Why should the College of Education develop, implement, consistently monitor, and evaluate a college-wide strategic plan? Why should we be concerned about the future of teacher education and the preparation of athletic trainers, speech pathologists, counselors, principals, and other human services professionals? It is the answers to these and similar questions upon which this introduction is focused.
It would be easy and comfortable for the faculty, staff, and administration of the college to rest on our current growth and obviously high status among institutions in Louisiana and the region. It would be reasonable to assume that with our infrastructure and sheer size among similarly organized colleges, that we would be in no danger of serious decline for ten to fifteen years, much longer than the period covered by this plan. After all, we have more students than we can comfortably serve; we have faculty which includes an unusually fine balance between highly experienced and committed senior faculty and newer faculty who are highly trained and excited about teaching, service, and research; and, we are operating within a university which is currently receiving increased attention and new resources. The sky is blue; the sun is warm; and, the wind is at our backs.
I would argue that the conditions listed above are accurately portrayed and that that is precisely why we must develop, implement, and consistently monitor a detailed but flexible strategic plan. It is when we have students who stretch us that we must plan for them. It is when we have a competent and caring faculty and staff that strategic planning, from the bottom to the top, is most effective. And, it is when we have resources to allocate that we can plan for the effective and efficient use of those resources best.
In contrast, if we were losing students our plan would be reactive and desperate, not strategic. If our senior faculty were tired or not competent and our newer faculty were either few or apathetic, planning would be difficult. And if we lived in an era of declining resources, we would lack hope. Fortunately none of these latter conditions exist. On the other hand, the blue sky is not without clouds. And, the road ahead is not without hills.
Programs for the preparation of professionals, for example, are not without their detractors. Almost continuously from the late 1970s and early 1980s, for example, teacher education programs (and I use teacher education here simply because it is the area with which I have the most experience) have been under attack. The calls for reform or restructure have been persistent, particularly following the A Nation at Risk (Governor's Commission, 1984) and A nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (Carnegie Commission, 1986) reports. Perhaps the most perceptive report came from the Carnegie Commission. It called for systematic study and reform of teacher education. That report has also been perceived as the starting point from which several current organizations and movements, including the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, were begun. Organizations such as Association for Teacher Education, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and National Commission on Teaching and America's Future also refer to the Carnegie Commission often in seeking improvements in and reform of teacher education programs.
The former report (A Nation at Risk) along with the Holmes' Group report Tomorrow's Teachers might be considered clouds on the horizon, the latter reports hills which we must climb on the way to creating a profession. The former reports are often used, along with movements like Teach For America, to demonstrate the lack of necessity for extensive preparation, beyond a simple college degree, for classroom instruction. The latter reports form the basis for calls for the development of "safe to practice" minimum standards and advanced standards of professional practice. The former reports seek to make access to classrooms easy in order to relieve perceived shortages of teachers and the latter to answer the call to higher professionalism among practitioners.
Other professions have, to one degree or another, felt similar criticisms. It was less than ninety years ago, for example, that Robert Hutchins issued his call for the professionalization of medicine. That treatise has stood for decades as a model for the characteristics of a profession.
Clearly then, even though Southeastern has a solid base and hope for a bright future, the task of remaining current and even forging ahead to meet the highest national standards, will require insight and perseverance from all of us. This strategic plan was developed as a baseline set of directions for our future. It is not a road map for each of our units. It is a more a compass. It sets a direction toward reform, higher standards, and advanced professionalism. Each of our departments developed their own plans which meet the individual needs of their programs. Those plans must be revisited to ensure consistency between college and department goals and objectives.
As this college plan is reflective of but does not exactly mirror the University's Vision to theYear 2000 plan, so departmental and programmatic plans should reflect the directions set in Vision 2006, the College plan. The college plan promotes a number of themes. Among these themes are caring about students, diversity both in terms of ideas and curricula as well as faculty and student demographics, the development of resources, support and incentives for proposed activities, the development of internal and external connections, and a governance structure which monitors and evaluates the Vision 2006 plan.
At some point the question might be raised, "Why 2006?" What is so special about that year? Strategic plans are usually five or ten years in length. The year 2006 was chosen for two reasons. We will face our largest and most comprehensive accreditation site visits (NCATE) in the years 2001 and 2006. The year 2001 is too near to be strategic. While we have much to do prior to 2001, we need to look further into the future than three years. The second reason is that several national organizations (e.g., NBPTS and NCATE) have projected the decade from 1996 to 2006 as the decade of reform in teacher education. And, while teacher education does not drive all our programs, the time frame is not unreasonable for any of our units.
And while I say that, let me conclude by saying that "reform" and "restructuring" will be major issues in our planning. As I indicated at the beginning of this introduction, we are clearly leaders in the state in 1998. However, to remain leaders we must change. We are not changing because our performance is poor or substandard. We are changing because not to change is to die.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the hard work and time put into this strategic plan by all of you, the planning team (now the expanded College Planning Council), and the Dean's Administrative Council. I expect that this plan will be revised and updated annually as we move toward the year 2006. However, what we have here is an excellent foundation.
Thank you all for your efforts to make this college the best that it can be.
Stephen W. Ragan, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Education
April 16, 1998