Some Key Excerpts from Ryerson’s Academic Plan for Administration and Finance Professionals

by julia.hanigsberg | September 2nd, 2014

Ryerson’s new Academic Plan elaborates four priorities and 29 supporting strategies. Interspersed throughout the plan is food for thought for administration and finance professionals and I encourage you all to read (and re-read) the plan to help shape your thinking as we launch our own five-year planning process.

This blog is intended as a working tool for Ryerson’s administration/finance professionals. I’ve drawn out some of the elements from the Academic Plan that I think are most applicable to the finance, infrastructure and people related work led by the admin/finance team.

I hope this will be helpful food for thought as admin/finance teams work on their strategic plans and as every individual thinks through what elements of the Plan most specifically impact the work you do.

1. The Values

All of the values need to infuse the work we will do collectively. Consider whether there are particular values that will be priorities in your areas of specialty. I’d encourage you not to just think of the “easy” ones. Consider how values that at first glance may not apply to you can enhance the way you do your work, and if applicable, lead your teams. How will you measure your effectiveness at applying the values? For example, how will you know that equity, diversity and inclusion is permeating all that you do?

2. Operational excellence

Operational excellence needs to be a key priority. We need to identify how we can all work smarter. A recent column in The Economist talks about decluttering the company. Do we need to declutter the university?

The Academic Plan challenges us to think as intrapreneurs: “Experimentation and collaboration among diverse teams will be encouraged to ensure that structures, systems, processes and services remain flexible, nimble and responsive as the needs of the university change. Potential enhancements and modernizations to the university’s IT assets, digital communication channels and enterprise platforms will be evaluated, taking into account Ryerson’s reputation for strong digital, design and technology capabilities. …”

The Academic Plan strategies provide some key directions:

Strategy 2. Assess administrative structures, processes and services to ensure ongoing effectiveness of university assets, support for academic programming and SRC activity, and enhanced space utilization.

Strategy 18. Streamline administrative structures, processes and resources to strengthen Ryerson’s research culture.

Strategy 22. Implement financially-sustainable mechanisms and initiatives to leverage and coordinate entrepreneurship and innovation-building activities across the university, and provide structures, frameworks and collaborative spaces to permit and support multidisciplinary participation.

3. Spaces that work and operations to support them

Space is probably Ryerson’s greatest deficit. With all the advantages of being a downtown urban university, our small footprint is a downside. We are already using many of our spaces extremely efficiently, especially our classrooms. But there are undoubtedly continued improvements to make building on shared space and improved planning. An example of this thinking is the design of our new building on Church Street where multiple academic departments are sharing key assets such as simulation suites and where terrific flexible spaces are being built where students from different departments will eat, meet and study.

According to the Academic Plan, “The university will also consider how existing space might be better used and shared. When future opportunities are presented to build or update facilities, consideration should be given to developing spaces that reflect the principles of the Master Plan, encourage collaboration and foster cross-disciplinary interactions to spark creativity and innovation.” (p. 14) … “[C]reate shared spaces where students will want to spend time with their peers” (p. 16)

Relevant strategies include:

Strategy 2. Assess administrative structures, processes and services to ensure ongoing effectiveness of university assets, support for academic programming and SRC activity, and enhanced space utilization.

Strategy 6. Offer services, supports, spaces and improved engagement opportunities that enable student success at all levels, encourage high retention, and facilitate the timely completion of students’ academic goals.

Strategy 13. Enhance the Library’s role as a provider of exceptional learning spaces, quality digital and physical collections, and innovative services for teaching, learning, research and collaboration.

4. People First

Our people are our greatest asset. The people who make up Ryerson and their genuine affection and institutional commitment, make the university what it is and allow us to change, experiment, innovate and evolve. Mutual understanding and a true commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will allow us to maximize our commitment to Putting People First

Relevant strategies include:

Strategy 1. Attract and retain high-quality faculty and staff with diverse backgrounds.

Strategy 27. Cultivate relationships with Aboriginal communities and students to create an educational environment that embraces and supports Aboriginal perspectives and experiences, and builds community for Aboriginal people.

Strategy 28. Develop a university-wide community engagement and communications strategy that values equity, diversity and inclusion; leverages current engagement activity; and builds a more visible Ryerson presence in particular communities.

5. Research intensity is growing

Ryerson’s research intensity is growing and the research funding is ever more complex relying on greater partnership and with increasing restrictions and accountabilities. We need to continue to evolve to support our researchers and their changing needs.

As stated in the Academic Plan, “the research landscape is changing. With increased attention being paid to Canada’s ‘innovation gap,’ the focus on demonstrating the impact and relevance of university-based research is intensifying. External funding is shifting toward collaborative projects and moving away from traditional Tri-Council sources. As a result, the internal administrative structures needed to support SRC activity are changing…. Strengthening institutional supports for SRC activity and ingraining its importance in Ryerson’s culture at all levels is essential to the next stage of the university’s evolution. As such, the university will endeavour to streamline administrative structures, processes and resources” (p. 19-20)

Strategy 2. Assess administrative structures, processes and services to ensure ongoing effectiveness of university assets, support for academic programming and SRC activity, and enhanced space utilization.

Strategy 18. Streamline administrative structures, processes and resources to strengthen Ryerson’s research culture.

6. Technology has got to be a focus

If space is a huge challenge, the relentless pace of change and ubiquity of technology may be even tougher. The technology needs of research are massive with big data being only the most obvious example. Learning and teaching relies more and more on technology and we are currently in the process of choosing a new learning management system to replace Blackboard. Technology needs are also about how we engage and communicate with each other in ways we know about today and ways which we can’t even imagine in the future. As a comprehensive innovation focussed university, we need to make sure our technology including our systems  can keep pace with the innovation of our SRC, teaching, and student and employee engagement.

The Academic Plan challenges us to take a critical look at our technological capacity: “Potential enhancements and modernizations to the university’s IT assets, digital communication channels and enterprise platforms will be evaluated, taking into account Ryerson’s reputation for strong digital, design and technology capabilities” (p. 14).

Conclusion

Admin/finance professionals are going to be preparing their own 5-year plans over the course of this academic year.  More than 600 people strong our teams support Ryerson’s mission. We have an ambitious Academic Plan to draw from. It couldn’t be a more exciting time to plan for the future at Ryerson: it is truly our time to lead.

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