Environmental Scan Team Meeting, July 7, 2010

Update University Environmental Scan Team, July 7, 2010

On July 7 the University Environmental Scan Team met to discuss:

  • Preliminary findings relating to key trends in assigned areas that offer the greatest challenges and the greatest promise for the work of supporting a transformational learning community.
  • The type of analysis that will need to be done in relation to those key trends in order to better understand their implications for Ohio University within a 3-5 year planning window.

Areas discussed were culture and communications, regional issues, demographics, and infrastructure.

In the realm of culture and communications, the team discussed how the nature of the subject did not lend itself well to being captured in a typical database.  It is not easy to gather statistical information on questions such as how faculty envision their roles in a changing higher education environment or how the consumerism approach adopted by many incoming students has changed university culture.  It was suggested that fruitful avenues of further investigation might lie in attitudinal work that has been done on new faculty, annual surveys of student characteristics and expectations, and an examination of approaches used by institutions known to have strong and effective communication strategies.

On the subject of regional issues, matters such as how to understand and prioritize the diversity of educational needs in Ohio University’s service area were discussed along with how to project employment trends; how to anticipate the knowledge and skill set needs of future students; and how to make a convincing case in light of tight state resources and economic realities faced by families and individuals that quality matters at all levels.

In discussing demographics more in depth knowledge was called for of populations in the areas (both in-state and out-of-state) that we draw on most heavily for students.  We also must understand and project patterns relating to online learning.  Shifts in occupational growth are another area of demographic importance.  Finally, the team discussed what universities had profiles that were most similar to Ohio University—large public institutions with diversity in academic programs and structures, in a rural location, and in states with a large dominant land grant university.  Looking to these types of institutions, it was suggested would give us some important comparative options.  Randy Leite provided a list of potential demographic indicators that should be of use to planning units as they work on their environmental scans.

When it came to infrastructure, the discussion included some consideration of how the area needed to be subdivided into internal and external matters.  While external issues such as working with the City of Athens on issues of utilities, housing, and access were deemed to be vital, it was suggested that the greatest degree of cost control is to be had through the pursuit of our own “bricks and mortar”—understood in both the traditional sense and in the technological sense.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Provost requested that each member of the team provide by July 20 a written outline addressing the two bullet points cited in the first paragraph of this update.  For the August Environmental Scan Team meeting, she asked that each individual on the team select within their areas the three most important critical trends that are bound to exert an influence on the university’s ability to support a transformational learning community both near-term and long-term.

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