Oregon State University's Strategic Plan for the 21st Century provides a long-term focus on building excellence in its programs and developing a quality learning environment for its students. Achieving these goals requires resources to build and sustain faculty capacity, enhance student experiences inside and outside of the classroom, and improve the teaching and research infrastructure.

President Ray, in his annual State of the University Address to the Faculty Senate, called upon the University community to develop a set of prioritized and significant investments with the goals of increasing academic program excellence and the impact of our programs in the five thematic areas. He challenged us to re-examine how we manage the business activities of the University to bring additional resources to bear on priority academic investments. He also indicated that faculty, staff, and students will participate fully in these processes.

The purpose of this document is to describe a process to be followed over the next three years in order to use our resources to most effectively implement the Strategic Plan and maximize our ability to:

  • Enhance the Strategic Plan's focus on five thematic areas of excellence
  • Enhance student access, engagement, and success through graduation
  • Enhance our reputation as a premier research and outreach institution for Oregon and the nation
  • Ensure success in the University's capital campaign and leverage state funding with private resources

Academic Programs

OSU's Strategic Plan defines five multidisciplinary thematic areas that integrate the missions of teaching, research, and outreach; that respond to the unique challenges of Oregon's future; and that constitute signature academic priorities that define the University. The five thematic areas are:

  • Advancing the arts and sciences as the foundation for scientific discovery, social and cultural enhancement, and progress in applied professions
  • Understanding the origin, dynamics and sustainability of Earth and its resources
  • Optimizing enterprise, innovation, and economic development
  • Realizing fundamental contributions in the life sciences and optimizing health and well-being of the public
  • Managing natural resources that contribute to Oregon's quality of life and growing and sustaining natural resource-based industries

The need for OSU to more strongly assert its institutional identity was a key driver for developing the five thematic areas. The State Board of Higher Education is evaluating how institutional identities within the Oregon University System (OUS) complement each other. Competition among universities nationally and internationally has intensified, and it is important to recognize that OSU competes with universities throughout the nation and around the world for students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and resources. As we look to the future, we want an institutional identity built upon distinctive programs in the five thematic areas to attract the most talented students and faculty possible.

Since the adoption of the Strategic Plan in February 2004, we have developed and implemented actions to advance the three over-arching goals that were stated in the Plan. However, with the exception of investments in six Strategic Initiatives, we have not attempted to operationalize the Strategic Plan with regard to the five thematic areas. The primary foci of this three-year process will be increasing the education, research and outreach capacity of the University in the five thematic areas; improving student engagement, retention, and graduation rates; and advancing a real, relevant, and respected identity for OSU throughout the country and internationally.

Process for Identifying Priorities

For each thematic area, teams consisting of faculty, administrators and other relevant constituents will help to identify focus areas and initiatives that we need to build or strengthen to meet our aspirations to be a premier land-grant university. While collaboration is already an area of strength for OSU, it is important to consider ways to improve it in an organic and systematic fashion.

The process will be broad, inclusive, and transparent. We will be informed by the considerable work done in the past, but those efforts will not in any way dictate the conclusions of this process. The OSU Strategic Plan will serve as our blueprint.

The overall charge to the five teams is to consider and identify areas that will create the best future for the involved units and for the University; expand the University's capacity to address global, social, and economic issues; advance education; and expand scholarship. Furthermore, the conversations should provide an opportunity to enhance community environment at OSU, one that values diversity in all its dimensions and enables individuals to achieve their potential.

Ideas and initiatives should integrate, complement and expand the capacity of existing colleges and units with respect to collaborative research, outreach, and education. The process should take into consideration the views of internal and external stakeholders, as well as the national and international trends and drivers.

While the design process will focus on the unique environment, strengths, and pressing issues in each of the five thematic areas, it will be guided by the following questions:

  • How do we ensure that the programs create distinctive educational programs and a competitive institutional identity for OSU?
  • What do the five thematic areas mean in terms of goals that transcend academic colleges and units?
  • What are the potential challenges and barriers that must be considered as we work towards the future?
  • What are appropriate linkages with other thematic areas?
  • What leadership, resource allocation, and organizational strategies and structures should be considered to ensure success?
  • What current areas (when strengthened) or new areas of research inquiry and collaboration would have the most potential for knowledge creation, development, and extramural funding, and increasing impact on innovation and economic development?

Ultimately, the final decisions for selected investment will be made by the President and the Provost after appropriate consultation with administrative and faculty leadership.

Investments in priorities will be staggered as resources become available. We plan to direct some of the projected increase in State funding over the next three years to fund priorities. Additional resources will become available as we phase out the institutional commitment to fund the six Strategic Initiatives and through the business center alignment process that we are initiating in parallel with this activity. We will also seek funding for the selected priorities through private fundraising.

