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Machiavelli once said “whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past.” So before UMB proceeds further with its 2017-2021 strategic plan, it seemed fitting to take a detailed look back at the 2011-2016 effort, UMB’s most collaborative strategic plan, which concluded June 30.
The 2011-2016 plan, conceived at the request of UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, had as its overarching goal “redefining collaboration.” University priorities were decided together with schools and administrative units acting as one community to implement these collective goals and shape the University’s future.
Perman appointed Peter Gilbert, MSF, (former) senior vice president and chief operating officer, and Stephen Bartlett, MD, professor and chair, Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine, as strategic plan co-chairs in November 2010 to lead the planning effort. Over a 10-month period, University community members volunteered to participate in work groups, complete surveys, and/or provide feedback at town halls and information sessions. The planning cycle resulted in a comprehensive strategic plan supported with an environmental scan to bolster its validity. Created to guide the University for five years and shape it for 10, the strategic plan was founded on the following themes:
• Achieve pre-eminence as an innovator
• Promote diversity and a culture of inclusion
• Foster a culture of accountability and transparency
• Excel at interdisciplinary research
• Excel at interprofessional education, clinical care and practice
• Develop local and global initiatives that address critical issues
• Drive economic development
• Create a vibrant, dynamic University community
In addition to the 23 goals and 109 tactics associated with the above-mentioned themes, four fundamental elements were identified: 1) faculty and staff training; 2) effective two-way communication; 3) information technology organization; and 4) expanded government and external relationships. With the addition of the fundamental elements, the number of goals and tactics rose to 35 and 134, respectively. It was an ambitious undertaking, and implementation required leadership, management, and determination.
The seven school deans were paired with senior UMB administrators to lead a theme or fundamental element through the implementation phase, sharing accountability for achieving its tactics. An Executive Implementation Committee (EIC) assigned resources, evaluated progress, and determined priorities. The EIC, comprised of leadership throughout UMB, met quarterly during the first three years of the 2011-2016 plan, and twice a year thereafter. Dr. Perman chaired each meeting, and Mr. Gilbert facilitated the meetings before leaving UMB in June 2015. Co-leaders of each theme and fundamental element were required to submit an annual report on he progress in advancing goals. These progress reports are available.
Over the course of the plan, $7.55 million was committed to helping achieve its priorities. Awards were made on a one time and recurring basis by the EIC. Prioritizing of funds was a challenge. Due to a limited funding pool, theme leaders had to make a compelling case for the dollars each year by providing a formal request for funds with an accompanying budget justification, and a summary of anticipated outcomes. This process, however, did not prevent many of the tactics from moving forward, as progress reports indicate. In addition, 66 percent of the plan’s tactics were classified as operational and became a part of the administrative units’ regular operations throughout the University.
Midway through the implementation period, in March 2014, an environmental scan and a review of the plan’s tactics were revisited. The EIC determined the priorities outlined in the goal statements were still pertinent to UMB’s future.
Strategic plan success stories were highlighted during the implementation process. Here are just a few:
• Developed the Research HARBOR (Helping Advance Research By Organizing Resources), which progressed from prototype to production. The HARBOR is an information-rich resource accessible via virtual and physical means to a wide range of research assets (e.g., clinical data sets, statisticians, epidemiologists, etc.) to help facilitate inquiry into complex health, legal, and population studies. It will relocate from the School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health to the Health Sciences and Human Services Library in late fall 2016.
• Established the President’s State of the University Address to advance transparency and celebrate successes.
• Created the Center for Interprofessional Education to prepare the health, human services, and legal professionals to work collaboratively as teams focused on improving the lives of people locally, nationally, and globally. Four annual IPE days have been held and participation has increased exponentially each year.
• Established the UMB Office of Community Engagement to lead UMB community development and partnerships, positively impacting our neighbors’ health, education, and economic development.
• Completed an inventory of key campus global and local partnerships. One such initiative included the School of Social Work exchange program with Rajagiri University in Kerala, India, addressing child welfare and aging practices in the two states.
• Launched the virtual Procedures Library, a comprehensive standard operating procedures process to increase uniformity across UMB.
• Recognized staff and programs that exemplify efforts to promote the core value of diversity, tracked progress through surveys, data, and other metrics, and increased cultural offerings available to the UMB community such as the Core Values Speaker Series.
• Enhanced University signage on UMB buildings and vehicles and provided gateway signage on campus boundaries that provide a sense of place.
• Developed processes to improve the management of the University’s financial resources.
• Created programs to support a more cohesive University community with initiatives like The Elm, Core Values Speaker Series, and UMBrella.
• Made major improvements to Human Resource Services’ onboarding process, developing key organizational learning activities.
Not all parts of the strategic plan were successes. Challenges abounded in pursuing our collective goals, such as:
1) Setting priorities at the University level while balancing the autonomy of each school. Special attention was paid to learning about the needs of the individual schools — e.g., their identity, issues, and complexities vis-à-vis the whole. Facilitating support for some Universitywide goals remains a priority.
2) Improving the campus’ visual attractiveness to our external stakeholders, particularly near the University’s boundaries, which required working closely with Baltimore City government to obtain needed permits. Navigating the city’s administrative and regulatory environment and its funding limitations remain a challenge for future projects.
3) The University’s own funding model made it difficult to support strategic plan tactics like attracting entrepreneurial faculty to UMB, and hiring staff to accelerate other outcomes. Although resources were made available to make substantive progress on some initiatives, enhancements to the funding model must become a priority.
4) The environment for extramural funding leads to more researchers competing for limited National Institutes of Health and other federal agency dollars. This puts greater emphasis on identifying and pursuing other means of support, greater reliance on UMB’s development team, a productive research community, and a coordinated effort to use resources wisely.
5) Developing appropriate metrics to assess progress and measure success of initiatives proved difficult.
Notwithstanding these challenges, the 2011-2016 strategic plan was significant as it brought the University community together to shape the future of UMB. It also provided a useful framework within which to focus and allocate resources to accomplish important Universitywide goals. The process was inclusive and transparent, engaging scores of faculty, staff, and students across the University.
This model of engagement will continue to be used for UMB’s 2017-2021 strategic plan. We are most proud of the efforts hundreds across UMB put forth in making our first collaborative strategic plan a model for working together now and in the future.