Provost’s full remarks to the Board of Trustees

Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones offered the Provost's Report during today's (Sept.  16) Board of Trustees meeting at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. Following is a transcript of his remarks:

Good afternoon. I’d like to engage with you again about Penn State’s strategic plan — specifically on how we are proceeding to implement it University-wide. This is an enormous but essential endeavor in which all Penn State constituents have a vital stake. We have a steadfast commitment to impact, and as trustees you are part of that.

I’ll begin by spotlighting briefly how the plan’s content is driving how we approach its implementation. I’ll then provide a high-level overview of our implementation plans and processes, and allow time for any questions or comments you may have.

As you’ll recall, our process operates on a five-year cycle and includes unit- and University-level planning. In February, we published the plan for 2016 through 2020, which articulates Penn State’s mission, vision, and values, as well as foundations, thematic priorities, and supporting elements. These last three components are driving our approach to plan implementation.

The six foundations are integral to all we do, and sustaining them is everyone’s responsibility. They are Enabling Access to Education, Engaging Our Students, Fostering and Embracing a Diverse World, Enhancing Global Engagement, Driving Economic Development, and Ensuring a Sustainable Future.

The five thematic priorities reflect our strength and growth in teaching, research, and service. They are Transforming Education, Enhancing Health, Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources, Advancing the Arts and Humanities, and Driving Digital Innovation.

The three supporting elements are equally important and must be firmly in place to achieve our goals. They are Organizational Processes, Infrastructure and Support, and Constituent Outreach and Engagement.

Of course, the strategic planning process goes far beyond writing the plan, which is published online at An impactful strategic plan must comprise three phases: development, implementation, and assessment. The sections you see here in orange are reflected in the written plan. Now we’re moving forward to implementation, the steps in blue, and those are coupled with assessment and evaluation efforts, shown in green.

Implementing the strategic plan will be a complex, multi-year process, so we created a structure to make it more manageable. One oversight committee manages the work of eight executive committees — the decision-making bodies. They in turn manage eight corresponding steering committees, which develop and make plan-related recommendations and proposals.

This detailed graphic shows the layered committee structure we’ve built to implement our plan. Each executive and steering committee aligns with a thematic priority or supporting element. The foundations are integral to all components of the plan, so they drive all of the committees’ efforts.

Community forums will enable valuable constituent input and feedback to reach our committees and inform their work throughout the implementation process.

Chaired by the Provost, the Oversight Committee drives the implementation process throughout Penn State. It will deliver regular progress reports to the Board of Trustees and other University leaders.

The eight executive committees, which report to the Oversight Committee, are focused on the plan’s five thematic priorities and three supporting elements. Each group includes leaders from throughout the University with relevant experience and expertise. They will prioritize efforts and identify and allocate resources to support them.

The eight steering committees report to their corresponding executive committees, identifying areas of opportunity, goals, action plans, and assessment mechanisms. They also will facilitate public forums to engage faculty, staff, students, and others in the implementation process.

We put a lot of structure around implementation, which makes sense because our strategic planning processes aren’t haphazard endeavors. The over-arching strategic plan was developed in conjunction with 48 academic and administrative units writing their strategic plans. This process was essential to ensure alignment — that we are all “on the same page.”

As part of the process, all Penn State units will report regularly on their alignment with the strategic plan, contributions to Penn State’s goals, outcomes and successes, challenges and concerns, and any modifications to their own strategic plans. These reports will help the committees implement a plan that is focused and data-driven. Official annual progress reports for all units are due in May 2017.

Our strategic planning timeline notes these and other deliverables, including updates throughout the implementation process. We’ll post these regularly on the strategic plan website.

Developing our strategic plan was a University-wide effort, and implementing it will be, as well. I’m asking leaders on all of our campuses, and in all of our colleges, departments, and operating units, to connect our strategies to their day-to-day activities. I’m asking them to be engaged, accountable, communicative, and receptive to feedback and change. And I’m reminding them that without their leadership, we won’t achieve our desired outcomes.

I’d like to thank the Board for its guidance and encouragement as we implement our strategic plan. Now, I have some time to take any questions and comments you may have.

The provost's presentation can be downloaded at

Last Updated September 16, 2016