Over the past decade I’ve been writing about the many ways academic institutions are responding to the multiple challenges they face. One of the themes running through these accounts is problematic communication within a campus. Time and again faculty, administrators, and stakeholders don’t connect with each other, or worse, when strategic decisions are in the air.
To help out the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) has launched a website aimed at helping campuses work together. It might seem strange for a financial organization to intervene in a communication problem, but chief financial officers have been working on this for a while. Economic issues are not the easiest thing for Americans to discuss in general, and they can be especially difficult in a campus environment.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I was part of a team that helped advise NACUBO in building the site.)
The Economic Models Project Journey (EMPJ) is a web-based tutorial, guiding the user through a series of questions, videos, case studies, more questions, and other readings, all structured around figuring out how to make a college or university more sustainable. At the center of the site is a four-part model of how these institutions work, based on their shared and individual natures:
Questions and readings break down each of the four, letting the user develop their own sense of what their institution’s strengths, structure, mission, and resources are. I think these prompts work both for individual reflection and group conversation, leading to improved understanding of the campus strategic environment.
At the end of the Journey, the institution should have identified the dimensions of its economic model that are non-negotiable and those that it will focus on to transform itself, having answered the “What Are We?” and “What Should We Be?” questions.
It ends up with a kind of gap analysis, in other words, letting users imagine a future for their school, then steps to take along the way.
The EMPJ site also includes a well stocked library of videos and readings, even including an article of mine. For those uncertain as how to proceed or otherwise use the site, here’s a “how to use this site” page as well.
The Explorer is part of NACUBO’s Economic Models Project, a multifaceted research effort which now includes five white papers on campus business models and related issues. I can recommend the project and the EMPJ to anyone in or interested in higher education. It should be especially useful in sparking conversations in times of strategic planning.