Anticipated Timeline

Teams have already been established in each thematic area and have initiated the work outlined above, with the expectation that priorities will be submitted to the Provost by May 2008. The timeline for completing tasks will vary. In particular, the charge for the Arts and Science Team is very specific, focused on the organizational structure, and it will be completed by December 2007. The thematic teams have been charged to seek broad participation, and faculty are also encouraged to get involved and provide input.

Transforming Business Functions

To achieve the goal of academic excellence, the University needs to provide resources for building faculty capacity, enhancing student services, and improving its teaching and research infrastructure. The University is committed to increase its revenue stream through a multi-faceted set of activities, including private fund raising, nonresident enrollment growth, pricing professional programs to market, expanding programs through Extended Campus, increasing revenue from intellectual property and research partnerships with industry, and advocating for increased State support for higher education. Internally, we need to examine our operations and direct as many resources as we can to augment the University's capacity to meet its mission. Additionally, as we seek public and private support for our academic enterprise, it is important that we demonstrate to our partners that we are good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, maximizing resource allocation to achieve the core mission of the University.

Administrative services very broadly defined include all activities within the institution that support, though they are not directly involved in, teaching, research, outreach or service. Such activities include, but are not limited to, human resource services; accounting, purchasing and other business-related activities; marketing, event management, and communications; and provision of IS services.

The Case for Change

  • Under the current service model, administrative and business services are provided at multiple levels of the organization. Authority, responsibility, and accountability are scattered. Many processes and business transactions are paper-based and inefficient, resulting in lack of timeliness and undue effort from staff. The institution is more rigid than necessary in many cases in relation to actual risk and cost of errors.
  • Systems and processes have become increasingly complex, and administrative support staff at all levels of the University are challenged to maintain the necessary skills and expertise to perform these functions effectively in an ever more demanding environment.
  • A study of administrative services undertaken as a part of the OSU 2007 planning effort recommended the implementation of regional business centers as a viable solution to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative systems across the University.
  • Delegating business functions to domain experts will free up leadership time to focus on building the core education, research, and outreach functions of the University.
  • An OUS spending analysis for OUS campuses and peers in 2005 showed that our University spent significantly more on Academic Support Expenses per Faculty FTE than other OUS campuses and our peers. Whereas OSU's Instructional Cost per Student FTE was 36% lower compared to the peers, the Academic Support Expenses per Faculty FTE were 7% higher than those reported by the peers in the OUS study. OSU spent approximately $40 million on academic support services during the 2004-2005 academic year.

Re-engineering Plan

Business functions will be consolidated into seven regional business centers. Five of them will serve clusters of colleges, centers, institutes, and programs. The other two will service central administrative divisions and units. The proposed timetable for accomplishing this is approximately three years, with the establishment of the first pilot center occurring within a year. The first pilot center will be centered on the life sciences theme, and will include the Colleges of Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, and Health and Human Sciences.

During the first year of implementation, the focus will be on business functions, principally those involving purchasing, payables, receivables, grants and contracts, and human resource functions. Additional functions will be added as we gain experience in establishing and operating business centers.

Goals and Potential Benefits

  • Each of the regional centers will consolidate functions and administrative authority, absorbing personnel and functions both from the central administrative units and college/departmental levels. The degree to which this happens still has to be decided and will be tailored to meet the needs of units involved.
  • By consolidating business functions in regional business centers, it is expected that there will be more depth of expertise and efficiency. For example, instead of one or two people having responsibility for all particular functions of a college, responsibility will be shared by a team of people who can collaborate in support of delivering optimal service, and can cover for one another. They will be reporting to the deans/director and to the central administration.
  • Efficiencies are expected to improve with more approval authority being vested in the service center, thus eliminating the need to have the central administration approve most actions.
  • Processes must be automated electronically to take full advantage of the business center model. The University has committed to making the necessary investments to accomplish this need.
  • Any cost saving generated over the long term as a result of this re-engineering of business services will be invested in the development of the thematic areas relevant to the participating colleges, consistent with the University's Strategic Plan.
  • A plan will be implemented to minimize the impact on existing employees and to provide training for business center staff.


Development of business centers is a major step for the University. Successful implementation requires that the University follow a process that involves faculty, staff, students, and administrators, provides appropriate mechanisms to manage the change process, and communicates effectively within the University. We should also recognize that it is impossible to predict in advance the implications of all actions. Using pilot implementation will help us learn unintended consequences and adjust the process as we expand the implementation effort in subsequent years.

Anticipated Timeline

By mid-November we will establish a Business Center Steering Committee and an Implementation Team for the first business center. By the end of Fall Term 2007, we will define users' business requirements and a conceptual straw model for the pilot, define IT systems improvements required, develop a human resource management plan and begin the business process re-design. During Winter Term 2008, we will implement a hiring plan to minimize impact on staff, identify the business center location, and begin implementation of new processes. We expect the pilot business center to be on-line by August 2008. By the end of Spring Term 2008, we will also identify units for three business centers (two in thematic areas and one central) to implement in the second year.