Students turn strategic planning steering committee’s attention to student needs

Evan Heichelbech

Shortly after President Timothy Caboni arrived on campus last spring, he created a strategic planning steering committee to lay out a 10-year strategic plan for the future of WKU.  

Nearly a year later, two students are spearheading an effort to emphasize the voice of the student body to the steering committee.

Victoria Hans and Francis Wilson noticed a need to stress student purpose to the committee, and received approval to draft a paper focused specifically on student need to present to the committee. 

“I thought that because President Caboni is creating a strategic plan for the next 10 years, the way that I look at it is why wouldn’t you want to get involved? To actually have a voice and have ideas be heard and actually impact the future of university, I think that’s really important,” Hans said.

The steering committee is divided into working groups such as external relations, diversity, budgeting, academic innovation and research. Wilson branched off and created a working group focused specifically on student input, drawing topics from the other working groups to allow the students to voice their opinion on.

While there are students among the other working groups of the steering committee, Wilson said he wanted to make a larger student voice heard.

“There are students on each of the working groups giving valuable input, but my passion is getting the general student body involved in this process,” Wilson said. “More info is the only way to make a good decision. If we’re planning the next 10 years of this university, we’re going to have to have better data and better ideas.”

Over the past year or so, each of the committee’s working groups have drafting a “white paper,” which is a sum of data, ideas and solutions, and will submit them to the committee co-chairs by Feb. 19.

Wilson and Hans are aiming to publish the student input’s adapted white paper on Feb. 14 in order to engage the working groups and allow them to enhance their own papers with the input, data and ideas from the student body. Wilson, a junior majoring in digital rhetoric within the communication department, also said that the paper will be published somewhere. 

Wilson and Hans are leading two initiatives to gather student input. First is a two-part brainstorming session Thursday at DSU Nite Class from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. All students are welcome and will be spilt up into small groups to discuss topics such as how to improve academic success, student scholarships and student wellness.

“I think it’s important to get students from a variety of backgrounds and from different departments and organizations to come together and create this environment through the brainstorming session,” Hans said. 

After the brainstorming session, Hans and Wilson will gather results and ideas to create social polls for students to take. Wilson said that the polls will be conducted in “walk-by” fashion with a QR code available for students to scan using smartphone camera applications such as Snapchat to take the poll.  

The QR code will be posted once a week at tables set up in Centennial Mall and other locations on campus. Wilson said he and Hans are working with Information Technology Department to get the polls on Blackboard, Topnet and the iWKU app.

 “I don’t like to see things as challenges but more so as opportunities,” Wilson said. “For this specific thing is the fact that we’re always having problems reaching a certain amount of people or a certain diversity of people. We’ve structured it in a way for students to be empowered. Students shouldn’t be afraid to step up and step out.”

Digital Managing Editor Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 502-415-1817 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.