Greatness Through Innovation – UVI Leads the Way with New Strategic Plan
Thinking outside the box isn’t new to the University of the Virgin Islands. This “historically American, uniquely Caribbean, globally interactive” institution has long understood the need to take the road less traveled, and stretch beyond its comfort zone, even without invoking the term “innovation.”
Seeds for the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan “Greatness Through Innovation” were planted with “Pathways to Greatness,” UVI’s strategic plan of 2012-2018, which resulted in considerable institutional growth and maturation. Building on that success, the thorough, honest self-review and assessment required by the recent Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation process, brought into even sharper focus the University’s determination to reinvent itself in ways that continually improve UVI’s quality and outcomes.
“Innovation is building an environment where we incentivize and encourage people to think creatively on an ongoing basis,” says Dr. David Hall, UVI president.
With this vision front and center, the President and his leadership team believe UVI is more than up for the challenge.
“Because the University is small, we have always been apt to think outside of the box,” shared University Provost Dr. Camille A. McKayle, who believes that being innovative doesn’t always mean spending more money or applying more technology.
“It’s about how we think and how we make decisions. If we’re thinking creatively and making decisions through a creative process, we will arrive at something innovative,” said Dr. McKayle, a mathematician by training.
Coming out of the Middle States experience with accreditation reaffirmed, an evidence-based approach utilizing key performance indicators will provide structure and torque as every member of the University community becomes engaged with moving the plan forward.
“Our approach to innovation says that every person at UVI can contribute and that everyone needs to be given that opportunity. This involves training – and I cannot emphasize that enough,” said Sharlene Harris, vice president of Information Services and Institutional Assessment at UVI, who played a central role in developing the strategic plan.
“Creative thinking can help the University as well as the individual. They go hand in hand,” she added.
The aim of the current campaign is to expand these ideas such that creativity and innovation become part of the University’s ingrained culture, much like an individual’s DNA. A special Innovation Fund of $1 million will help to incentivize and realize new ideas that emerge from across the institution.
Much of UVI’s strength lies in its curricula and faculty. It is no surprise, then, that advancing its excellence in academics, research and public service are at the center of the drive to innovate. Developing new educational opportunities; building on the strengths of extraordinary programs such as the Emerging Caribbean Scientists (ECS) and Bridge to the Ph.D. (a joint venture with Pennsylvania State University); and continuing to recruit exceptional faculty, will be key activities in the months and years ahead.
Unlike some institutions that target innovation within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, UVI’s approach is more holistic, encompassing the broad spectrum of its business, education, liberal arts and social sciences, nursing, and science and mathematics colleges.
One goal, for example, calls for expanding UVI’s Innovation Centers and generating increased ideation and experimentation, with a target of achieving utilization of the Centers by 25 percent of the student population each year.
Provost McKayle believes innovation cuts across all areas of the curriculum: “We have brought together a general education committee to look at not only what we’re doing, but also what other institutions are doing,” she said. “Our challenge is to think about what a 21st century education should give to our students, taking a closer look at general education, not just the majors.”
UVI’s big hopes and dreams come with real price tags attached. Resources are needed to fund initiatives ranging from instructional technology, institutional effectiveness and vocational certificate programs to addressing hurricane-damaged infrastructure, building accelerated degree programs, and establishing a “University for Life” for continuing education opportunities.
The University is looking to tap into the resources of the Territory’s dynamic private sector by establishing partnerships with a number of entities each year. These relationships, it is hoped, will help to fund student internships or faculty research.
“If there ever was a time to rethink what we’ve done, what we’re going to do in the future and to think out of the box, it is now,” stated President Hall. “There couldn’t be a better time.”
Achieving the plan’s objectives – which are rooted in creating a culture where innovation is encouraged, nurtured and supported – will be a long-term effort. The end game is for UVI to emerge as a regional, national and global leader not only in its academic offerings but also in its “innovation quotient.”