When University of Kentucky provost Christine Riordan sets open office hours to discuss where UK should be headed, it doesn’t take long for the time slots to fill up.
There’s been no shortage of interest in the topic of the university’s strategic direction, Riordan said, and she has spent much of her first seven months on campus encouraging that kind of community dialogue. After taking over as provost in July, Riordan’s first order of business has been the development of the university’s six-year strategic plan, intended to guide UK through the year 2020. With shrinking public funding, increasing competition and rising cost pressures, the challenges for the higher education industry are mounting, she said, and she hopes to involve as many voices as possible in setting the best course for Kentucky’s flagship university.
“We are facing unprecedented times in higher education,” Riordan said. “I always feel lucky to have smart people sitting around the table to help problem solve and think about what we need to be doing going forward.”
As provost, Riordan is charged with balancing the expansive needs of UK’s academic operations for its 16 colleges and 29,000 full- and part-time students, including the library system, graduate education, enrollment management, information technology, student support services and institutional effectiveness.
She previously served as dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver in Colorado, which rose in its rankings among top business schools under her leadership. She and her team at Daniels were also credited with initiating a fund-raising system that raised more than $14 million annually in corporate and private donations and increased the college’s endowment from $70 million in 2008 to more than $110 million in 2013.
Riordan’s leadership ability and her strong communication skills were cited in her being selected for the provost position last spring, and both skill sets have come into play quickly in the current strategic planning process, which the university has dubbed “see tomorrow.” Information on the initiative can be found on the website www/uky.edu/
In December, after completing a fall “listening tour” to gather input and answer the questions of faculty, staff and students across the campus, Riordan formed 11 workteams to address separate aspects of the developing plan. As their first assignment, the teams were asked to analyze current trends in the field of higher education and identify the 10 most significant to the University of Kentucky’s future. Their reports are expected to be released to the public in February.
“The next piece is really where we start crafting our shared vision and determining what our opportunities are as we write this next chapter for the University of Kentucky,” Riordan said.
With that shared vision completed, the teams will then turn to the development of action plans that the university can execute starting in July, along with metrics and scorecards that can be used to measure progress along the way. Riordan said the plan is targeted for completion in April, after which the community will have the opportunity to offer further feedback to help in consolidating and refining the final draft before it is presented to UK’s board in June.
“It’s a very aggressive timeline,”Riordan said. “I like to tell people it’s a six-year plan, so we don’t have to solve every problem in year one.”