Dear faculty and staff,
I, like many of you, had a mix of emotions at the start of this academic year: excitement about the prospect of finally being back on campus, anxiety about the various unknowns related to COVID-19, and a hopeful confidence that the work over the summer on our ResilienTU program would be robust, effective and up to the task.
That vital groundwork was necessary but on its own, insufficient. What we really needed to be successful was support and engagement. Our student body has lived up to the moment – as I hoped and anticipated – by being responsible and considerate, recognizing that their actions could in large part determine our ability to stay on this wonderful campus. Your backing and encouragement has been equally serious and dedicated.
There is a lesson here that I think applies to the other significant work currently underway: setting TU on a transformative path to future success. However good our plans may be, it takes the engagement and support of this community to make them actually work. Even though these have been some of the most difficult times any of us can remember in higher education, thanks to your commitment, ideas and collaboration, we have made significant headway. These tremendous accomplishments have not gone unrecognized. I thank you all for your hard work and want to take this opportunity to share a few updates on the multipronged approach we have undertaken.
Improving Organizational Performance
The Huron Consulting Group has been providing project management support for our staff over the summer and early fall to implement recommendations. As of last week, the majority of the recommendations had been implemented, with the goal of completing this process in October.
We are so happy that our new Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Barbara Abercrombie has officially joined TU. Her first day was Oct. 1. She comes to Tulsa from the University of North Texas system. Her extensive experience in performance management, professional development and growing excellent HR customer service will be most welcome as we continue implementing plans that Huron and others helped us to identify.
Shared Services Center
The Shared Services Center (SSC), designed to improve delivery of administrative services across campus in order to better support our academic mission, is launching this month. The SSC will be the central point for a variety of functions that were previously distributed across departments. While a few support functions are scheduled to begin in the weeks to come, you will be able to access most services very soon.
I am delighted to announce that Mindi Fuser, director of university budgets, has taken the reins as Shared Service Center leader. Grant Garner, Laura Hockett and Sean Underwood are moving from the colleges to serve as SSC portfolio directors at SSC. Each will be responsible for activities within their portfolios. For additional information on SSC services and structure, please visit https://utulsa.edu/shared-services-center-sept-29-2020/.
Setting the strategic direction for the university is one of the fundamental roles of TU’s Board of Trustees. In August, we shared information surrounding the engagement of experts from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to support and facilitate this board-led process to develop a strategic plan for reaching our long-term strategic and financial goals. We have made a lot of short-term progress in righting our financial ship, but those steps will only get us so far. We need a strategy in place to get us the rest of the way to financial health and a way to sustain it in the future. Leveraging BCG’s extensive expertise allows us to maintain the momentum of the hard work to date and to keep us moving forward on our road to long-term success.
BCG’s work has now begun and by year end, we expect to have in place a:
- Strategic path for moving forward
- Potential business model for identified pathways
- Proposed implementation plan and milestones
You already may have received a survey asking for your input to this process. The campus community has been and will continue to be involved throughout the process. This approach was one of the reasons the board was enthusiastic about engaging BCG.
This is just a snapshot of the progress made to date on these initiatives. I invite you to visit https://univoftulsa.sharepoint.com/sites/ChartingPathForward, which has recently been updated with the latest and most detailed information. As I have communicated throughout these tumultuous times, I promise to keep you up to date, and we are planning another Campus Conversation toward the end of this month to provide additional information. In the meantime, I am holding a regular series of faculty and staff virtual morning coffee chats and encourage you to sign up.
Your continued engagement, ideas and dedication for these various initiatives in the weeks and months to come is vital to maintain the momentum and keep TU moving toward lasting sustainability.
Janet K. Levit