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Institutional Strategic Planning Agenda Proposed for 2015-2025


The ETSU Interim University Council (IUC) is seeking public comment on the attached institutional strategic planning agenda proposed for 2015-2025.  The proposed agenda is the product of a strategic planning subcommittee, and has incorporated systematic, broad-based input from all constituencies throughout the ETSU community.  Prior to the final endorsement of this 10-year strategic planning agenda by the IUC, public comments will be reviewed and incorporated as appropriate.  For questions about timeline or process email Dr. Mike Hoff ( or Dr. Wallace Dixon (


We thank you in advance for your input into the future of East Tennessee State University.

Posted on: 10/10/2016
Closes on: 11/10/2016
Archived on: 11/10/2017

Primary Documents

The Request for Comments has been closed


I appreciate the opportunity to comment on this strategic plan draft, and would like to address the critical importance of expertly staffed, well-funded libraries as key infrastructure for any expanded research enterprise. 

I am in agreement with Ms. Van Zandt's comment that budgetary support of the ETSU libraries (both general and medical) is essential if the research goals of this plan are to be achieved. Access to scientific journals often seems free and easy for the ETSU community, but it only appears as such because librarians provide the community engagement, product evaluation, vendor and contract negotiation, subject expertise, and technological support which enable this apparently seamless access. Journal and database subscription prices increase every year, and ETSU must invest in keeping up with these costs in order to provide adequate and expanded resources. 

Likewise, library faculty and staff provide the education and support that enable information seekers to make the most efficient use of a vast array of information sources in order to achieve their learning, clinical care, and research goals. A significant increase in biomedical/health sciences research activities at ETSU would likely increase demand for medical library services including: classroom instruction and other educational activities (such as journal clubs); aid in use of research support tools such as EndNote, REDCap, and NCBI databases; contributions to systematic reviews which critically evaluate research for translation into clinical care; and broad support for information-seeking to underpin grant applications, research question identification, critical appraisal of existing research, scholarly publication, and other key research-related activities. Additional highly qualified medical librarians may be needed to meet this increased demand. 

Finally, the medical library as a space must be considered. If the goal of increased enrollment is achieved, the importance of the library as a place for study and collaboration may increase, and corresponding space, furnishing, and technology needs must be addressed. Likewise, the medical library is well-positioned to support the growth of health sciences activities planned for the new interprofessional center in Building 60; additional enhancements to the technologies available in the medical library may further increase the utility of the library space as a hub for interprofessional, collaborative health sciences research. 

I am extremely grateful for the significant financial support the medical library currently receives from the College of Medicine. Expanded health sciences research goals will likely necessitate additional investment in both personnel and information resources to support expanded areas of inquiry at the university. Implementation of a strategic plan which emphasizes the research enterprise should be paired with awareness of and significant support for the medical library's expertise, resources, and facility.

Commentor: Rachel Walden
Submitted on: 11/8/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

The current version of the ETSU Strategic Plan lists some very grand plans: increasing the number of students to 18,000, and increasing the amount of external research grant funding to $60 million.  It also states that we will increase the amount of high impact activities (such as research) for students, and increase the opportunities for students to interact with faculty outside of the classroom.  Yet it says nothing explicitly about increasing the number of faculty to cover the additional classes, or ensuring that these faculty are sufficiently qualified or research-active to mentor students in these high impact activities.

I suggest adding mention of increasing the number of faculty in several sections of the plan:

In the main Strategic Goals section near the beginning, right after "House 3,5000 students on campus", add the bullet:

--Increase the number of highly qualified tenure/tenure-track faculty with terminal degrees and active research programs to 1,100.

I obtained this number by scaling the 2015 count of tenure/tenure-track faculty (782) by the increase in enrollment to 18,000, using 2015 student headcount of 12,788.

In "Strategic Priorities" add a goal after goal g:

h. Increase the percentage of credit hours taught by highly qualified faculty with terminal degrees in the subject being taught.

