Traditional strategic planning that produces 4-inch thick 'dust sucker' plan books covering the next five years doesn't fit the conditions facing most colleges and universities these days. President David Eisler's approach is more flexible, more inclusive, and takes advantage of changing communications options. [THIS POSTING IS ACCOMPANIED BY AN MP3 AUDIO FILE OF THE LAST 3 MINUTES - THE CLOSING SUMMARY OF THIS INTERVIEW. FOR THE FULL 55 MINUTE MP3 AUDIO RECORDING OF THIS INTERVIEW OF EISLER - CONDUCTED BY STEVEN W. GILBERT, PRESIDENT, OF THE TLT GROUP - SEE NEXT POST BELOW IN TLT-SWG.]
Eisler, President since July, 2003 of Ferris State University, spent 80+ hours last academic year meeting face-to-face with groups of faculty, staff and students. These meetings are the heart of an organic planning process that he began when he arrived at Ferris State. This ongoing program invites everyone to help articulate and sharpen a vision for the university. Eisler models the importance of listening – listening to everyone, caring about everyone – and responding to the feedback he so actively, frequently solicits. [Ferris State, located in Big Rapids, Michigan, has 10,000 undergrads and 1000 grad students. See http://www.ferris.edu/president/homepage.htm ]
In another stage of this flexible planning process, Eisler creates one-year task forces – with both volunteer and assigned members – to address key issues and make recommendations to the most senior university administrators.
President Eisler also comfortably uses email, the Web, and other technology applications to support communication and collaboration among faculty, staff, and students. These simple, practical uses of technology – including an online “electronic suggestion box”- are quite effective and do not distract from or impede the fundamental goals of the planning process.
Most recently, Eisler has begun a similar series of meetings with Ferris alumni, another group he hopes to engage even more actively in building and achieving the emerging shared vision for Ferris State University. President Eisler is committed to empowering ALL Ferris stakeholders, getting them engaged in solving problems, and building connections among them.