Seawolf Strategies: Planning for the future

Feedback is an important concept, one that should not be overlooked in any way, shape or form. The university is now seeking a specific type of feedback concerning a document now available for Sonoma State University students titled “DRAFT Strategic Plan Revision 2014-2019,” which is available to view at sonoma.edu/senate/documents/planning.

Originally approved and drafted in 2009, the original plan covered the academic years of 2008-2013, focusing on key areas of importance including innovation of programs, the university’s values and how to achieve these accomplishments.

It’s now time to update the strategic plan, and the university would like to get student input.

After reviewing the outlined list of goals ourselves, we would like to provide our own feedback on the strategic plan, with an eye toward the most impactful positive changes and a focus on how well the university’s efforts have fared thus far.

The first key area of importance concerns the student experience, and how SSU strives to value and promote diversity, as well as respect and civility toward others. While there have been acts of discrimination and an overall lack of diversity in the campus within the past year, strong efforts have been made to bring awareness to the issue.

One possible, yet perhaps unintentional, way of addressing this was the opening of the Student Center last year. With so many ways to connect with the campus as a whole in one central area, the building is ultimately designed to bring Seawolves closer together. A place like The HUB is a prime example of how diversity is being positively reflected amongst the campus community.

Adding on to diversity is the idea of inclusiveness and the goal of recruiting and supporting students, faculty and staff population. With the university this year welcoming the largest freshman class and the largest overall group of students in our history, one can say that SSU is certainly starting things off right this year. But concerns remain about how this will impact the availability of classes for students.

Moving on to academic programs, one of the university’s proposed goals is to provide plenty of balanced support for a high-quality, broad and relevant curriculum in General Education, as well as majors and graduate programs. Despite reoccurring complaints over class availability, and having to take a set number of upper division GE units, we’re seeing a change in the right direction, such as the freshman learning experience.

First-year students are introduced to Freshman Learning Communities, which allows them to gain solid structure while searching for an academic path. If our campus can find a way to continue this walkthrough in the other three primary years, we should see less frustrated and lost students going forward.

How about our faculty and staff? Another goal that seems most relevant is the increase in teaching effectiveness through use of appropriate technology in and out of the classroom. State-of-the-art computers are becoming the norm in our everyday classes, but many of our teachers have yet to adapt and understand how to utilize them properly.

One way, which also ties into the category of intellectual curiosity, is to ensure enough relevant tools for staff and students, such as a reduction of required textbooks to purchase, moving toward a more online-centered format through electronic and audiobooks. Nothing beats saving a bit of money, while also having less to carry on a day-to-day basis.

Speaking of saving money, one way the university has been able to so is through community involvement and civic engagement goals, in striving to build collaborative relationships with the local areas to help raise the educational, social, cultural and economic development.

There are many companies that now recognize students as Seawolves, whether they’re grabbing pizza at the Wolf Den Plaza, setting up a new mobile plan or starting a website. SSU’s education program offers its students with discounts guaranteed to make you happy you chose this campus.

Two goals under the categories of sustainability and globalization appear to be coming together quite well, those being developing sustainability initiatives in the community, as well as a financial model to support SSU international education.

The seemingly never-ending drought in California has made sustainability a top priority, and it’s a nice reminder to see how many plastic bottles are being saved with the help of the new drinking fountains inside several campus buildings. And as far as the experiences of international students go, from our perspective there have been many who’ve enjoyed the living accommodations we have to offer.

Overall, we have three primary areas of concern. The first being an overhaul of optimal enrollment targets, making sure to maximize student graduation and satisfaction. The other two concerns are ensuring fees don’t go up after several years of increases, and providing needed space capacity for student residences, such as more parking availability.

After several years of tight budgets, course reductions and soaring fees, the university appears to be heading in a better direction from a student perspective. But whatever strategic plan the university comes up for the years to come needs to remain focused on ensuring a more positive academic experience for students, and less of hit on their wallets.