In Section II: "Ensuring the diversity and inclusion of people"

Add a new bullet e:

e. Ensure that faculty searches are advertised nation-wide, to ensure a large diverse pool of highly-qualified candidates

In Section IV "Expanding the foundation for scholarly activity"

Add a new bullet after bullet "e":

f.  Increase the numbers of tenured/tenure-track faculty with terminal degrees and active research programs

Commentor: Beverly Smith
Submitted on: 10/30/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

I appreciate the time and thought that have gone into this plan and commend the work of the committee. I do have a comment regarding Goal 4: Expanding the foundation for scholarly (research and creative activity) excellence and innovation in all disciplines. One of the "foundation[s] for scholarly research" is information resources. I would suggest that an additional item be added, such as "Ensure excellence in research and other scholarly activity through increased budgetary support of library and information resources, making library support comparable to that of peer institutions." Library and information resources also are a major contributor to the student academic experience, so another appropriate place for that goal could be under Goal 1: "Ensure excellence in teaching and in the student academic experience through increased budgetary support of library collections, building and services, making library support comparable to that of peer institutions." It should also be recognized that the quality not only of library collections but also of library technology, facilities and services are integral to a positive student experience. 


Commentor: Patricia Van Zandt
Submitted on: 10/26/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I support the strategic plan and appreciate all of the time and effort of the committee members. I especially support the emphasis on diversity and want to reiterate the importance of an inclusive definition of diversity while continuing to recognize the importance of racial/ethnic diversity. I believe this inclusiveness will require improving the university's collection of demographic and climate data, and financial support of diversity-infused curricula and programs.

I also support the emphasis on research and creative activity, including the shift of the vice provost of research to vice president standing. I agree with what others have said - that there should be a vice president for research, just like there are vice presidents for the various foci of the university. I also would recommend the university join the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity...which offers mentoring and trainings, etc., related to faculty development, productivity, and success.

Commentor: Stacey Williams
Submitted on: 10/18/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

My primary concerns about the agenda are its failure to adequately address two of the defining trends of contemporary American society:

*.   The potential for a far more rapid increase in demand for non-traditional education as opposed to traditional education, created by

-.   the aging of the American population

-.   an increased demand for focused, skill-specific education from businesses, created by the shift to a knowledge economy and the expense of businesses' providing this education themselves.

-.   the rise of the Internet, the cloud, and other technologies for enabling wide-area content delivery and communication- a situation that Josh Ramo (The Seventh Sense) describes as the disruptive technology of our generation 

*.  The continuing decrease in state revenues - a concern that's addressed in part by the intention of increasing gifting and research funding, but isn't addressed in terms of initiatives to reduce operating costs, if "only" by improving the efficiency of existing operating processes, by implementing managerial philosophies like DevOps or Lean

Commentor: Phillip Pfeiffer
Submitted on: 10/15/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

In the town hall meetings conducted last month, the IUC presented "inadequate campus safety" as a SWOT challenge identified by the focus groups. However, it was stated that the IUC chose to discredit that challenge based on the assumption the increased of transparency in the disclusre of crimes to the campus community has caused people to feel less safe when in fact the rates of campus crime are decreasing overall.

In accordance with the strategic goal of being recognized as a Chronicle Great Schools to Work, campus safety/security should be included as a strategic priority. The Chronicle workplace satisfaction survey includes the category Facilities, Workspace, & Security. In order to score well in this category, we must address the safety and security concerns that underlie the "inadequate camous safety" challenge.

Poor campus safety reputation (based on crime stats and availablility of services and programs), has also been shown to negatively affect student enrollment. Student perceptions of safety should be included as we address strategy I,c: Develop a more robust (both content and frequency) system for collecting student input on the university environment with the purpose of using information gained to improve practice and policy.

I propose we re-interpret what the respondents meant by inadequate campus safety, instead of denying that they feel unsafe. Perhaps it is a preception problem, or perhaps it's a problem with accessibility of safety-related programs and services, but that is for an implementation team to analyze at a later point. Regardless, let's add campus safety back into the strategic planning discussion so we can make informed and effective decisions about the direction of this area.

Commentor: Kelly Kattesh
Submitted on: 10/14/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I am glad to see ETSU's strategic plan draft. When will it be finalized? We might need to change the start date from 2015 to 2017 if this draft has not been approved and finalized.

I agree with a previous comment that the word "ideas" in the ETSU vision does not seem to capture the essence of the vision. The word "ideas" seems nebulous in this sentence and might benefit from being changed to something more substantial. For example, paradigm or standard might fit here better than ideas.

Two goals are listed in the Strategic Priorities section but not listed in the initial Strategic Goals. See Strategic Priority II.ii "Obtain LGBTQ-friendly campus status on the national Campus Pride Index" and Strategic Priority IV.ii "Increase activity not normally measured through dollars." It seems that these two goals need to be added to the Strategic Goals list or removed from the Strategic Priorities list. This would create more consistency.

I would also mention that teaching needs to be added to the ETSU Mission. "Through research, teaching, creative activity, and public service" would be an appropriate revision.

