Preparing for the Future

Supporting Continuous Improvement


Core Component 2c: The organization realistically prepares for a future shaped by multiple societal and economic trends.

A common theme throughout this report is the University’s decentralized structure. The University of Michigan is made up of eight executive officer areas; nineteen schools and colleges; almost 190 academic departments, programs, centers and specializations; and multiple institutes, libraries, units, and offices. In such a complex organization, there is no one-size-fits-all for institutional research and evaluation. Moreover, there is no single office at the University with responsibility for planning across the campus. Instead, there are several key offices and people on campus whose responsibility is to assist units and offices in their planning and evaluation, as described below.

To prepare for the future, the University continuously engages in three types of activities that are closely interwoven. People make plans, gather and consider information related to our activities, evaluate or assess our efforts, and then, coming full circle, commit to a plan. Some of the basic questions that drive this process are these: What are we doing? How well are we doing it? What’s going on inside and outside the University that’s of interest? What more information do we need? Should we continue to do what we’re doing, or should we be doing something else or something more? Units across the University, the offices of executive officers, the schools and colleges, and the academic and non-academic units on campus carry out this planning and assessment cycle from the micro level to the macro.

At the micro level, individual faculty and staff members engage in the planning cycle on a day-by-day basis. At regular meetings of University faculty and staff in the hundreds of offices across the University, leaders at all levels imbed this planning process and cycle into group discussions. Toward the macro level, many offices and units on campus engage in more formal planning processes that take place on a schedule. This type of formal activity, too, happens at many different levels, as this section describes.

Planning and Assessment

In the section on Mission we touched upon some of the key planning activities, especially at the central leadership levels of the University. Here we will provide additional examples of planning efforts at various levels of the University, as well as activities that are geared specifically to assessment. Units undertake these activities to stay informed of changes both inside and outside the University and to modify what they do accordingly.

Assessment of Schools and Colleges

As mentioned earlier, each year the provost initiates a strategic assessment of two academic units and two non-academic units. The purpose of the strategic assessment process is to ensure that each unit periodically takes a critical look at its intellectual directions and priorities, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it compares to other institutions. Such an assessment can guide the unit’s future decisions and initiatives in a way that promotes the pursuit of academic excellence. The assessment is also an opportunity to identify points of potential contact between the unit’s agenda and the strengths of the University of Michigan, as well as possible synergies and collaborations. Finally, these assessments provide the opportunity for faculty and staff in the unit and the University’s academic leadership (president, provost, and executive vice president for medical affairs) to achieve a shared understanding of the significant intellectual choices and trade-offs facing the unit. An example assessment is located in the Resource Room.

At the level of the schools and colleges, there are two main mechanisms by which formal reviews take place. Eleven of the nineteen schools and colleges (see below) are accredited by their professional organizations and undergo a formal review periodically for reaccreditation:

In addition, some programs and departments within the schools and colleges receive formal accreditation. A few examples are programs in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (i.e., accreditation of the Program in Architecture by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, and of the Program in Urban Planning by the Planning Accreditation Board), the Athletic Training program in the School of Kinesiology (Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education), and the Department of Dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (National Association of Schools of Dance).

Assessments of Departments

The schools and colleges and the Rackham Graduate School conduct formal reviews of the departments within their purviews. For example, LSA conducts formal reviews of its departments on roughly a ten-year cycle. As part of each review, the department presents a long-range plan, and the college conducts a thorough external review of all aspects of the department. These reviews are shared with the provost’s office . The goal of the complementary Rackham Graduate School Program Review, which follows a four-year review cycle of all Rackham programs, is to assess and improve graduate education at the University of Michigan. For each review, Rackham, the dean’s office, and the graduate program work collaboratively to identify opportunities and to share ideas and promising practices related to graduate education. Examples of these reviews are available in the Resource Room.

As a common starting point, the Rackham review compiles and shares a significant set of comparative data, tailoring both the data they provide and the conversations they hold to the program being reviewed. These data include the indicators below:

  • The program’s performance on Rackham’s selected indicators, including basic metrics such as the percent of students who achieve candidacy, the percent of students who complete their degree, and time to degree;
  • Data about the indicated measures of success that the program has identified;
  • Results from the responses of the program’s students who completed Rackham’s exit survey of doctoral recipients;
  • A report about faculty members who have served on recent dissertation committees of students in the program;
  • Data from the program’s report to Rackham on the current location of their graduates over the last five years; and
  • Total funding Rackham has provided to support the program’s Rackham students.

During the review, Rackham also surveys the current graduate students in the program about such aspects of graduate education as orientation, communication, advising, mentoring, financial support, and climate. Also, Rackham faculty and staff members meet with the program’s leaders to discuss the quality of the program, any areas of concern, strategies for specific aspects of the education the program provides, future directions for the program, and how Rackham can provide expertise or services to help the program initiate any new faculty initiatives. Examples of LSA and Rackham reviews are available in print form in the Resource Room.

Assessment in Other Units

Annually, staff members in most units meet with their supervisors for an annual performance evaluation and planning meeting. In some units, supervisors ask staff to submit comments in writing before the meeting, which is likely to include a self-assessment by the staff member of his or her performance, accomplishments from the previous year, and future goals. In addition, some staff members engage in what is called a 360-degree evaluation, in which the staff member and his or her subordinates, peers, and supervisors evaluate the staff member’s job performance.

At the unit level, many unit leaders convene staff and/or faculty for formal planning sessions or planning retreats, commonly once a year. In addition, University leaders may take the initiative to develop an annual report of activities or respond to such a request from his or her supervisor. Links to examples of such annual reports are provided below:

The strategic planning process of the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) is an example of the formal planning and review process that is used in several units. Through this process, the DSA creates and implements a set of longrange, division-wide goals that are meant to plan the next five to seven years. Evolving continually, the process brings together strategic planning steps, a reflective process, prominent assessment throughout, and a group process approach to supporting individuals’ growth in helping to change the organization. This model has advanced the division’s direction by allowing the leadership to manage operations from an informed perspective and to establish a shared vision. Ongoing assessment helps to establish and define division-wide goals and use research findings to help the division form goals for the strategic process.

Institutional Research

People engaged in institutional research at the University gather, analyze, and distribute information to meet external reporting requirements, to communicate activities both within and outside the University, and to help faculty, University leaders, and staff to plan and make decisions in all areas of the University. These areas include budget, student enrollment, faculty and staff, instruction, student life, residence hall life, facilities, athletics, and University alumni. At the University of Michigan, institutional research is carried out by University-wide offices, by offices within the larger units at the University, and by staff members for whom institutional research is one their responsibilities. Offices at all these levels collect data and prepare reports on a regular basis. For example, the deans of the schools and colleges collect and disseminate information to department chairs, associate deans, and to the faculty. Below we will briefly describe major data gathering and report efforts, satisfaction surveys, and sharing of best practices.

The Office of Budget and Planning

The Office of Budget and Planning (OBP) is the University’s central office for institutional research whose role is to enhance the general knowledge and understanding of the University and its activities to help administrators and others to manage the institution and plan for its future.

Under the direction of an associate vice provost and executive director and with oversight by the vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, OBP produces detailed information about the University budget, including budget planning workbooks; enrollment projections; and tuition attribution data for the schools and colleges. The office also handles data and reports about the faculty, staff, and students on the Ann Arbor campus. The office presents institutional data in an electronic and partially protected format on their Facts & Figures website, providing an efficient way for relevant campus units and individuals to access this information. OBP also administers and analyzes student surveys, both internally and in collaboration with other institutions, and studies of higher education (e.g., with the Association of American Universities). By analyzing the results of these surveys, The University is constantly seeking to improve the experience of its students, faculty, and staff.

One example of the work of OBP is a summary profile of each school and college, which is updated annually. These (password-protected) profiles contain 10-year data on the unit’s General Fund budget, the unit’s budget sources (by category of use), the number of instructional faculty (by type); the number of staff; the number of student applications, admissions, and enrollments; the number of Fiscal Year Equated Students (FYES) and the average number of FYES for each instructional faculty member (based on formulas that allow the University to compare enrollments fairly across the schools and colleges); the number of student credit hours that the unit’s students elected; the number of credit hours the faculty taught; and the number of degrees the unit conferred. A printed example of these profiles is located in the Resource Room, and an example comparison that shows student headcount per faculty member in each unit is below.

Fall 2008 Student Headcount Enrollment per Faculty Member (General Fund FTE of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty).

The OBP also prepares an overview for each school or college that provides the unit’s current tuition and fees by level of enrollment, the current percentages of tenure-track or tenured faculty by gender and race/ethnicity, information about fall term student headcount, degrees conferred by level, percentage of underrepresented/minority/ domestic students by level, faculty and staff headcounts by fund type, all funds revenue, sponsored research expenditures, fund balances, and Net Assignable Square Feet grouped by type of room.

Behind these profiles and overviews are critical points of inquiry. What are student enrollments over time? How is the overall fiscal health of the school or college? How many students complete their degrees? How much teaching are faculty members doing, both for students enrolled in the school or college and other students at the University? These documents assist the provost in assessing such factors (often with cross comparisons) as a school or college’s faculty, staff, and student composition; its teaching activity levels; its financial status; and its space usage.

The OBP also maintains the College Resources Analysis System (CRAS), which measures such factors as teaching loads, course offerings and enrollments, class size, and teaching salary cost per credit hour for academic departments or programs. These data sets are specifically produced to help each unit plan effectively and to make decisions aligned with its mission and goals, and they also reflect the University’s institutional values as described in Mission .

Other Offices

Several other offices collect data and offer assessment tools that typically meet their particular areas or fields of interest. Examples are below.

  • Student Affairs Research in the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) helps many University departments and units to create assessment tools, collect data, disseminate results, expand knowledge about University of Michigan incoming students, and conduct other tasks. As part of the long-term vision for Student Affairs Research, the office implements conceptual research design, which includes longitudinal and cross-classification research, regularly collects information from students about their opinions on current issues, and shares information about students with a larger audience to help the University better educate its students. Participation in the Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s (CIRP) survey produces a portrait of the University’s incoming freshman that includes parental income and education, ethnicity, financial aid, secondary school achievement and activities, educational and career plans, and values, attitudes, beliefs, and self-concept.
  • LSA’s Management Information Systems (MIS) team develops and maintains administrative information systems on behalf of the college and its departments. Additionally, on an ad hoc basis MIS staff retrieve and analyze administrative data for LSA departments and for the dean’s office. They manage databases and reporting for the general management of the college’s general affairs, academic reporting, budgets, undergraduate recruiting, graduate education, and department-specific programs.
  • The College of Engineering’s Resource Planning and Management (RPM) provides support for the college to manage and plan its finances and facilities, and to manage its human resources. RPM also does institutional research and is the source of all official data and statistical information about the college.

Satisfaction Studies

Numerous units at the University, in the schools and colleges as well as other units, conduct institutional research on the levels of satisfaction among the people they serve. Below are three examples.

  • In 2005 Business & Finance (B&F), a central unit that is the responsibility of the executive vice president and chief financial officer, conducted its first customer satisfaction survey, to which over 3,400 people responded. A similar survey was conducted in 2007, with over 6,000 respondents, followed by a third survey in 2009. The main purpose of this survey is to measure satisfaction with the services of more than 35 units of B&F in four areas: Facilities and Operations, Finance, Michigan Administrative Information Systems (MAIS) (now part of Information Technology Services), and University Human Resources (UHR). The survey contents reflected nine common goals for B&F units:
    • Understand customers’ needs.
    • Understand and explain University policies and procedures.
    • Communicate service standards.
    • Demonstrate functional and technical expertise.
    • Implement changes in service effectively.
    • Communicate change effectively.
    • Be easily accessible.
    • Provide friendly and courteous service.
    • Achieve overall customer satisfaction.

    The B&F shares information online about the results of its surveys, showing an average satisfaction score of >7 on a 10-point scale that is used to develop action plans.

  • In 2004 the Senate Assembly established the Administration Evaluation program, which develops annual questionnaires for faculty to evaluate University administrators, from the president to department/unit heads. The results of the evaluations are reported to the faculty, the administrators, and the Board of Regents, and are available online. Despite modest response rates (17% in 2008), the questionnaires mirror a set of expectations or performance measures for each group of administrators. For example, the questions on the instrument to evaluate department chairs suggest that chairs should
    • Actively promote an environment for scholarly excellence and teaching excellence,
    • Effectively represent the interests of the department to senior administrators,
    • Consult with the faculty adequately before making important decisions,
    • Make excellent faculty administrative appointments,
    • Foster a fair and rigorous promotion and tenure process,
    • Manage departmental administrative staff well, including maintaining appropriate staffing levels,
    • Manage the department’s resources well,
    • Be attentive to long-term, strategic issues that affect the department,
    • Ensure that departmental policies, procedures and available resources are transparent to all faculty members, and
    • Inspire confidence in leadership overall.
  • The Housing Research Office, part of DSA’s University Housing, undertakes a wide range of research activities that improve the services that are provided to the students, faculty, and staff who reside in University facilities. The office conducts large, housing-wide research projects that ask students and staff to evaluate University Housing’s programs and services, and to examine how well it is able to create and sustain diverse, learning-centered communities. The Housing Research Office also disseminates its findings to University staff members and other campus stakeholders, and to University of Michigan peers in the student affairs area. It provides information to meet the needs of individual units within University Housing and to help them make decisions and perform long-term strategic planning. For example, University Housing annually surveys resident students about their perspectives on a variety of its services and programs and participates in a national benchmarking survey to compare its services to peer institutions across the Big-10 and to other peer institutions with comparable housing systems.

Sharing Ideas and Practices

A key aspect of institutional research is for members of the campus community to have the opportunity to share and discuss their work, compare ideas, and explore best practices. In previous sections we emphasized the availability of data and analysis on websites of the units involved in data mining and planning activities. Opportunities for other discourse are also available at the University and beyond, as described in two representative examples below.

  • Each year, DSA holds a Division of Student Affairs Research Symposium to inform members of the University about the kinds of research on students that units at the University are pursuing, to collaborate on common dilemmas in researching students (particularly in applying theory to practice, as described below), to help staff develop skills in assessing and evaluating programs, and to help staff use research in their day-to-day decision making and work. “Theory to practice” is about ways people at the University can apply research to their dayto- day work with students. This approach focuses on such questions as those below:
    • How do we use data to make decisions, large and small?
    • How might we use theories about student development to influence how we work with students?
    • What do we do with the information we collect in our assessment or research projects?
    • In turn, how can our practices inform or influence our research and theory?
  • The Office of Budget and Planning periodically participates in surveys developed through the Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE), including the Graduating Senior Survey in the spring of 2008 and the Alumni Survey in the spring of 2009, which are used throughout this report. AAUDE is a public service organization whose purpose is to improve the quality and usability of information about higher education. The membership is comprised of institutions that support this purpose and participate in the exchange of data/information to support decision-making at their institutions. Each year, the organization meets at least once to discuss new developments and continuing priorities, which one or more staff members from the University’s Office of Budget and Planning attends.