COVID-19 pauses University of Iowa strategic plan

The UI strategic planning group will present its final plan to the state Board of Regents in June 2022, almost a year behind schedule.


Ryan Adams

J. Martin Scholtz of Texas A&M College of Medicine speaks during the Vice President of research candidate forum on Thursday, February 14, 2019. Scholtz is the first candidate in the search.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s next five-year strategic plan has been put on pause 18 months from the original timeline, as long-term effects from the pandemic have yet to become clear.

Planning for the 2021-26 strategic plan began in April, with an original deadline of June 2021. Now, because of COVID-19 and UI President Bruce Harreld announcing his retirement in early October, the strategic planning group expects to present its final plan to the state Board of Regents in June 2022.

The strategic plan is a roadmap for developing areas to focus on at the UI, said Vice President for Research Martin Scholtz, co-chair of the strategic planning group. The current plan highlights student success, research and discovery, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and outreach and engagement, he said. The date change will also allow the next UI president to weigh in on the 2021-26 strategic plan and eventually lead the UI through it.

“We’ve kind of hit a pause on it for the last several months, because we have more time and because we have been consumed with the pandemic,” Scholtz said. “Since COVID-19 has happened, and a number of administrative changes have happened at the university, we’ve altered the timeline.

UI College of Education Dean Dan Clay, a member of the strategic planning group, said he wants to take advantage of lessons the university has learned from the pandemic to better serve students. He said all the UI colleges worked on their own individual strategic plans to create a basis for the university’s overall plan.

RELATED: Board of Regents President says tuition will not increase in the spring

“All of the colleges have their updated and refreshed strategic plans,” Clay said. “But, having said that, COVID-19 has changed a lot of things about how we do our work. We’ll have to go back to our strategic plan and make sure that it incorporates that information, so we best prepare students for success as teachers in the future.”

The planning group will announce updates on the strategic plan’s development in January, Scholtz said. This year’s racial-justice protests have also brought a new perspective for the planning group to consider, he said.

“I think there is a more acute awareness of people in all aspects of our society about the impacts of race and racism,” Clay said. “So, when we look at our strategic plan, we are going to look at it with a fresh set of eyes around how we are addressing those issues in our academic programs, in our research, in the way we engage with our communities.”

The strategic planning group will call on public feedback from the UI and the Iowa City community.

“It is important to make sure that we are having continuous campus feedback,” Director of Strategic Initiatives for the UI Office of the Provost Mirra Anson said.

The UI Office of Student Services will collect anecdotal information from students to understand the challenges that they face, Clay said.

“We also administer satisfaction surveys to our students and send surveys to school districts that employ our students to learn more about where they think our students have strengths,” Clay said. “So, we have multiple methods to collect information from our key stakeholders.”