Students voice concerns about representation during strategic planning open forum

Callie Miller

WKU hosted a strategic planning open forum on Thursday afternoon, where WKU stakeholders could give input for the development of the next strategic plan for the university.

The co-chairs of the strategic planning steering committee, Bruce Shulte and Paula Potter, hosted the forum. Students, faculty and staff attended and voiced their priorities and concerns for the strategic planning process. Much of the conversation centered on student representation in the process.

Shulte began the forum by speaking about President Timothy Caboni’s charge for the strategic planning committees and summarizing the previous meetings that have been held. At the Nov. 9 meeting, committees discussed the definition of student success and asked themselves what that really looks like.

“It’s been a really positive experience so far,” Shulte said. “This is a collective vision for WKU for the next 10 years.”

Potter and Shulte invited the audience to submit feedback through a form on WKU’s website. The page also has recordings of the previous meetings and information about each of the members in the committees.

The co-chairs of the steering committee then opened the floor to questions.

One of the largest themes discussed was the representation of students on the steering committee and subcommittees.

Sophomore Ryan Linton voiced his concerns about the proportions of students on the committees. He said he hoped there would be a variety of people represented with different perspectives.

Shulte replied by saying the committees were hand-picked by Caboni, and though there is only one student on each committee, the goal is to make the students a priority throughout the process.

“Our mission is student-centeredness,” Shulte said.

Several other students and faculty asked about getting students more involved in the process.

One student said though stakeholders have access to a feedback form online, she feared her input would not matter ultimately and wanted a way to make sure her input would be appreciated.

Another topic brought up was about the international student population and their access to resources. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is undertaking this topic, Shulte said.

Though many ideas have been brought up in meetings, Shulte and Potter said it was still too early to see any concrete themes emerging since it is so early in the process.

Near the end of the forum, Shulte reiterated that the mission of the strategic planning committees is to capture the idea of what an ideal campus looks like and how to get there, rather than tackling individual problems and attempting to fix them separately.

After the forum ended, Shulte and Potter talked to a group of students to ask how to make the process more accessible to students. They also articulated some of their ideas for getting students more involved, such as using social media to announce meetings and plans.

Shulte and Potter said one of their main concerns was finding a way to access enough students effectively to get a broad perspective of their ideas for WKU and opening up a transparent conversation between the committees and WKU stakeholders.

They talked about having face-to-face meetings with students as well and encouraged students to contact the co-chairs of the subcommittees with specific ideas.

Reporter Callie Miller can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].