Commentor: Kelly Atkins
Submitted on: 10/13/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I am excited and supportive of this document. There are lots of great agenda items on this and it should serve as a worthy map. As someone who collaborates with many units on campus I feel it is an honor to serve with so many who are excited about our direction in this document.

Two items of which I would like to publically comment:

a.     Ensure adequate support services to support the enrollment growth agenda.

m.   Develop a marketing plan that leverages our academic and athletic achievements to expand the core market area for ETSU enrollment from 75 miles to 300 miles.

In general, I am concerned about the marketing needed to reach our goals. We are lucky to have our current team and they are amazing folks. But, in my professional opinion, they are already wearing too many hats. If our university wishes to truly reach these goals, we need more than just a marketing plan – we need to be sure to commit to the means and resources needed to support the plan. This is the only way we will succeed. 

Commentor: Stephen Marshall
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: Individual Administrator

I endorse this document in general and thank all involved in its creation. I particularly appreciate the goals related to promoting diversity (II) and the specific strategies in place to meet those goals. 

Commentor: Diana Morelen
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I support the document in general, but in particular I was pleased to see an increased emphasis on research and item 1c - the need to develop a robust system for collecting data to drive decision making across campus.

Commentor: William N. Duncan
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

Theree are two things I see as being important relative to research & scholarship:


1) Bridge Funding for faculty at the Associate/Professor level. Bridge Funding could ttake many forms, including providing funding in between grants for the sciences, but could also be funds for scholarship in the humanities and other fields. There needs to be pool of money, an application process, a committee that reviews the applications, and awards made. Awards would go to those who have proven scholarship, and would be prioritized as such. This pool of money would need to be protected, as cash reserves are protected, in times of financial crisis. In other words, I can see this being put together, and then quickly being cut due to budget cuts, enrollment drops, et cetera. It needs to exist if ETSU wishes to keep their most productive faculty.

2) Incentives for scholarship. There needs to be incentives built for successful scholarship/grants across the university. Again, this is designed for faculty retention, and should not be paid from the direct costs of their grants or scholarship - it would be provided by the university. This is also designed for faculty retention. It can be determined by the individual college and/or unit as to what defines an incentive, and would obviously need to be overseen by a dean to insure that incentives are only provided to the most productive within a particular unit. In other words, not everyone could earn the incentive in any academic year. This is also designed towards faculty retention.

Both of these issues could very easily be cast off with "Well, the college and/or departments can take care of that." If that is the way this is treated, then we are back to square one. It needs to be university wide, and funds need to be protected so that it can always be provided, even in times of budget crises, in which we always seem to be in one. We need to always strive to get better at what we do, regardless of the situation, and faculty retention needs to be a focus within the strategic plan.

Commentor: Russell Brown
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

There is a lot of good stuff in here, thanks to the committee for their effort. I'd like to specifically endorse this point: 

a.       Elevate the Vice Provost for Research to a Vice President for Research with the goal of elevating the priority and resources given to research and identifying more interdisciplinary research opportunities.

I'm surprised that the highest levels of research and scholarship administration are not on par with other aspects of our administration (e.g., health affairs, academic affairs). While I recognize the importance of teaching and retention, there seems to be a feeling that promoting teaching and promoting research are mutually exclusive goals and that promotion of one is in diametric opposition to the other and causes it some damage. This is a false pretext for any movement in either direction. In fact there are ways to make scholarship and teaching and retention symbiotic and the Honors College is one of those ways. I'm sure there are more ways to make these symbiotic, but they are above my pay grade. Regardless, I think that elevating the research provost position to VP will help to encourage that approach.  

Also, I agree with Jon See's comment on the vision: Developing world-class ideas to enhance student success and improve the quality of life in the region and the world beyond.

The problem with developing ideas is that once you start developing them, they stop being ideas and start being things you do. The problem with the phrase "world-class" is that if you saying you're moving toward "world class", you're admitting not being there already. On the other hand, I don't have any creative alternatives to offer. But I do think our goal is to inspire the next generation of world-class professionals who will improve the quality of life, economy, and culture of this region (and beyond). Maybe there's something in there. 

Commentor: Matthew Palmatier
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I didn't see an agenda for comment, but I had one item regarding the proposed vision (below):

Developing world-class ideas to enhance student success and improve the quality of life in the region and the world beyond.

I don't think our vision should be to simply develop "ideas."  Is it possible to incorporate the idea that we join ideas with concrete action and resources to enhance student success...

Hope this helps - thanks for the chance to provide input.

Commentor: Jon See
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff