively increase the rate of success in hiring underrepresented faculty.

Strategic Priority 12: Support development, leadership and recognition opportunities for the College’s faculty and academic staff.

Justification: Transparency, mentorship, collaboration and clear advancement guidelines enhance faculty success. The College will help to foster a sense of pride and togetherness that will make the work environment in NSM more cohesive and allow for greater collaboration. In addition, local, national and international recognition of faculty will be encouraged and supported.

Initiative 12a: The College will work to develop a greater espirit de corps among its faculty through increased social and scientific interactions on the College level.
Initiative 12b: Proactive efforts will be established to reinvigorate research programs that have slowed, are undergoing a significant change of direction, or need to learn new methodologies to remain at the cutting edge of their fields.
Initiative 12c: The College will encourage and support the nomination of faculty for University, state, national and international awards, as well as leadership roles in professional organizations, editorial boards and review panels.
Initiative 12d: Provide developmental programs for non-student researchers that fall outside the tenure-track category to better prepare them for successful careers.

The Overarching Goal for Research is to promote, support and expand cutting-edge research in all areas of the College. We will provide active support efforts to acquire new grants, streamline administrative requirements, increase undergraduate research, and support research infrastructure.

Strategic Priority 13: Expand both basic and applied research activities within the College.

Justification: One of the primary missions of research universities is the development and dissemination of new knowledge. As a College, we need to assist faculty in their efforts to enhance research output. We will focus on current trends that target the assembly and coordination of large multidisciplinary research teams to address increasingly complex questions.

Initiative 13a: Develop large inter-, multi- and cross-disciplinary research initiatives targeted at large program projects/grants and industry collaborations.
Initiative 13b: Promote innovative science and scholarly achievement by removing impediments and improving management support for research.

Strategic Priority 14: Establish world-class research space and infrastructure that enhances research productivity.

Justification: To produce cutting-edge research, modern "state-of-the-art" facilities and instrumentation are critical. Too often the College struggles to update an ever-crumbling infrastructure and vital instrumentation.

Initiative 14a: Identify, secure and renovate additional space that will allow expansion of the College’s research mission.
Initiative 14b: Partner with UH Division of Research (DoR) and other colleges to enhance shared instrumentation and core facilities to drive innovative and transformative research. Provide instrumentation technical support to ensure that faculty, staff and students have access to core instrumentation.

The Overarching Goal of Graduate Programs is to recruit, educate and develop the highest quality students, while emphasizing breadth, diversity and future career placement. We are committed to preparing our students to become the next generation of scientists and leaders.

Strategic Priority 15: Enhance our graduate student recruiting efforts.

Justification: Excellence of graduate programs is at the core of the College’s success in fulfilling its research and educational missions. Improved recruitment methods to attract a diverse and talented student population are needed. Currently, low stipends are viewed by all of our programs as one of the major drawbacks in the ability to recruit high-quality students.

Initiative 15a: Implement a progressive adjustment in the TA stipends to a level that is initially similar to those of our competing institutions, and eventually even higher as we strive to offer better compensation than our competition.
Initiative 15b: Increase the number of graduate scholarships, fellowships and training grants supporting students.
Initiative 15c: Partner with the NSM Office of Communication for help in enhancing the College and departmental websites and social media sites.
Initiative 15d: Improve the quality and efficiency of the graduate recruiting process.

Strategic Priority 16: Develop new graduate programs in order to attract new applicant pools (and revenue sources).

Justification: In order to increase graduate student opportunities, broaden the range of educational opportunities and increase revenue, diversification is needed. Opportunities are especially present for master’s level student growth.

Initiative 16a: Develop quality professional master’s degree programs in key, high-demand areas.
Initiative 16b: Develop a B.S./M.S. option in appropriate departments to increase M.S. students and attract domestic and underrepresented minorities into graduate programs.
Initiative 16c: Encourage departments to consider the development of interdisciplinary graduate programs. Such programs offer unique opportunities for students and faculty to engage in collaborative research.

Strategic Priority 17: Enhance the graduate experience of our current and future students.

Justification: Our responsibility to our graduate students includes providing them skills to be successful in a diversified workplace. We need to provide more opportunities for our graduate students to network and develop in their careers as scientists.

Initiative 17a: Establish training and career development opportunities and activities for graduate students.
Initiative 17b: Establish an NSM Graduate Student Organization, to provide an avenue for student-initiated events and improve the communication between the students and the College administration.