UH-Hilo planning for the future

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald Kathleen Baumgardner is the strategic planning project manager at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Last updated nearly a decade ago, the University of Hawaii at Hilo is working to redo its strategic plan.

Kathleen Baumgardner, strategic planning project manager, said she began pre-planning work last October.

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“So my goal coming in was to try to collect as much information as I could in order to inform the process that’s happening now, that’s beginning to happen,” she said. “I was working on the pre-planning process.”

She completed a 37-session “listening tour” with more than 300 participants, four class visits and a few one-on-one meetings.

The result is a “pre-planning evidence report,” prepared by Baumgardner, that will be used to help shape the new strategic plan.

Throughout the process, participants were asked questions like what attracted them to UH-Hilo and what made a positive impression, she said.

“So I was really getting at people looking back and thinking, ‘Why did I come here? What was it about UH-Hilo that was attractive to me?’ Because we can learn a lot about that. What is it that has drawn students to study here and faculty and staff to make a career here? What is it the community connects with?”

Baumgardner said they’re discovering things “we may definitely need to work on, things that we don’t want to lose.

“Like all organizations, we have challenges and we have opportunities. It was really an exciting process,” she continued. “One of the things I learned through the process of the listening tour was how passionate people are to make a difference for the students here. That’s exciting. So many of the people that work here on campus are purpose-driven. They want to make a difference in not only the students’ lives, but their family’s lives, too.”

Baumgardner said the university’s strategic plan was last updated in 2010.

According to the university’s strategic planning website, the UH System Board of Regents approved a UH-Hilo strategic plan for 2011-2015, which establishes the guiding principles the university would follow in the subsequent years, in January 2012.

“We have new leadership and it’s a great time to be able to bring the community together, and when I say community, I mean this very broadly,” Baumgardner said. “The listening tour included faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, some former faculty and staff members, research partners. UH-Hilo is a large community of people and we serve our community, so we need to make sure that all voices are heard.”

Baumgardner said there are a number of positives that come out of long-range planning like this.

“One, it aligns us and helps us set our goals and actions, and then it gives us a mechanism where we can go and revisit them over and over again,” she said. “I mean, a strategic plan is at its worse when you write it and put it on a shelf and you don’t work it. You really have to work a plan to make it work for you. The process of engaging people in this, it’s great value because it aligns people across campus and helps them understand what we value, what our goals are, how we make a difference in our community, and it reconnects us with the community.

“Sometimes, when you go through a planning process like this, and you bring all these voices together, it really reinvigorates the institution and the people who feel passionate about it, too.”

Although the listening sessions are complete, UH-Hilo has opened registration to its Seeds of Opportunity Strategic Planning Summit, which is 12:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25 and 8:30 a.m.-noon Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani’s College of Hawaiian Language Performing Arts Hall, located at 113 Nowelo St.

The event is free, but advanced registration is required.

Baumgardner said the summit “kind of caps” the completed listening tour, “and now we’ll move into more of the planning stage where we look at all the evidence and start diving much deeper.”

Now that the pre-planning information has been gathered, it’s looking at that information to determine what people value.

“I mean, strategic planning is all about determining who we are and where we want to go from here,” Baumgardner said.

The summit will be “very interactive,” and participants will be able to share their histories of the university.

“The nice thing about strategic planning is … I think if it’s done well, that the people drive the process,” Baumgardner said. “It’s a bottom-up process. Or at least that’s what we’re doing. It’s a bottom-up process where people share all of their ideas and it helps inform leadership.”

Baumgardner said there is no timeline in place for a new plan, but said after the summit, a committee will be formed to begin actual plan development.

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To register for the summit or for more information about the strategic plan, visit hilo.hawaii.edu/strategicplan/

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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