Dear Members of the UNE Community,
I want to thank you for the support you provided during my transition to the University of New England. I knew before accepting the job of UNE president that I would be joining a special place, but did not understand just how special UNE was until my interactions with so many of you revealed what a welcoming, caring, supportive community ours is.
Now, as we embark on the development of UNE’s new strategic plan, your participation will be critical to our success. Together, we possess much collective wisdom, and we must tap into our deep reservoir of experiences and expertise in assessing UNE’s current realities and imagining its future. We must gaze with unblinking eyes upon the challenges facing our University and must identify opportunities to leverage our strengths to meet societal and workforce needs. Together, we will design a blueprint to maximize UNE’s potential, and then, we will build upon the sturdy foundation we already possess.
Although our strategic planning process is just now “officially” kicking off, I consider the preliminary engagement I have had with many of you to be part of the process. Hopefully, my listening tour, the two task forces I have charged, and the UNE Challenge I issued in August have laid the groundwork for broad community involvement in our strategic planning. Our recently completed NEASC self-study, too, should prove useful to our efforts now.
I am eager to hear your ideas and engage in a robust, organized conversation concerning UNE’s best paths forward. My initial thoughts are that after a lengthy period of growth, we must consolidate our gains, strengthen and grow existing programs that are flourishing, refine existing programs that have stagnated, and develop new programs in a thoughtful, intentional way. Whatever new infrastructure needs we identify must be prioritized, as we will not have the resources to address them all at once.
To lead our effort, I have established a strategic planning coordinating committee, led by Vice President Ellen Beaulieu. We have also contracted with AKA Strategy, a New York consulting firm specializing in nonprofit strategy. The professionals at AKA will play a valuable role in our process, acting as facilitator, idea catalyst, and project manager. But, to be clear, the creative imagining and critical thinking that light our best paths forward must, and will, come from those people who know UNE best and care about it most deeply — you.
As a first step, the coordinating committee is working to establish a process to gather input from our many constituent groups. You will be invited to share your ideas in open sessions, small groups, via the web, and in other ways as the process unfolds.
Together, we will shape this institution we cherish into the most successful, impactful, resilient version of itself it can be.
James D. Herbert, Ph.D.