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Regents’ New Strategic Plan Tackles Critical Challenges

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Atlanta — February 6, 2002

The Board of Regents is forging ahead with the final shaping of its updated strategic plan, set for final review this spring. Board members heard presentations yesterday and today in the areas of research, personnel, operations and facilities from System officials and an external consultant hired to explore commercialization generated at the System’s research institutions.

Dr. Edward E. David, Jr., a principal in the Washington Advisory Group, a D.C.-based consulting organization, said that transforming faculty research into products and profits is something University System researchers have done for a number of years - but the potential for greater results exists and should be pursued aggressively.

“Each of the plan’s strategic goals have key linkages with one another,” said Special Assistant to the Chancellor Shelley Nickel, in her preface to the reports. “And all of these goals ultimately should support our vision statement, which is to create a more educated Georgia.”

During their January meeting, the regents heard initial committee reports on four goals from the plan:

  • the recruitment, hiring and retention of faculty and staff (Goal #5), presented by Senior Vice Chancellor for Support Services Corlis Cummings;
  • leveraging the University System as an economic asset (Goal #6), presented by David and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Economic Development Annie Hunt Burriss;
  • identifying and implementing “best practices” for the System’s operational units (Goal #7), presented by Fiscal Affairs Vice Chancellor William Bowes; and
  • providing and maintaining superior facilities (Goal #8), presented by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Design and Construction Linda Daniels.

David noted that the opportunity for System institutions to increase their commercialization efforts (the process by which research become commercially viable) is significant. But this will necessitate an increase in funding for intellectual property operations, if the System and the state hope to reach the commercialization levels of current national leaders. David’s group estimated that the patent flow of the System’s research universities could increase two to three times the current level and the income generated from three to five times the current rate, if opportunities are optimized.

In the human resources arena, Cummings said two separate committees studied recruitment and retention efforts. Among the many options presented for the regents to consider are: a continuation of competitive salary increases, more aggressive and innovative recruitment efforts, and comprehensive programs to retain current employees. “National surveys show that today the average tenure of an employee for a company is just three-and-one-half years,” Cummings said. We must provide a high level of training and competitive incentives if we are to retain these valuable employees. It’s much more efficient to keep good people than to continually have to recruit new personnel.”

The committee studying Goal #7 (business operations) found that over the past three years, the majority of System institutions have taken steps to implement “best practices” in their business operations. But more can be done, Bowes noted, including the implementation of a process to aid the replication of best practices across the System and an incentive program to reward institutional efforts.

“The University System must adopt best practices to stay relevant,” Bowes said. “Today’s students are savvy consumers. Colleges and universities that don’t offer online registration, for example, will go the way of K-Mart.” Over the past several years, the University System has implemented online application and registration capabilities for each of its 34 institutions.

“Facilities represent a tremendous investment for the state and a significant responsibility for the System, with more than 3,000 buildings and 60,000 acres of land at approximately 100 locations,” Daniels said. This represents more than half of the state’s total facilities inventory. The committee researching Goal #8 proposed a number of options and initiatives for the regents’ consideration. These include: addressing construction quality issues; resolving funding issues for major repair and rehabilitation needs; funding “fast track” projects; expanding privatization efforts and providing incentives for institutions to secure non-state funds for needed facilities; and expediting the new Regents’ Construction Inspection Program.

The regents will hear additional presentations on the remaining plan goals over the next several months and will adopt a series of final recommendations on all 11 goals by June. These recommendations then will be incorporated into a final action plan for the University System to implement over the five-year life of the Strategic Plan.

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