Provost's Blog: LSU Strategic Plan Development--A Post-Mortem Analysis

Posted on August 28, 2017 by Rick Koubek, Executive Vice President and Provost; Professor of Industrial Engineering 

The kernel of LSU’s new strategic plan emerged from a conversation among the Deans in October, 2015.  This week we received the final copy from the printer and is currently being mailed to our faculty and staff.  As a campus we had twenty-three months of deliberations, meetings, town halls, questionnaires, agreements, and disagreements. 

About half way through the conversations, we began to sense that this may be more than the usual and customary strategic planning process, where we create the obligatory list of goals and metrics accompanied by the mission statement--all to be packaged in a glossy brochure and placed prominently on the coffee table ready for the next accreditation visit.   

We were wrestling with how to articulate what we all know….that LSU is a unique and special place. The exercise was synonymous to deconstructing a perfectly cooked culinary dish where unique ingredients are blended together in exacting proportions.  We were figuring out the recipe for LSU’s “secret” sauce.  If we were successful and could accelerate what is already in our institutional DNA, LSU would be positioned to stand out and thrive moving forward.  

As it turns out, it really is no secret.  Our renowned historian, Paul Hoffman, brought much of the recipe into the proverbial kitchen when he produced the original legislation that established LSU in 1877. (Once again, it is a historian who defines the future.) Below are four ingredients that make us uniquely LSU and that served as the underpinning of the strategic plan.

Balance

According to the original charter, LSU is to excel in the arts and humanities, and the applied sciences such as agriculture and engineering.  The charter clearly states that LSU shall provide an education anchored in both the sciences and humanities-we do.  In the most recent Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, of the 4,664 listed institutions, only 54 are considered very high research and “balanced.” Of that pool, 42 are public universities, including LSU.   

Community

You know the statistic: Nearly 79% Louisiana residents were born here according to the 2010 census.) The concept of a social network is strong here, and serves the institution well during both times of plenty and times of duress.   At LSU the term “community of scholars” is quite fitting.

Urgency

I often find myself quoting James Carville, who said, to paraphrase, no state needs their flagship to succeed like Louisiana needs LSU.  The issues facing the citizenry of our state are acute and immediate ranging from health and education outcomes to coastal subsidence and economic diversification.  I don’t  need to recite the national state rankings on these to make my point.  The state’s flagship is an important part of the answer.

Perseverance

Not much explanation is needed here.  From the history of the Acadians, to last year’s flood, to the fact that as I write this blog post our emergency operations center is on stand-by for potential secondary impacts of Hurricane Harvey….LSU is tough.  I often hear from companies that a defining characteristic of our graduates is “grit.”  It is in our DNA.

 To summarize, the new plan is not just another strategic plan.  The faculty and staff have illuminated the character of LSU and developed an authentic game plan that will both advance the welfare of our citizenry while raising the national profile of the Flagship, all by being uniquely and proudly LSU. 

 ….and by the way, we still have the glossy brochure suitable for the coffee table.