Download a PDF of the 2018 Fall Planning Letter.

Michigan State University is undergoing an intense period of transformation. With the arrival of President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the departure of the Provost and senior leadership at the Vice-Presidential levels, the University has entered a decisive moment in its history, one that requires the intentional articulation of core values and the disciplined embodiment of those values into practice. We in the College of Arts & Letters have undertaken an approach to strategic planning that focuses on enacting the values for which we advocate in order to create the conditions under which our students, staff, and faculty are empowered to do high-quality, meaningful work.

During Fall 2018, all units in the College of Arts & Letters were asked to identify three core values of the unit and to map these values onto their primary strategic initiatives to ensure that we are putting our values into practice through our activities. Chairs and Directors also were asked to articulate how the unit is advancing a culture of shared accountability and trust based on the values conversations they had undertaken.

Drawing on the values articulated in the units, College leadership identified the following three core values of the College of Arts & Letters:

  • Equity – inclusivity, diversity, social justice, equitable access, accessibility
  • Openness – transparency, open process, candor, accountability, open source
  • Community – collaboration, collegiality, empathy, respect, connection

The self-reflection and dialogue that led to the articulation of unit-level values were designed to establish safer, more respectful and welcoming environments that promote student, staff, and faculty success. Identifying shared values is a critical first step in establishing a culture of accountability in which we are all committed to living up to the values we have established. Trust, however, is earned over time as we intentionally and explicitly enact these values in our processes, procedures, and daily interactions. Over the past year, we have been disciplined in aligning our decisions and initiatives with our core values. For example, last spring we experimented with an open and collaborative budget request process in which all unit chairs and directors were asked to prepare two priority requests that were then shared with and evaluated by all the deans, chairs, and directors in the College. To facilitate the process, we worked together to establish a budget request evaluation rubric that included consideration of values alignment, student success, faculty retention, and a variety of constraints. Having developed this rubric in an open and collaborative way, the deans, chairs, and directors evaluated one another’s requests, and the results were mapped onto a matrix that provided a sense of the shared judgment of the College’s leadership. The results were themselves shared and discussed at a deans, chairs, and directors meeting. 

This transparent and collaborative process deepened trust across the College, brought a new level of awareness to our leadership team of the opportunities for collaboration and the constraints on resources, and generated more joint hiring requests than we have seen in the past. This process also reaffirmed support across the College for the top strategic priorities outlined below, each of which aligns with the values we have articulated and advances the President’s five initial priorities in concrete ways.