Approach and Engagement

Having not conducted a comprehensive strategic planning process for more than a decade, this effort provided a critical opportunity for dialogue, challenge, and learning. It also provided an opportunity to strengthen connections and alignment across UBC Science.

Launched through a retreat with heads and directors in 2019, this year-long exercise was punctuated by the onset of the pandemic, which accelerated pre-existing trends and shaped our process and perspectives. Out of respect for our colleagues and partners, we delayed much of our engagement until the late spring and fall. This allowed us to create a draft strategic framework before embarking on these conversations, which were richer and more productive as a result. Our upfront research and analysis included a data-based assessment of Faculty strengths and weaknesses, undergraduate student workshops, and a survey completed by almost 300 faculty, staff, graduate students, and other research personnel, as well as close to 1,300 alumni. Video technology enabled individual interactions, and we conducted in-depth interviews with over 30 internal and external stakeholders, including leaders of peer Faculties at UBC. We developed and shaped the draft framework through periodic discussions across the first half of 2020 with the Dean’s Office and Faculty leadership.

As the immediate pressures of COVID-19 began to dissipate, we advanced the dialogue through well-attended town hall discussions and a highly informative survey completed by almost 1,400 undergraduate students. This represented a response rate of 21% of second-, third-, and fourth-year students. Faculty and staff working groups were formed in the fall of 2020 to test and refine emerging draft objectives. Close to 50 colleagues contributed considerable time, expertise, and experience to this task, with their insights and input invaluable in shaping the plan. The revised framework was then shared and strengthened through a second set of student, faculty, and staff town halls, as well as through meetings with emeriti, alumni, and many of the same stakeholders interviewed at the outset. The Dean’s Advisory Committee provided important feedback throughout the process. A final session in early 2021 with heads and directors confirming their commitment rounded out the engagement.

The global health crisis encouraged wide-ranging debate about opportunities and priorities. The requirement for science to help address the immediate and complex challenges threatening our world is profound, from climate change to public health. Many voices and perspectives will be needed to find solutions. The potential of online learning to expand access is exciting. The use of technology to support engagement and recruitment is an important opportunity. Moreover, there is a need to consider the relative merits of new and more flexible ways of working to complement and extend our campus-based operating model. One of the most striking lessons was the powerful need of most of us to reconnect, in person, with each other and as a community.