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Boise State University’s proposal titled “Planning in the Fast Lane: Fully-engaged Strategic Planning at Boise State” was accepted for presentation at The Society for College and University (SCUP) 2023 Pacific Regional Conference in March 2023.  The proposal was developed and presented by Andrew Finstuen, Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning & Dean of the Honors College,  Zeynep Hansen, Vice Provost for Academic Planning & Institutional Effectiveness, and Erin Muggli, Senior Project Manager for Strategic Planning & Academic Initiatives.

It can take institutions two or more years to develop and implement a strategic plan, but Boise State’s experience demonstrates the positive impact of shorter planning horizons for better stewardship of university financial and personnel resources. With an accelerated one-year strategic planning development and implementation process, Boise State redefined stewardship of its campus resources without sacrificing broad stakeholder participation. The session shared Boise State’s expedited and fully-engaged process can be used as a roadmap for increasing buy-in, achieving strategic goals, and avoiding planning inertia.

Download conference presentation slideshow PDF

Strategic Planning Process

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee released the strategic plan framework—mission, vision, and goals—to the campus on September 9, 2020. Following its release, the committee’s highest priority was ensuring campus participation and gathering campus feedback and strategy ideas regarding the draft framework. The response to this call for participation had strong engagement by faculty, staff, and students throughout September, October, and November 2020. Highlights include:

  • The steering committee offered forty-six zoom opportunities for live discussion and feedback regarding the strategic plan process and framework.
  • In all, nearly 1400 total students, faculty, staff, and friends of the university participated in one of those opportunities, including town halls, information sessions, open forums, or focus groups.
  • These discussions generated more than 100 pages of notes and more than 50 strategy ideas.
  • The information gathered from those engagement opportunities was analyzed and distilled into a comprehensive strategic planning survey, which was released on Oct. 28, 2020.
  • A total of 979 individuals took the strategic planning survey (240 faculty, 247 professional staff, 91 classified staff, 362 students, 29 friends of the university, and 10 “unknown”). Summary results of the survey were shared with campus in early December 2020.
  • Other channels for providing comments/questions about the strategic plan flowed through either the email or through the specially created feedback form available on the strategic planning website.

The results of “in-person” discussions and the campus survey demonstrate that Boise State’s faculty, staff, and students showed overall interest in the strategic planning process. The largely positive participation was tinctured with understandable concerns owing to the pandemic context and corresponding uncertainties. For instance, many constituents questioned why the university would embark on strategic planning at all during such a turbulent time. In summary, we learned that across all constituent feedback there is a hope for a plan that would sharpen the vision for Boise State’s future, while attending deliberately to core infrastructure needs, student success, and a more inclusive and interconnected culture.

Strategic Planning and University Accreditation

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) requires that:

  • the university have a mission statement and a strategic plan
  • we demonstrate that our initiatives and actions are guided by our mission and strategic plan
  • when we make university decisions they correspond with the priorities we have laid out in our plan.


June 16, 2021

Idaho State Board of Education approves Boise State’s new strategic plan, Blueprint for Success.

February 9, 2021

President Tromp announces Boise State University’s new strategic plan, pending Idaho State Board of Education approval. The changes to the strategic plan reflect the feedback from campus and external stakeholders that raised common themes concerning student success, the vision statement, opportunity and support for all students and employees, and clarity of the original strategies (see this Update story for a full account of survey and focus group feedback). The most salient revisions include a new vision statement, a succinct, one-sentence revised mission statement, a new goal to “Improve Educational Access and Student Success” and corresponding strategies, a new sustainability strategy under the goal “Foster Thriving Community”, and revised strategies for each of the remaining original goals.

January 11, 2021

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee submits draft of new University Strategic Plan to President Tromp for review.

December 16, 2020

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee shares campus feedback on the strategic plan–mission, vision, values and goals. The feedback was collected and analyzed from the survey released to campus on October 28th.

October 25, 2020

The strategic planning steering committee invited faculty and staff to participate in a survey concerning Boise State’s mission, vision, values and goals.

The survey was developed from the comments, questions and ideas that surfaced during focus groups, open forums, town halls and other constituent meetings. Faculty and staff feedback on the mission, vision, values, and goals of the strategic planning framework are welcomed and valued.

“Your insights and ideas are genuinely critical to the process and will help shape how the university emerges from the immediate challenges of the pandemic and for the longer-term direction of Boise State,” said Dr. Marlene Tromp, Boise State president. “Thank you in advance for participating in this important process during such a busy and challenging time.”

July 10, 2020

The university’s 15-member Strategic Planning Steering Committee convened for its kick-off meeting. The committee engaged with the wider campus community throughout the process as the university strategic plan was developed, utilizing subcommittees and specialized workgroups as needed to brainstorm ideas, review campus feedback, identify challenges and barriers, and develop strategies.


Why strategic planning now?

Some on campus have asked about the prospect of strategic planning in a year of uncertainty created by the global pandemic. The pandemic context has indeed increased the pressure on Boise State to deliver on its essential mission of teaching, research, and service to enhance student success. There is a lot, as everyone is aware, going on right now, both at the university, in the nation, and across the world. In our Boise State context, the value of a strategic planning process is that it allows the entire campus to participate in a conversation about how the university emerges from the immediate challenges of the pandemic while also planning for the longer-term direction of Boise State.

How does the strategic planning process relate to other initiatives on campus as well as program prioritization?

Strategic planning can be thought about as a governance mechanism that encapsulates and coordinates various important initiatives on campus. The strategic planning process and accompanying goals provides the overarching strategic direction for the university. It guides how the university sets new activities and executes on pre-existing activities. For example, efforts toward the Grand Challenges in the research arena and the recently launched innovation website support the respective goals Advance Research and Creative Activity and Pursue Innovation. Once the university plan is finalized, other plans or initiatives at the unit level, department level, college or division level will have an opportunity to align with the university’s strategic direction.

Program prioritization is a compulsory process of the State Board of Education for all Idaho universities. Universities are required to complete a program prioritization process by June 30, 2021 and repeat this process at least every five years with regular annual updates to the Board. The Board also explicitly requires universities to “integrate program prioritization into their respective strategic planning, programming (academic and nonacademic) and budgeting processes.” Program prioritization is designed to increase alignment of resources with mission and the strategic plan and priorities of an institution, and help make informed decisions through conducting a careful evaluation of programs and services.

Do we have the budget resources to meet the strategic plan?

Boise State experienced budget cuts from the state and has done contingency exercises in the event of more cuts. Leaner times do not stop the need for direction and priorities to advance the university. The strategic plan will provide a transparent, shared set of criteria against which units and divisions can prioritize their budgets and activities. The alternative is ad hoc budget decisions without clear direction or prioritization.

How did the strategic planning framework emerge?

The vision and goals derive from six goalposts that President Tromp formed as a reflection of what she learned and heard about Boise State during her time as a presidential candidate and during her months-long listening tours with both the Boise State community and external stakeholders. The original goalposts circulated on campus in early 2020, and Dr. Tromp formally articulated them in a letter to campus on May 1, 2020. During the summer, the goals also inspired the draft mission and vision statements. These statements emerged from conversations among the strategic planning steering committee, and in the coming months the campus has opportunity for feedback on the strategic planning framework through forums, focus groups, and an all-campus survey.